Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Bousquet, Marc

Author's Keywords

Neoliberalism; Social change; Migrant literacy; Globalism; Post-Mao; China; Rhetorics


Nationalism--China; Semantics--Social aspects; Mass media and international relations; Nationalism--Psychological aspects


This project examines the rhetorics that enable nations to tap into and deploy capital transnationally. Its primary focus is on China. China's globalism promotes a version of Western neoliberalism, including tropes such as efficiency, individuality, and freedom, to underwrite inequality, consumerism, and masking of surplus labor/value. While an ostensible boon for China's marginalized, China's globalism continues to increase the gap between wealthy and poor. Chapter One introduces the project with an overview of theoretical and disciplinary responses to globalization. This chapter demonstrates how the discourse of transnational capital supports consumerism, competition, and simultaneous "universality/difference" worldwide. Chapter Two offers a rhetorical analysis of "China's Progress in Human Rights in 2004," an official document published in political organs such as People's Daily and China Daily , to show how China's party-state appropriates neoliberal discourse to appease international trade organizations. It is argued that China's neoliberalism is a "roll-out" political neoliberalism that maintains state participation in its increasingly privatized provinces. Paradoxically, the market's valorization of an interest-based social order must coexist with the nationalist call for a unity that would raise "the people" above "the individual." Chapter Three offers a discourse analysis of the narratives of the dagongmei ("working sister") and the dagongzai ("working son"), China's "floating population" of migrant laborers who often work in urban factories and reside in hostile dormitories where the laboring body is alienated and sexualized. Migrant literacy is shown to resist and sustain China's dominant discourse, an internal Orientalism that pejoratively constructs migrants as "country bumpkins." The project's final chapter presents analyses of interviews with Chinese factory workers. These interviews and other worker testimonies represent a clash of neoliberal, Confucian, and Maoist discourse, a "rhetorical borderlands" that bears new ways of talking about solidarity and workplace democracy.