The Ambivalent Other: Chinese Nationalism, Media, and the Imagined America

Chin-Chuan Lee This paper seeks to compare the role of the media and nationalist feelings in constructing the image of the United States as an ambivalent other among mainland Chinese and Hong Kong Chinese. The image of the United States incorporates four dimensions: U.S. global leadership, U.S. hegemony, positive way of life, and negative way of life. There are three kinds of Chinese nationalists: holders of western values (non-nationalists), political nationalists based on practical calculation of interests, and cultural nationalists who believe in the superiority of Chinese culture. In mainland China, we hypothesize that there are more “cultural nationalists” than “political nationalists” and “non-nationalists” (in that order). In Hong Kong, as a meeting point of east and west, we hypothesize that there are more “non-nationalists” than “cultural nationalists” and “political nationalists” (in that order). We further hypothesize that holders of western values (non-nationalists) seem to see both sides of America: while they approve US global leadership and have a positive view about its way of life, they are also critical of its negative of life. Political “nationalists” tend to disapprove of US global leadership. Cultural “nationalists” tend to be diehard anti-American, holding most negative views of the US. The relationships between nationalism and the images of the United States are enhanced by such media variables as the extent of media exposure and the perceived media credibility.