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Dr. Gladys CHONG

B.A. (HKU), M.A. (University of Amsterdam), Ph.D. (University of Amsterdam)

Associate Professor, Department of Humanities and Creative Writing

Funding:

  • Hong Kong General Research Fund (GRF) The Early Career Scheme (ECS), University Grants Council. (Project number 22609415, HKD 307,400)

Introduction

  • With its fast-growing ageing population and shrinking economic growth, China faces mounting challenges in maintaining stability. China’s future depends on its youth. The Chinese state sees that youth contribution and motivation are essential to the realization of the “Chinese Dream”. In Chinese, dream is often associated with desire as meng xiang(梦想), which encapsulates wishes, longings and aspirations. To dream is to desire for something; it is an imagination that can be visualized, projected, mobilized and realized. It is the desire implicated in this national dream and the centrality of desire in governing youth that is at the centre of this study. The project aims to change the widely-held belief that the Chinese state rules solely through a negative power of coercion. Theoretically, the project will add insights into how globalization works within the nexus of governmentality and what China means for the governmentality studies. 

Abstract

  • This project examines how the interlocking relationships between governing practices and global culture shape youth subjectivities in Beijing and Hong Kong. While the global economic recession has directed attention to the rising China, China itself faces mounting challenges of sustaining growth and a fast-growing ageing population. When China’s leader Xi Jinping speaks about the “Chinese Dream”, he specifically calls for the contribution of youth. China’s future relies heavily on its youth, who grow up in a prosperous China in which global culture is part of everyday life. Research into desires and aspirations of Chinese youth is scant, in particular when compared to the number of youth studies in the West. Also, China as an authoritarian state has confined Chinese youth studies largely within the political framework, overlooking the role of global culture in shaping the behaviour and aspirations of youth. This project addresses this lack by examining, first, how desire is incorporated in governing practices; second, how desire is enabled by global culture; and, third, how desire that is enabled by global culture directs acts of resistance. Foucault did not address how globalisation shapes governmentality and how governmentality is manifested in a non-Western and authoritarian setting. China’s opening up means that global culture is part of everyday life. Chinese youth are particularly predisposed to global culture. Imagination derived from global culture generates desire. Inspired by the Foucaultian concepts, the study examines desire as a productive force that disciplines, produces pleasures and also resistance. Three guiding questions are 1/ how desire is incorporated into governing practices; 2/ how desire is enabled by global culture; and 3/ how desire that is enabled by global culture directs acts of resistance. 

Methodology

  • Acknowledging the significance of everyday life in cultivating desire and shaping one’s subjectivity, the PI grounds the study of desires on an empirical investigation of concrete but understudied food practices and home interiors – two daily necessities that are central to youth culture. By comparing youth in Beijing and Hong Kong, the project investigates how different historical and social settings shape youth. Youth in Beijing, born after the Cultural Revolution, are mostly in single-child families; whereas, youth in Hong Kong have experienced major transitions brought by postcoloniality and the city’s retrocession to China. Recently, growing political tension and income disparity have sparked an outpouring of anger and frustration, making youth a pressing study subject.