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Special feature: The National Learning Revival

Guoxue Re and the Ambiguity of Chinese Modernity

Xie Shaobo
p. 39-45


This essay addresses the symbolic or socio-ideological significance of what is called guoxue re in China today. In the author’s view, as a concept with a fixed morphological form, guoxue has been traversing history with a changing content, and for different people or social groups it means different things and serves different interests. The catachrestically used term guoxue acquires an imploding ambiguity when it is manipulated to accommodate different needs and desires in the contemporary Chinese culture and commodity market. The kaleidoscopic vertiginous guoxue landscape in China, the essay argues, ultimately points to an unmistakable collusion among the state government, the academic elite, and the commodity market. As such, the imploding ambiguity of the concept and discourse of guoxue bears a continuity with the ambiguity of Chinese modernity, which at present is a conglomerate of capitalism, Marxism, Confucianism, economism or developmentalism, and harmonious society. Moreover, the contemporary guoxue re betrays an innermost desire in the Chinese national unconscious for a different genuinely existing social order, and for other ways of being human than those defined by capitalist modernity while China is being dominated by the rule of capital.

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Bibliographical reference

Xie Shaobo, « Guoxue Re and the Ambiguity of Chinese Modernity », China Perspectives, 2011/1 | 2011, 39-45.

Electronic reference

Xie Shaobo, « Guoxue Re and the Ambiguity of Chinese Modernity », China Perspectives [Online], 2011/1 | 2011, Online since 30 March 2014, connection on 22 August 2019. URL :

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About the author

Xie Shaobo

He teaches in the Department of English at University of Calgary. He is Book Review Editor of ARIEL. He has published on literary theory, postcolonial studies, cultural studies, globalisation, comparative literature, translation, and Chinese modernity. His other works include: Cultural Critique and Critical Culture, New Directions in Postcolonial Studies (ARIEL 40th anniversary special issue co-edited with Wang Ning), Dialogues on Cultural Studies: Interviews with Contemporary Critics (co-edited with Fengzhen Wang), and Cultural Politics of Resistance.

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