Issue Vol. 4, No. 4 / October 2008

Special Issue: Construction of Harmonious Society – A Communication Perspective
Guest Editors: Guo-Ming Chen, Xiaosui Xiao
Towards Transcultural Understanding: A Harmony Theory of Chinese Communication
Author(s): Guo-Ming Chen
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This chapter developed a general theory of Chinese communication from the perspective of harmony. Based on the nine concepts, including jen (humanity), yi (appropriateness), li (rites), shi (temporal contingencies), wei (spatial contingencies), ji (the first imperceptible beginning of movement), guanxi (interrelation), mientz (face), and power, a total of four propositions, 23 axioms and 23 theorems were generated. The functions and interrelationships of these concepts form a holistic system that brings continuity into the endless transforming process of Chinese communication. It is hoped that the theory will serve as a mirror reflecting potential problems occurring in the intercultural communication and provide a great opportunity for reaching transcultural understanding while interacting with Chinese.
Harmony in Contemporary New Confucianism and in Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
Author(s): Jesús Solé-Farràs
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This article has two main subjects. First, it examines the movement called \"Contemporary New Confucianism,\" as philosophical thought and as an ideological force in China, in possible competition with both autochthonous Socialism and Western Liberalism, and as a polyvalent means of communication that seeks to stand out as genuinely Chinese within a plural and global context. Second, it analyses the project of the Chinese Communist Party of \"building a harmonious socialist society\" within the framework of \"Socialism with Chinese characteristics.\" In the interrelated results of the analysis of these two subjects of study lies the final objective of this paper: to evaluate the extent of the concept \"harmony\" as an overlapping field in China between traditional Confucian values, rediscovered in and adapted to the twenty-first century \"representing contemporary New Confucianism\" and official socialist values, redesigned since the process of \"reform and opening up\"-representing \"Socialism with Chinese characteristics.\"
Chinese Perspective on Harmony: An Evaluation of the Harmony and the Peace Paradigms
Author(s): Wenshan Jia
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Harmony and peace represent two different cultural paradigms of thinking, with the former from Chinese culture and the latter from the modern Western culture. The peace paradigm of thinking has been dysfunctional due to its lack of rich intellectual resources for peace. The harmony paradigm, with its long history and rich intellectual resources, specializes in harmonizing diversity and could be very useful in transforming the conflict-ridden global society into a harmonious world.
Harmonious Society, Civil Society and the Media: A Communicative Action Perspective
Author(s): Thomas Jacobson
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Scholarly interest in Jurgen Habermas's work has been growing in China for some years. Mostly, this interest is reflected in studies of the concept of the political public sphere. These studies ask whether the kind of political speech enacted in the public sphere is relevant to the context of Chinese society and history. This paper inquires into the relevance of the category of the public sphere for analyzing cultural change. The public sphere is connected with two other categories, i.e. the lifeworld and lifeworld colonization. First the public sphere is treated as a space not only for discussion of political matters but also for discussion of cultural norms and preferences, as a space for the society to reflect on the values of a Harmonious Society. Second, the colonization thesis holds that market forces can have a corrosive effect on culture if markets are not adequately managed, leading to alienation, anomie, and cultural impoverishment. In Habermas's view these problems are already advanced in America, Germany, and other Western societies. The paper concludes by suggesting that the threat of lifeworld colonization should perhaps be monitored and analyzed in China too.
The Internet and a Theory of Meaning-Making for Communication Harmony
Author(s): Joan E. Aitken and Leonard J. Shedletsky
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The authors argue for a theory of meaning-making through communication in order to achieve harmony. If one thinks of harmony as a balance of acceptance, this kind of accord is possible through understanding and nonjudgmental open-mindedness of the messages of another individual. Harmony does not necessarily mean agreement, but a type of synchronization of tolerance, belief, feelings, or values. An exploration of ideas about meaning is offered for theory-building. The various levels of meaning affect the way individuals make sense in communication. Using cultural and Internet examples, the authors suggest an approach for improving communication harmony by adapting to others and using contextual cues.
Fate, Faith, Family: Communication and Harmony in Chinese TV Drama The Gobi Mother
Author(s): Yanru Chen
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This article studies The Gobi Mother, a Chinese TV drama aired in late 2007, which hit record high in ratings for its type aired through China Central Television Station. It also received rave reviews from critiques. This article identifies and analyzes several content categories underlying its success: fate and faith; favor and face; foes, friends and family; home, happiness and harmony despite harsh circumstances. It finds that although the traditional Chinese cultural values of \"fate, face, favor\" were still evident in the content, the heroine's success in turning every foe into a friend and a part of her family against all odds lies in her peace of mind in the presence of fateful events and her special ability to love and to care, virtues which in turn motivate her to communicate in a most sincere, simplistic, homely and down-to-earth style. Lessons from the TV drama reveal that success in interpersonal communication does not depend so much on skills, or on the prestige, power or position of the communicator.
Online Lifestyle in China: Harmony of Consumerism and Collectivity in HXFOODS
Author(s): Xinkai Huang
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Because of the gradual incorporation of Western consumer culture and growing population of Internet users in China, online consumption becomes increasingly indispensable to many Chinese people. To better manage their time and resources in consumption, people turn to virtual communities and organize group consumption, exchange consumer knowledge and products, and seek business and interest partners there. This 2-year long participant observer study examines how Chinese people experiment with and experience new modes of consumption through the channel of HXFOODS, a virtual community focusing on consumption issues and activities in Chengdu, the second largest city in southwestern China. Overall, collective intelligence and frequent online interactions are the foundation of new forms of collaborative consumption in HXFOODS.
Harmony in Chinese Television Commercials on Technology Products
Author(s): Jia Lu
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This study aims to explore the influence of traditional Chinese culture over people’s view of science and technology. The literature review over Confucianism and Taoism suggests a position of \"technology-enabled harmony\" that technology must be carefully used to create or preserve the harmony in human society and between man and nature. This position is, then, empirically tested in Chinese television commercials about technology products. Specifically, the concept of harmony is examined against three factors related to commercials: theme, product origin, and product category. The study finds that harmony is more frequently used in Chinese television commercials about technology products, being freed from the influences of product category and theme. Meanwhile, the commercials of products made in western countries have a significantly lower degree of harmony than the ones in the origins that are influenced by traditional Chinese culture.
\"Donkey Friend\" Communities: Harmonious Networks and Harmonious Tourism
Author(s): Ning Zhang
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This paper examines the rise of new kinds of interpersonal relationships and social networks at the intersection of travel and the Internet. This study takes the rise of donkey-friend communities as the point of departure to examine grassroots efforts of urban residents to build harmonious networks through forming voluntary associations, accompanied by creating new set of guanxi ethics, tactics, and etiquette. At the end of the 1990s, the newly coined term \"donkey friend\" became a widely used self-identifier among China’s backpackers. Donkeyfriend communities have thus emerged as a new kind of social network. I will propose that the donkey-friend guanxi relationship, as a new type of guanxixue rising concomitantly with the transformed urban landscape and the commodification of traditional guanxi relations, has carved out a new moral world in which urban citizens are able to face everyday life uncertainties and insecurities, and give meanings to the concept of harmonious society.
Connecting Alumni around the World: A Study of Harmony, Memory, and Identity Online
Author(s): Mei Zhang
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Despite an increasing interest in studies of Chinese media from a communication perspective in recent years, little research has been conducted on computer-mediated Chinese discourse. This study analyzes the online message exchanges among alumni of a major comprehensive university in Eastern China and argues that the virtual community serves as a space for maintenance of harmony, revelation of identities, articulation of nostalgia, and reiteration of values. The alumni’s group identity, personal identity, family identity, and national identity all point to the important role of cyberspace in constructing a harmonious community, collective memory, and cultural values that were intertwined with their multiple identities and in providing new interaction opportunities that were made possible by the new media technologies.
The Discursive Construction of Chinese Spring Festival Celebration as a Site of Harmonious Intercultural Communication
Author(s): Zeshun You and Jianping Chen
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This article is an effort to find out how Chinese Spring Festival celebration is constructed discursively as a site of harmonious intercultural communication, how the construction is historically and socially influenced, and why it is constructed in such a way. It adopts van Dijk’s socio-cognitive approach to analyze Chinese news reports and commentaries and Wodak’s discourse-historical approach to scrutinize the historical and philosophical origin of the discourse. The analysis demonstrates that Chinese writers struggle hard to elaborate the \"harmony\" enmeshed in the celebration held in intercultural settings by literal reiteration, selective use of pronouns, cultural symbol depicting and social activity description. The \"harmony\" being referred to is emphasized in the construction because it is the core value of traditional Chinese Taoism and Confucianism. It has become a kind of historical discourse which penetrates into every corner of Chinese society; the discursive strategies are chosen not at random, but in fact they fall right into the established cognitive framework of Chinese people which makes the construction better accepted.
Foregrounding Harmony: Chinese International Students’ Voices in Communication with Their New Zealand Peers
Author(s): Prue Holmes
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Chinese students’ intercultural communication experiences in Western educational institutions have largely been examined through Eurocentric theoretical lenses, often resulting in misinterpretations of their verbal and nonverbal interactions. Instead, this paper provides new understandings of Chinese students’ intercultural experiences by adopting an \"Asiacentric\" approach which foregrounds harmony as an epistemological, religious, and axiological base for communication. In-depth interviews with 14 Chinese international and 10 New Zealand students indicated that Chinese students sought to maintain harmony in interpersonal relations, evidenced in facework, role recognition, the place of listening and silence, and managing group work interactions. The study outcomes have implications for future research on Chinese communication, as well as understandings of Chinese international students’ communication with their New Zealand counterparts in Western learning contexts.
Communication and Harmony: Tradomedia and Its Effects on Social Change in Developing Nations
Author(s): Obanua Ada Sonia
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Communication gap has been recognized globally to be one of the major grounds where disharmony sprouts. This further indicates that there are idiosyncratic communication methods particular to each community for effective communication. In other words, culture determines the relationship of what is said to what is meant, for example when \"no\" means \"may be\" and \"tomorrow\" means \"never.\" It also determines the timing of interpersonal events, the appropriate place and tone for discussion of particular topics, as well as physical distance to be maintained between one speaker and another. In developing nations like Nigeria, rural dwellers mainly use their tradomedia to communicate effectively with one another. They are the people’s media and their orature. The latter is the oral equivalent of their literature, which is not stored anywhere except in their collective memories. It thus becomes necessary for anyone who wants to effectively evoke harmonious participation of the ruralites in any development program to adopt the use of the tradomedia. Studies in the diffusion of innovation and the two-step flow of information have confirmed this. Non- adoption of tradomedia in the implementation of government policies targeted at rural development in the Niger Delta has been chaotic and futile. A rural community, Ibusa in Delta State was studied to investigate the effectiveness of tradomedia messages in provoking the harmonious participation of the indigenes in the government sponsored Poverty Alleviation Program (P.A.P.). This study revealed that tradomedia is more effective than the mass media in provoking audience harmonious participation in Ibusa.
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