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90 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 1, Spring 1997 Xiaomei Chen. Occidentalism: A Theory ofCounter-Discourse in Post-Mao China. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995. viii, 239 pp. Hardcover $35.00, isbn 0-19-508579-5. Xiaomei Chen's Occidentalism has been received by some scholars as a "stunning ," "innovative," "thought-provoking work," since it speaks for, and as, a nonWestern Other, and its forceful critique ofEdward Said is said to be right on target (see the comments on the book jacket by Paul Pickwicz, Arif Dirlik, and Zhang Longxi). Chen attacks Said's claim that imperialism is the central fact of the twentieth century because she wants to demonstrate that this claim to universal truth can find support only in "strictly British, French and American provenance " (p. 10), but not in China and (or) the real Oriental Other. As a real nonWestern Other, Chen finds that her experiences have been quite different from what Said argues on the basis of a conceptually constructed Orient. "No theory can be globally inclusive," Chen asserts; "The critical discourse of Orientalism should not become a new orthodoxy that could be easily applied to all countries and all historical periods" (p. 13). As a Chinese, Chen finds that China has had a history ofimperialist longings and practices far older than its counterparts in the West (p. 7). For her, using Masao Miyoshi's words, it is difficult totally and completely to separate imperialism (as reflected in Japan's military actions during World War II) from anti-imperialism (as demonstrated when Japan was confronted by Russian imperialism at the turn ofthis century, or by Chinese dynastic imperialism long before the modern era), and any attempt to represent different realities between the First and Third Worlds is "treacherous," since the very term "Third World" may imply "a racist reaffirmation ofthe First World with its essentialized characteristics . . . proposing permanence as an absolute" (p. 14). Denying imperialism as the central fact ofthe twentieth century, Chen construes Occidentalism as what is true in China; Occidentalism has been a new discourse marked by a particular combination ofthe Western construction of China with the Chinese construction ofthe West (p; 5). In her discussion ofparticular cultural phenomena in light oftheir historical exigencies, and in her explicit avoidance oftotalizing strategies and universal claims, she defines two types ofdiscourse of Chinese Occidentalism: official and non- (or anti-) official. By official Occidentalism she means the Chinese government 's essentializing ofthe West as a means for supporting a nationalism that af-© 1997 by University fects the internal suppression ofits own people. In this process, the Western ofHawai'i PressOther is construed by a Chinese imagination, not for the purpose ofdominating the West, but in order to discipline and ultimately dominate the Chinese self at home (p. 5). Along with the official Occidentalism, Chen formulates the non-offi- Reviews 91 dal or anti-official Occidentalism, whose purveyors are opponents ofthe established government or party apparatus, especiallyvarious groups among the intelligentsia with diverse and contradictory interests. "As a result ofthe cultural and sociological specificities ofcontemporary Chinese society," Chen says, "anti-official Occidentalism can be understood as using the Western Other as a powerful metaphor for a political liberation against ideological oppression within a totalitarian society" (p. 8). Examples that Chen offers as official Occidentalism in China include Mao Zedong's Three-World theory, Lin Biao's long essay "Long Live the Victory of People's War" (1965), and Mao's theory ofsubaltern representation during the Cultural Revolution. In Chen's view, the Three-World theory had as its chief interest the domestic legitimization ofMao as the "great leader" ofthe Third World. It was thus a strategy to consolidate Mao's shaky and increasingly problematic positions (p. 6). Like its Orientalist counterpart, Maoist Occidentalism seeks to construe its Other by asserting a distorted and ultimately anxious image ofits own uniqueness; its aim seems to be directed toward an imperialist strategy. However, what is different in Mao's Occidentalist discourse from Western Orientalism is that the ultimate aim ofthe former was not primarily Chinese hegemony in the Third World, nor was it world domination, but rather the consolidation ofa particular group within domestic politics, which always...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 90-99
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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