The East as a Career: The Portrayals of Chinese People and their Chineseness

Dr Chi-sum Garfield Lau1

1The Open University Of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Ever since the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism in 1978, both the work and the Orient became controversial topics in the academia. Said began his masterpiece with two epigraphs, one from Karl Marx and the other from the former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli. In the first statement from Marx, “They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented”, the referent is missing. However, reading this quote from Marx’s together with the second quote from Disraeli that “The East is a career” makes clear that the Orient is more than an illusionary referent. While the Orient is presented as being incompetent of defining itself without the western world, what makes it a promising “career” to people from the west?

It is the aim of this paper to explore this aforesaid question through studying various portrayals of Chinese people and their sense of Chineseness along the historical timeline in order to demonstrate how the portrayal of the Orient could be a career in the past, at present and in the future. Genres ranging from travel writings, creative works to audio-visual productions will be used as basis of the study. In doing so, the changing perception towards the Chinese people could also be revealed.

To avoid the degrading of dissimilar Chinese communities, either ethnically or geographically, simply as a monolithic unit, objective assessments will be made in evaluating the degree of truthfulness in portraying China and Hong Kong, which had been colonized by Britain for more than a decade and consequently developed her own unique bicultural features.


Dr. Lau obtained her PhD in English Language and Literature from Hong Kong Baptist University. She is currently teaching at The Open University of Hong Kong. She is responsible for courses in English Language and Literature at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Her areas of interest include Modernism, Psychoanalytic Criticism, Marxism and Comparative Studies.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.

Photo Credits: Visit Victoria

© 2019 Conference Design Pty Ltd