• Sea Turtles Living in a Fishbowl: Political Identities and the Returning Trend of Chinese International Students

      Liao, Yuchen
      While American philosopher Martha Nussbaum (2016) claimed that “most of us would not choose to live in a prosperous nation that had ceased to be democratic” (pp. 10−11), more and more Chinese international students have followed an opposite trend recently, returning from democracies to China where political freedom is deteriorating. This project conceives the heterogeneous political identities of Chinese international students as an underlying cause, rather than a directly decisive factor, to understand the increasing proportion of Chinese “sea turtles”—the homonym of “returnees” in Mandarin. I use conceptual, reflective, and argumentative methods, proposing and exploring four different political identities of Chinese international students: party-statist, neoliberal, liberal, and double-dissident. I develop a metaphor of the “fishbowl” to depict Chinese political control and argue that the fishbowl plays a more decisive role than democratic education in constructing Chinese international students’ political identities to pull many of them back to China. My purpose is to provide new insights and critical hope for democratic education, illuminate the complex situation that Chinese international students face, and challenge the China−West binary in order to promote mutual understanding.