Re-incarnating an ancient, emergent superpower: the PRC's epideictic extravaganza, public memory, and national identity

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The People's Republic of China's inexorable ascendancy has become an epochal event in international landscape, accentuated by its triple national ceremonies of global significance: 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, 2009 Beijing Military Parade, and 2010 Shanghai World Expo. At a momentous

The People's Republic of China's inexorable ascendancy has become an epochal event in international landscape, accentuated by its triple national ceremonies of global significance: 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, 2009 Beijing Military Parade, and 2010 Shanghai World Expo. At a momentous juncture when the PRC endeavored to project a new national identity to the outside world, these ceremonial occasions constitute a high-stake communicative opportunity for the Chinese government and a fruitful set of discursive artifacts for symbolic deconstruction and rhetorical interpretation. To unravel these ceremonial spectacles, a public memory approach, with its versatile potencies indexical of a nation's interpretive system of social meaning, its normative framework of ideological model, and its past-present-future interrelationships, is contextually, conceptually, and analytically diagnostic of a rising China's sociopolitical constellations. Thus employing public memory as a conceptual-methodological matrix, my dissertation focuses on the prominent texts in these ceremonies, excavates their historico-memorial invocation and sociocultural persuasion, and plumbs their discursive agenda, rhetorical operation, and sociopolitical implication. I argue that the Chinese government deliberately and forcefully strove for three interrelated communicative objectives at these three ceremonies--re-imaging, re-asserting, and re-anchoring its national identity as an ancient, emergent superpower. Yet in contemporary Chinese context, its discursive (con)quest to recast its leadership as a historically continuous, culturally orthodox, and ideologically legitimate regime has always been compromised by its mythologized historical representation and hegemonic rhetorical reconfiguration, countervailed by its political and ideological fragility, and contested by domestic and global publics. Besides its contributions to the current conversation on the PRC's ceremonial phenomena, discursive formations, and communicative dynamics, this dissertation further offers its diagnosis and prognostication of this projected leading country in the 21st century.