The gains and losses of face in ongoing intercultural interaction: A case study of Chinese participant perspectives

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Wang, Jiayi ; Spencer-Oatey, Helen

Given the small number of existing studies of face in intercultural settings and the increasing attention given to participant perspectives in face research, this paper explores the gains and losses of face as perceived by Chinese government officials during a three-week delegation visit to the United States of America. These perspectives were obtained from the group's spontaneous discussions during regular evening meetings when they reflected on the day's events. Several key features emerged from the discussions. Firstly, face enhancement was a primary goal for the visit – enhancement of their own face as a delegation, of the face of the Ministry they belonged to, as well as the face of their American hosts. Secondly, the delegates attempted to manage these face goals strategically. Thirdly, they spoke of face as a volatile image that could rise and fall sharply and yet endured across incidents, days and weeks. The paper reports on and discusses these participant perspectives in the light of recent theorizing on face.
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