Bribing for the Truth: A Comparative Study of Guanxi and Justice through Geling Yan’s “The Uninvited”


Geling Yan, one of the world's most well-known writers in diaspora literature, has produced a substantial body of works in both Chinese and English. This paper attempts to provide a comparative analysis of the two conceptions of justice and guanxi through her English novel The Uninvited (2006). Drawing on theoretical bases from Jacques Derrida, John Rawls, Michael J. Sandel, Mayfair Mei-hui Yang, and Morgan W. Geddie, this paper highlights the ambiguity and implausibility of locating justice and guanxi as purely transcendental or contingent notions. As exemplified in this work about the bizarre journey of Dan Dong, a factory-worker-turned-pseudo-journalist in contemporary Beijing, this paper argues that the similarity between the two conceptions lies in their common pursuit of benefits from and desires of the other. Two key, common constructs, empathy and reciprocity, are identified. These call for new studies of modernization and culture, when Chinese society, if not East Asian ones as an organic whole, is increasingly transformed through its interactions with new media and different countries. In the later part, this paper focuses on the negative connotations of guanxi as shown in Dan's ventures, highlights its tension with justice in terms of constructs of bonding and trust, and explores if guanxi is really intensifying China's unrestrained corruption and serves as an obstacle to China's progression as a society with the rule of law. Explicating the literary tropes in the work, from metaphors to imagery, this paper concludes how guanxi could be reduced to an instrumentalist rendition in the extreme.

Author Information
Yuen Kit Chan, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Paper Information
Conference: LibrAsia2016
Stream: Literature - Asian Literature

This paper is part of the LibrAsia2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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