ABSTRACT

The emotional attachment of Chinese people to their national identity is deep-seated and evolves from China’s dynamic relationship with other nations, constituted largely by stories about the past (Gries 2004). Our Chinese participants’ fantasies of Western brands drew from discourses on East–West relationships that form multiple competing national narratives that vie for Chinese national identity (Gries 2004). From this perspective, nationalism may be described as “an ensemble of discursive practices, functioning through interaction between historically changing fields of struggle and ‘habitus’ of discrete dispositions, in which ideologies are legitimated and delegitimated” (Liu 2004, 68). Our emphasis on national narratives as opposed to stories is deliberate and dictated by our Eastern context. Narrative is a term of rhetoric that encompasses the genre of story (Reissman 1993). Stories, as the dominant narrative form in Western social science research, embody a Western assumption about time marching forward. Other, often overlooked narrative forms include topic-centered narratives, which are stitched together by theme rather than by time, and are expressed as snapshots of past events thematically woven together; habitual narratives, which express events that happen over and over such that there is no peak in action; and, hypothetical narratives which depict events that could have happened (Reissman 1993). As reflected in our analysis, discourses about China’s national culture that inform its members about how the group is related to foreign cultures take various forms and combine multiple narrative genres (Gries 2004; Zhao 2004).