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Volume 13, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1751-1917
  • E-ISSN: 1751-1925



Using a case study approach utilizing individual interviews and focus groups, this study examines how Chinese students studying in New Zealand view their citizenship. The focus was on students’ everyday understandings of citizenship after they had some experience of living outside of China in a different citizenship regime. What does citizenship mean to them, given that they are studying in the social context of a democracy in comparison with communist China? Does the transition from life in a communist country to life in a democratic country affect their sense of citizenship? The results showed Chinese international students raised questions about their past citizenship experiences in communist China and how they were influenced by their personal politico-cultural experiences of individualism in New Zealand. As a result, students struggled to understand the meanings of ‘citizen’ and ‘democracy’ and the challenges to their thinking of New Zealand’s democratic context. The advantages of democracy so well understood in the West may not be self-evident to students raised in a system with different values. In general, they formulated different understandings of themselves as citizens in China. The discomforting process of reassessment of citizenship is not always appreciated by Western academics who study Chinese citizenship using Western criteria.


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