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Keywords:

  • China;
  • mega-event;
  • nationalism;
  • Olympics;
  • satire.

Abstract

This paper focuses on the relationship between the 2008 Beijing Olympic Torch Relay mega-event and contemporary imaginings of China's geopolitical position and the Chinese national geo-body. The performance of China's territorial presence at the international and domestic scales drew both support and resistance. Chinese media coverage of the spectacle reiterated tropes of geopolitical struggle and national unity. While these tropes resonated with some Chinese audiences who have been primed to recognize the Chinese geo-body through banal nationalism, Chinese citizens' satirical online comments reveal that some rejected the stilted ideological representations of the relay. Further, protesting groups' high-profile disruptions of the relay mega-event outside of the national territory of the host country worked to undermine the relay's international reception. Drawing from analyses of Chinese and international media sources and Chinese Internet satire, this article suggests that the scripted nature and geographical extent of mega-events compromises the geopolitical and nation-building aspects of such events in both neoliberal and postsocialist contexts.