Research Seminar Series (01/2021)

"Debunking “Sick Man of Asia”: Negotiating Modern Chinese National Identity through Tourism"

Speaker:  Dr I-Chieh Michelle Yang , Monash University Malaysia

Date:       Tuesday, 2nd February 2021

Time:       12.00pm

Venue:    The seminar series will be conducted via Zoom (zoom link will be forwarded to the registrants). For registration, please click here

Contact person: Ms Eswary Sivalingam (Logistics) and Associate Professor Yeoh Seng Guan (Academic matters).


Speaker’s Profile

Dr I-Chieh Michelle Yang joined Monash University Malaysia as a lecturer in Marketing in 2020 after receiving her PhD in Marketing from Monash University. Her research interest lies in consumer culture in Asia, politicized consumption and tourism marketing. Dr Yang is currently involved in research projects on the politicization of Asian cultural practices and national identity work. Her work has been published in top-ranked journals such as Annals of Tourism Research and Current Issues in Tourism, as well as international conferences such as Consumer Culture Theory Conference and Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management Conference.


This seminar explores the nexus between consumer culture and national identity in China. The rise of China and its economic prowess in recent decades have witnessed a phenomenal growth in Chinese outbound tourism. Specifically, the 21st century has seen China’s rise from its previous hardships to become one of the largest economies in the world. The “reform and opening” policy (gaige kaifang) inaugurated by Deng Xiaoping in 1978 was aimed at opening China’s doors to foreign investments as well as international communications. Consumerism in China, too, has exponentially expanded, with strong demands for consumer goods and luxury products, making it the world’s largest consumer market. Nevertheless, China’s fall from centuries of imperialism to a series of foreign invasions, internal turmoil and current rising from its past hardships have resulted in a drastic national identity transformation in recent decades. For a collective society such as China, national identity serves as a cornerstone of a person’s sense of self and belonging. Unique to China’s “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”, Gerth (2003) observes that consumer culture plays a potent role in China’s nation-making. Increasingly, China’s national identity and consumer culture serve as two parallel social forces that define each other. As Kuever (2018) notes, China remains an authoritarian and socialist regime with a paradoxically flourishing consumer culture. Chinese consumers increasingly recognize consumption as primary means to define themselves as citizens of a powerful and modern nation by consuming a continuum of products and services. Using international tourism as the consumption context, this research explores how Chinese citizens to negotiate their national identity through international tourism. A multi-method approach guided the data collection from 28 Chinese tourists in three ethnographic group tours. The findings revealed that international tourism offers a platform on which to affirm and express Chinese national identity through the symbolic interaction between Chinese tourists and the world outside of China.