Submissions:2023/Being Chinese Online – Discursive (Re)production of Internet-Mediated Chinese National Identity

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WikiConference North America 2023 unfortunately could not accommodate this submission in its program this year.


Being Chinese Online – Discursive (Re)production of Internet-Mediated Chinese National Identity


Recent Changes, Languages, Technology

Type of session:



A further investigation into how Chinese national(ist) discourses are daily (re)shaped online by diverse socio-political actors (especially ordinary users) can contribute to not only deeper understandings of Chinese national sentiments on the Chinese Internet but also richer insights into the socio-technical ecology of the contemporary Chinese digital (and physical) world. I propose an ethnographic methodology, with Sina Weibo (a Twitter-like microblogging site) and bilibili (a YouTube-like video-streaming platform) as ‘fieldsites’. The data collection method is virtual ethnographic observation on everyday national(ist) discussions on both platforms. Critical discourse analysis is employed to analyse data. From November 2021 to December 2022, I conducted 36 weeks’ digital ethnographic observations with 36 sets of fieldnotes. For 36 weeks’ observations, I concentrated much upon textual content created by ordinary users. Based on fieldnotes of the first week’s observations, I found multifarious national(ist) discourses on Sina Weibo and bilibili, targeted both at national ‘Others’ and ‘Us’, both on the historical and real-world dimension, both aligning with and differing from or even conflicting with official discourses, both direct national(ist) expressions and articulations of sentiments in the name of presentation of national(ist) attachments but for other purposes. Second, Sina Weibo and bilibili users have agency in interpreting and deploying concrete national(ist) discourses despite the leading role played by the government and two platforms in deciding on the basic framework of national expressions. Besides, there are also disputes and even quarrels between users in terms of explanations for concrete components of ‘nation-ness’ and (in)direct dissent to officially defined ‘mainstream’ discourses to some extent, though often expressed mundanely, discursively and playfully. Third, the (re)production process of national(ist) discourses on Sina Weibo and bilibili depends upon not only technical affordances and limitations of the two sites but also, to a larger degree, some established socio-political mechanisms and conventions in offline China.

Keywords: national identity; national(ist) discourse(s); everyday nationhood/nationalism; Chinese nationalism; digital media

Author name:

Zhiwei Wang

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:

Affiliated organization(s):

Sociology, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

Estimated time:

15-20 minutes.

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