Associate Professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University

My research focuses on the study of Chinese media and communication with three strands of interest. The first is concerned with the role of the media in transforming traditional China into a modern society. The second is the impact of language use in the media that shapes people’s perceptions of reality, and how they respond to rapid social changes. The third examines mutual media representations between China and the West, focusing on identity reproduction through the image of the other. My central concern in all these strands is the way in which the mass media impact on the ability of humans to make sense of the world they live in.

Currently I am working on a project that looks at the press in late Qing and early Republic China. The project is funded by The Arts and Humanities Research Council under the Open World Research Initiative. It is part of the translingual strand and transnational strand. My project translating modernity: a linguistic investigation of the migration of western ideas to China around the turn into the 20th century examines how concepts rooted in European post-enlightenment values were linguistically reconstructedin China’s early modern press and how it shaped intellectual and political discussions about fundamental issues on how to modernize China. It seeks to understand the link between a sudden rise of modern vocabularies mediated through Meiji Japan and a rapid shift of worldview among the educated elites. Previously I completed two British Academy-funded research projects. Both examined the way in which the media actively promote a developmentalist identity of the post-reform China contextualised in the historical drive for an industrialist modernity.

My book China under Western Gaze is the first book-length study of the British television documentaries’ representation of China in the pivotal years of 1980-2000. Drawing on Vladimir Propp’s dramatis personae, I analysed the mythic and mimetic narratives of the documentary texts and visual images. The book details how the 1980s’ fascination with a ‘rediscovered’ cultural China turned into the 1990s’ repulsion of a political China; and how the sudden change in a single decade is intricately linked to the global shift of geopolitics from the cold war to the post-cold war world.

I have supervised PhD students working on a range of topics, including the BBC reporting of China, Western newsmagazine reporting of US-China and US-Japan trade wars, the 19th century English newspaper representation of China, BBC reporting of Saudi Arabia, Chinese literary representation of modernity in Republican China, discursive construction of China’s national identity, and representation of women in newspapers from late Qing to contemporary China. I would welcome enquiries from students who wish to pursue PhDs in similar fields and those related to my research interests. Proposals that use corpus linguistics as a research method are welcome.

Experience

  • –present
    Associate Professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures, Durham University