AbstractsPolitical Science

Defining the line between center and periphery: the foreign criminal as symbol of sovereignty in contemporary China

by Josiah David Case

Institution: University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign
Year: 2016
Keywords: China; Sovereignty
Posted: 02/05/2017
Record ID: 2068972
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/90595


In this paper, I examine the Chinese government's treatment of foreigners within its borders, contrasting the high-profile case of British national Akmal Shaikh with the on-the-ground situation, where foreigners generally receive lenient treatment from the police. I argue that this dichotomy parallels the Mainland government’s position towards Taiwan and Hong Kong, where de jure sovereignty is prioritized over de facto control. In explaining how some foreign criminals like Shaikh are moved from the periphery to the center of the government’s attention, I highlight the potential that such cases provide the Communist Party of China's leadership to assert their power on the global stage and to cement their legitimacy in the eyes of their own populace. Building on work done by Tim Liao and others on China's rhetorical strategies in issues of contested sovereignty, I will show how the Chinese media uses its portrayal of select foreign criminals as political symbols to fuel the government's 'memory project' regarding China’s relationship with Western countries. By examining how this constructed national memory is related to contemporary issues of crime and diplomacy, we can better understand how Chinese leadership understands and performs sovereignty.