Diaosi [Underdog Talk] as a Way of Relating in Contemporary China

S Witteborn, Qian Huang

Research output: Chapter/Conference proceedingChapterAcademic


This chapter analyzes diaosi as a term and practice used by Chinese-speaking netizens through an Ethnography of Communication approach. Diaosi is a term for acting and relating which is an indicator of the zeitgeist in contemporary China. Diaosi, translatable as underdog, engages young people in social grouping through questioning social values and mechanisms that increasingly exclude them from participating in the narrative of progress and prosperity. Teasing and flaming are constitutive of these grouping processes. Teasing creates social bonds among those identifying as diaosi, from critics of increasing materialism and moral decay to believers in hard work against all odds. Flaming was a way to attack diaosi and attribute social failure to the person’s lack of effort and disregard of received gender norms. The chapter argues that diaosi is a way of relating and acting that can be used for comparisons with similar practices in other sociocultural contexts to understand how values and social order are constituted, negotiated, and challenged through (digital) social interaction. Moreover, the analysis highlights the importance of understanding the discursive and social force of digital media in contemporary China.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Handbook of Communication in Cross-cultural Perspective
EditorsD. Carbaugh
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9781315709321
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


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