The Politics of Truth in China: Ontological-Ethical Dimensions in Science and Science Fiction

The Politics of Truth in China: Ontological-Ethical Dimensions of Science and Science Fiction

Lennon Zhang

University of Pittsburgh


Reading science fiction in China as a science project, this paper articulates a philosophical reflection on the ontology and ethics of truth that stems from the world of China. Through the reading of various texts of and about science fiction in China, from the Republican to the contemporary period, this article analyzes the situation of science fiction in China. Since science fiction was originally conceived as a science novel—a literary form that meant to convey scientific truth in order to create a self-determining Chinese public—the history of science fiction in China is punctuated with the political question of what scientific truth is and what it does. Reading though such a milieu and Liu Cixin’s short novel, Hearing Dao in the Morning, this article will demonstrate that science fiction in China offers science a different modality of truth, that evokes an ethic of truth based on the curiosity towards the “unknown unknown.” The “unknown unknown” truth is significant because it re-structures the relationship between science fiction, truth, self-determination and the public.


Science and Technology Studies, Scientific Truth, the Public, Self-determination, Ontology and Ethics, China, Anthropology and Philosophy

About the Author

Trained in BS in biological sciences at UC Davis and having obtained an MA in sociocultural anthropology from the University of Chicago, Lennon Zhang is a PhD student in Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. His research interests lie in multispecies anthropology, infrastructure studies, and the Belt and Road initiative (BRI) in Latin America. Question on how different infrastructures built by different life forms (including humans) come to be conflictual or constitutive with each other’s, he is interested in synchronizing human politics and ecologies in the Anthropocene. A vitalist by heart, he is interested in situating science fiction as an extension of human life and politics.

Published: 2022 – 06 – 15

Issue: Vol 5 (2022)

Section: General Articles

Copyright (c) 2022 Lennon Zhang

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