“Universal Values” and “Chinese Characteristics”: Memory and Chinese Modernity
This chapter expands on the three previous chapters’ findings: how the three sets of social tensions orchestrate collective remembering, in the service of Chinese modernity debate. It starts with the Southern Weekend incident, an online and offline protest initiated by journalists, which pushed the modernity debate to the foreground of Weibo. Chinese modernity is a product of revisiting and reusing the sources of the past on a global scale, since its encounter with the global powers in the mid-nineteenth century. On Weibo, a condensed display of the past 150 years in China has led to a debate between two visions of Chinese modernity. Represented by the discourses of “Chinese characteristics” and “universal values,” which are both nationalistic and looking to the West, the modernity debate has reflected the intensifying conflict between state power and rights of individual citizens, between authoritarian politics and the desire of democratization and constitutionalism. However, this simple dichotomy neglects the complexity and diversity of experiences of the present transitional moment, and the possibility of convergence of the two sides.