WeChat as a public platform for strenghtening HSS academics’ global competitiveness & autoethnographic reflections of early career research trajectory between Australia and China

This entry introduces two research articles recently published by Dr Helen Jinjin Lu.

Research Highlighted 1

Jinjin Lu (2020): The WeChat public platform: strengthening HSS academics’ global competitiveness in non-English speaking countries. Culture and Education, DOI: 10.1080/11356405.2020.1785141

Dr Jinjin Lu, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan, China

Background

Chinese professional autonomy, particularly for academics, has been fairly restricted in higher education for years. The academic restrictions bring significant challenges for the development of higher education in mainland China (Dirlik, 2012; Klotzbücher, 2014). Klotzbücher (2014) argues that gatekeeping is particularly high for the ‘social status and autonomy of a researcher’ (2014, p. 7). Dirlik (2012) claims that compared with Chinese staff in the disciplines of science and technology (S&T), academics in the humanities and social sciences (HSS) have more challenges due to different ideologies, higher education management and less internationalization. The tension appears to have become more severe after the ‘Double First Class’ strategic plan was put into place (MOE, 2015) in mainland China. Since 2015, the number of overseas returnees who are working as academics in Chinese higher education is trending upward. However, due to media censorship in mainland China, those HSS academic returnees and home-trained fellows have been cut out of the communication channels with the West because they are not allowed to use popular social media tools such as Google, Facebook and YouTube. The communication isolation could potentially enlarge the gap between Chinese HSS academics and their counterparts in S&T for international scholarships. For the reasons mentioned above, it is necessary to seek an effective social media tool for connecting both Chinese and Western scholars in the twenty-first century (Harwit, 2017).

WeChat is not only a social media tool but also a mobile payment application (hereafter, ‘app’) developed by the Chinese company Tencent. It has been widely accepted since 2010 in China, and currently more than 600 million Chinese citizens are using it in their daily lives. Harwit (2017) claims that WeChat has become such a powerful social media tool that it has caused the ‘Chinese government to ensure that this rapidly spreading technology does not challenge its authority’ (p. 313). Ju, Sandel, and Thinyane (2019) empathize that this efficient technology tool is popular among migrants across borders, such as those in Zhuhai mainland and Macao. Because of this, WeChat, as a domain social media tool used in China, as well as a friendly app for the West, has been adopted as an instrument tool in this project.

Method and Findings

The study is underpinned by Gibbon’s managerialism theory, in particular the ‘Mode 2’ (1994). The larger project aims to enhance HSS academics’ global competitiveness in international scholarships via WeChat public platforms in non-English-speaking countries in Asia and Europe. The first objective of the current project is to identify the major communication access and challenges of Chinese HSS academics with Western academics. Second, based on their perceptions, a WeChat public programme was constructed that could be effective to strengthen the public communication between Chinese and Western academics.

The pre-survey and post survey were adopted using the WeChat public programme. There were 224 participants, who used the social media tool WeChat in the quantitative study. After the pre-survey, workshops were designed to introduce the WeChat platform and to explain to the HSS staff at the selected universities how the platform was constructed at the first stage. This was followed by a post-survey questionnaire which was adapted to evaluate the effects of the programme. The results show that Chinese HSS academics are interested in using WeChat public platforms in order to have potential collaborations with the West in research publications, conference presentations, visiting scholar programme applications and students’ mobility programmes.

References

Dirlik, A. (2012). Zhongguohua: Worlding China. The case of sociology and anthropology in 20th-China. In A. Dirlik, G. Li, & H.-P. Yen (Eds.), Sociology and anthropology in twentieth century China. Between universalism and indigenism (pp. 1–32). Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press.

Gibbons, M., Limoges, C., Nowotny, H., Schwartzman, S., Scott, P., & Trow, M. (1994). The new production of knowledge: The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. London: SAGE.

Harwit, E. (2017). WeChat: Social and political development of China’s dominant messaging app. Chinese Journal of Communication, 10, 312–327.

Ju, B., Sandel, T. L., & Thinyane, H. (2019). WeChat use of mainland Chinese dual migrants in daily border crossing. Chinese Journal of Communication, 12, 377–394.

Klotzbücher, S. (2014). Western-Chinese academic collaboration in the social sciences. Journal of Current Chinese Affairs, 43, 7–12.

MOE. (2015). Jiakuai Jiancheng yipi shijie yiliu daxue he yiliu xueke. Retrieved from http://www. moe.edu.cn/jyb_xwfb/s271/201511/t20151104_217639.html

Research Highlighted 2

Lu, J. (2020) Cinderella and Pandora’s box – Autoethnographic Reflections on My Early Career Research Trajectory between Australia and China, Interlitteraria, 96-109.

This paper is the second essay of my auto-ethnography collection. In the first part, I focused on my reflections on my bilingual learning trajectory from China to the USA (Lu, 2018). Compared with the first one, this article focused on describing my own working experiences as an early career researcher between Australia and China. I examine my immigrant experiences as a female, bilingual early-career researcher in multilingual and multicultural environments and my subsequent re-entry into China to work as a global researcher within a span of ten years. My series of auto-ethnographic dialogues between a cast of characters, in which they recall experiences, perceptions, and emotions, provides readers with ample opportunities to actively respond to the text. Through this autoethnographic memoir and performance, I hope to contribute to new directions for narrative research in intercultural contexts.

The poem called Love, written by Professor Jüri Talvet, has motivated me to complete this piece of writing. While reading the poem, loving memories played in my mind like a film. As I was born into a middle-class family in China, all my family love has come to me. Since I became an immigrant in the West, love has been always a main theme in my family and career. In the article, I reviewed studies of immigrants’ cultural identities, cultural transfusions, and hybrid spaces. As a first-generation immigrant who completed higher education in the West, the way I was brought up and my early learning trajectory have had a significant influence on my life in Australia. I use my diaries to provide a window through which both I and others from a similar cultural background can explore immigrants’ cultural identities. My shifting spaces have brought me many opportunities and challenges, and they have also inspired me to reflect on myself and reconstruct my identity.

I chose three diary excerpts: Humility Makes Progress, Guilty for Going Out on Weekends, and Struggling to Be Back to present the cultural nuances between Chinese and westerners. Some emerging social and cultural issues, such as tiger parenting, leftover women, and Chinese circle, would be interesting for further exploration by socialists.

References

Lu, J. 2018. Of Roses and Jasmine  – Auto-Ethnographic Reflections on My Early Bilingual Life through China’s Open-Door Policy.  Reflective Practice, 19(5), 690–706. https://doi.org/10.1080/14623943.2018.1538959

Love English translation by Harvey L. Hix. DOI: https://doi.org/10.12697/IL.2020.25.1.10

Author Bio

Dr Jinjin Lu completed her PhD in the Faculty of Education at the University of Tasmania in Australia. She was a full-time research fellow in Charles Sturt University between 2015–2017 in Australia. Currently, she is an Associate Professor in the School of Foreign Languages at China University of Geosciences (Wuhan), China. Her research interests are in language education, digital technology and cultural studies. She can be contacted at helen820919@sina.com.

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