Volunteers as the 'new' model citizens: Governing citizens through soft power

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28 Citations (Scopus)


Voluntary services and the word 'volunteer' have been discursively highlighted as something 'new' in China in the last few years. The large number of volunteers involved in relief work following the 5/12 Sichuan earthquakes, in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and in the 2010 Shanghai Expo are examples of this yet understudied phenomenon. This article aims to examine volunteerism and its close relationship with the production of model citizens. It attempts to shed light on how China uses soft power - through appeal and attraction - in its governing strategies. Informed by Foucault's work on governmentality, this article aims to show how promotional strategies and training materials pertaining to volunteering programmes acted as governing strategies that invoked and produced specific power relationships through which the state governed its citizens. Taking the Beijing Olympic volunteer programme as a case to examine how a new model citizenry is produced, I trace three discourses: dream and glory, hosting a great Olympics, and not to 'lose face'. These discourses shape citizens' everyday lives; they help volunteers internalize and embody the ideal of a model citizen, and as such they are part of the organized practices through which subjects are governed in China.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-59
Number of pages27
JournalChina Information
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2011

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • General
  • Anthropology
  • Cultural Studies

User-Defined Keywords

  • discipline
  • face
  • governmentality
  • model citizens
  • national humiliation
  • shame
  • soft power


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