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Governing the Chinese Population Through Etiquette Campaigns: The Shanghai Example
This thesis explores the governing rationality underlining etiquette campaigns conducted in Shanghai between 2006 and 2008. It argues that contrary to the belief that market economics introduced to China in 1978 has rendered obsolete the role of the plan, a planning mentality as manifest in the etiquette campaign is very much alive in the post-Mao context. The findings of this research suggest that it is less important what is defined as ‘civilised’ as opposed to ‘uncivilised’ conduct but rather, the power to set social norms for everybody. This power is manifest in the Party-state itself through its control of the propaganda apparatus but also in the individuals and organisations outside the purview of the state. Together in the collective effort to raise the overall ‘suzhi’ or ‘quality’ of the Chinese population, state and social actors view themselves as carrying out a ‘public service’ whose ultimate objective is to improve the overall ‘national stock’ of China.
This research is important for at least two reasons. Firstly, it contributes to the already existing research on China by analysing how populations are governed through etiquette campaigns. Secondly, it illuminates on the dialectical nature of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ as ideological and civic campaigns find renewed utility amid growing concern that social change has not been properly addressed by state reformers.