Risk, Failure, and Liquid Modernity: Ecocriticism in Chinese Science Fiction

Risk, Failure, and Liquid Modernity: Ecocriticism in Chinese Science Fiction
This thesis explores the rich ecological contents generated by contemporary Chinese SF. My central claim is that a core characteristic of post-2000 Chinese SF is to be found in its diffuse ecological awareness. The SF works discussed in this thesis all begin with presenting a specific solution to a particular aspect of the worsening ecosystem. In unpacking the contradictions of the actual measures adopted to tackle ecological problems, these solutions are an expression of these authors’ sense of irony and criticism. These ecological narratives themselves are subject to different interpretations in which capitalism, geopolitics, and nationalism are intertwined with one another.

My analysis firstly brings awareness of the academic, cultural, and political contexts Chinese SF writers have to deal with: the conservative approach of Chinese ecocriticism, the barriers set up by orientalist perspectives, and
the influence from the political discourse of the emergence of a powerful China. The main body of the thesis consists of three case studies arranged under different ecological themes: waste pollution, urban overpopulation
and the resulting resource depletion, and the emergence of new species under the influence of oceanic pollution.

This thesis concludes on a somewhat optimistic note regarding the powerful ecological message and cross-cultural themes delivered by contemporary Chinese SF writers and their works. In their exploration
of the ongoing ecological issues, they strive to the utmost degree, to transcend various cultural barriers. They write about the worldwide ecological and social crisis through envisioning Chinese cities, both real
and imagined. The aim, is to break down the boundaries between the local and the global, connecting China with the rest of the world, linking the future with the past and the present, and encouraging reconciliation between the human and more-than-human world.


Mia Chen Ma

Defended in

1 Jan 2022 – 30 Nov 2022

PhD defended at

SOAS, University of London