National Unification Overrides All: The Heroism of Hero

Nanyang Technological University
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Media Asia - an Asian Communication Quarterly, 2007, 1, 34 (1), pp. 3 - 13
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This paper analyses Hero in the context of China's ongoing search for heroes as a response to a growing divergence of cultural values and a prevalent identity crisis accompanying the rapid transformation since the late 1970s. This is a time when old icons go out of fashion and established traditions are no longer able to offer valid answers to members of the national community and a time that stimulates the re-evaluation of existing cultural forms and conceptions of the collective self. In contrast to a prevalent anti-communist and anti-traditionalist thrust of hero-making in the 1980s, Hero leans towards statism in its favourable treatment of unification, and converges with and reinforces the current party-state's insistence on China's indivisibility and the statist preoccupation with state unity. On the other hand, its endorsement of national unification goes against the centuries-old cultural nationalist tradition which holds the first emperor in contempt for his suppression of the Confucian orthodoxy and the anti-traditionalist enlightenment tradition which views "oriental despots" like Qin Shihuang, together with Chinese tradition, as antithetical to enlightenment and modernity. These developments seem to be symptomatic of the waning artistic dissent in China today or the deliberate lack of friction between artists and the state post-1989, and an emergent overlapping consensus on national goals among China's political and intellectual elite.
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