restricted access Series Editor’s Preface
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SERIES EDITOR’S PREFACE Falun Gong is a folk religion founded in the People’s Republic of China in 1992 by Li Hongzhi. Falun Gong appears to have grown rapidly, provoking strong opposition from the Chinese state and the Communist Party. Li Hongzhi left China in 1995; in 1999 the government declared Falun Gong an illegal organization. In The Cultural Economy of Falun Gong in China: A Rhetorical Perspective, Xiao Ming examines the rise of the Falun Gong as a rhetorical exigency. Beginning in the late 1970s, China embarked on economic reforms that have created enormous wealth but have also resulted in widespread economic suffering and social dislocation. China has created a market economy in which economic well-being is an individual responsibility, but at the same time the Chinese government has not allowed freedom in the spheres of religion, speech, politics, and culture. The increasing numbers of Chinese who are left behind by the market economy also find themselves unsupported by a social safety net and are denied the opportunity to organize for change or mutual support. With support for health care declining, many Chinese have turned to Falun Gong, attracted by its claim to be able to restore physical and spiritual health in the tradition of Chinese practitioners of qigong, who offer health and enlightenment. According to Xiao Ming, Falun Gong also teaches its members to discover a sense of moral purpose, liberating them from their status as victims and transforming them into agents of change. And yet, writes Xiao Ming, the Chinese government crackdown on Falun Gong appears misplaced because the movement does not claim a political agenda. Instead its threat lies in its noncompliance with the assumptions of the state: Marxist materialism, authoritarianism, and scientism. The Cultural Economy of Falun Gong in China traces the practice of revolutionary rhetoric in the Chinese Communist Party and its development in the People’s Republic, describing the rhetorical difficulties the party encountered after it embarked on a period of postsocialist, market-based economic change. This study also shows how the Falun Gong responded to the widespread sense of dislocation in a manner consistent with Chinese understandings of x Series Editor’s Preface mind and body, intellect and spirituality, and individual and society. The figurative rhetoric of Falun Gong and its leader, Li Hongzhi, writes Xiao Ming, is well adapted to the Chinese situation. Falun Gong is especially effective in employing “indirect communication.” Xiao Ming concludes this study of the rhetoric of the Falun Gong by observing that, contrary to what might be the Western assumption, the Chinese people do not appear to be fighting for democracy, trying to develop a Western-style public sphere, or striving to become citizens of a liberal democratic society. In a study richly informed by the rhetorical scholarship of recent decades, Xiao Ming also suggests that “Anglo-American rhetorical theory” needs to question its assumptions about its own universality. In recent years the Studies in Rhetoric/Communication series of the University of South Carolina Press has published two other books about Chinese rhetoric, Xing Lu’s Rhetoric in Ancient China (1998) and Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (2004). Xiao Ming’s The Cultural Economy of Falun Gong in China is a welcome addition to the series and to its developing list of works on rhetoric in China. Thomas W. Benson ...


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