Dreadful Desires: The Uses of Love in Neoliberal China
In Dreadful Desires Charlie Yi Zhang examines how the Chinese state deploys affective notions of love to regulate the population and secure China’s place in the global economy. Zhang shows how the state frames love as a set of desires that encompass heteronormative intimacy, familial and communal attachment, upward mobility, and private property ownership. These desires—as circulated in performance in the nationalistic ceremony, same-sex romantic fan fiction, the wildly popular reality television dating show If You Are the One, and the cult of patriarchal personality around Xi Jinping—are explicitly based in oppressive systems of gender, class, and sexuality. Zhang contends that such desires connect love to economic survival and gender normativity in ways that underwrite Chinese neoliberalism at the expense of individual flourishing. By outlining how state-framed forms of love create desires that cannot be fulfilled, Zhang places China at the forefront of using affective attachments to nation, leader, and family in the global shifts toward exploitation and authoritarianism.
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