Since the late 1990s, China has experienced an explosion of popular interest in English language study. This nationwide “English fever” reflects how, with the global spread of neoliberal doctrines that were gradually adopted by Chinese governments, English was naturalized as the language of competitiveness and entrepreneurialism. While there is a growing body of literature examining the English‐learning craze as a facet of the transnational neoliberalization processes, this anthropological study focuses on the frictions generated in the encounter of English, conceived as a neoliberal technology of the self, with the Chinese nation‐state. It examines the understudied phenomenon of Crazy English, a language‐teaching enterprise that received unprecedented state patronage among such edu‐businesses in the decade of 1998–2008. Conceptualizing Crazy English as a self‐cultivation method provides insights into how English study in turn‐of‐the‐century China embodied tensions between key values that characterized the state's project of desirable citizenship: entrepreneurialism and patriotism. Through the idealization and promotion of the new exemplary model of the “wolf entrepreneur,” Chinese state agents, edu‐entrepreneurs, and citizen‐learners sought to reconcile their desires to simultaneously participate in neoliberal globalization and protect their cultural identities and national interests.

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