Reanchoring an Ancient, Emergent Superpower: The 2010 Shanghai Expo, National Identity, and Public Memory

Jie Gong


From May through October, 2010, Shanghai hosted the 41st World Expo. Amid China’s contemporary ascendancy, this event provided a valuable glimpse into the country’s sociopolitical circumstances and communicative dynamics. Employing public memory as the theoretical framework to examine this national spectacle, I argue that the Chinese government executed a publicity campaign to construct its national identity as an ancient, emergent superpower by deploying historical resources for political legitimation and ideological recognition. Such memorial invocations betrayed China’s rhetorical (con)quest to reanchor its communist leadership as historically continuous, ideologically inevitable, and culturally indigenous. Moreover, the tension between official assertions and public reactions not only reveals the Chinese government’s political, ideological, and communicative contradictions but illuminates the contested crucible of Chinese national identity, public memory, and sociopolitical discourse.


Shanghai Expo, public memory, national identity, rhetorical criticism, Chinese ascendancy

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