An Alternative Framework of Analysis to Investigate China’s Confucius Institutes: A Great Leap Outward with Chinese Characteristics?

Liu, Xin orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8200-0412 (2017) An Alternative Framework of Analysis to Investigate China’s Confucius Institutes: A Great Leap Outward with Chinese Characteristics? Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

[thumbnail of Thesis submission document]
PDF (Thesis submission document) - Submitted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.



This thesis examines China’s contemporary global cultural footprints through its recent development of cultural diplomacy and its global expansion of the Confucius Institute, whose prominent features are investigated by exploring the four specific research questions of ‘why’ China wants to launch cultural diplomacy and the CI, ‘what’ is the vehicle, ‘who’ is the agent, and ‘how’ it is carried out in the field. The thesis challenges the adequacy of the mainstream concepts of ‘soft power’ and ‘nation branding’ that are most commonly cited in the current literature, and argued for an alternative analytical framework that goes beyond and beneath these Western-defined concepts. After deciphering the multiple contexts, Gramsci’s concepts of cultural hegemony and ideology and Said’s critique of Orientalism are adopted to frame a different understanding of the historical and international contexts, while the double-edged role played by nationalism is analysed to deepen our understanding of the domestic context.

The proposed new perspectives are then applied to chart the global cultural terrain of struggle, where the cultural encounters in the shifting global power relations between China’s long-held image as the “cultural other” and the ‘ideological other’ and its self-representations are examined. A comparative case study of the CIs, one of the most visible and controversial manifestations of China’s cultural diplomacy, is carried out to answer the main research question of why China’s similar efforts in promoting its culture were perceived and received differently to other Western countries and encountered unexpected controversies. The answers outline the unique challenges faced by China’s cultural diplomacy in both the cultural encounters and the interactions between its internal articulations and external communications. Primary data were collected from 25 interviews with staff from nine CIs in five different countries and one Goethe Institute in Beijing. The dynamics between these interweaving contexts elaborate the complexity of China’s cultural diplomacy and the CI project, whose prominent features are presented as the major research findings of this thesis, while what will make it a truly ‘great leap outward’ is also discussed.

Repository Staff Only: item control page