The field of citizenship education witnessed an expanding body of literature looking at the case of China. Yet citizenship with broad conceptual terrain often refers to different things in the literature. This paper foregrounds the common core of the essentially contested concept of citizenship and considers citizenship conception as discourse. By engaging with and drawing evidence from extant literature, this paper critically examines citizenship in the academic and related official and social discourses. It discloses the discursive conformity among the academic, official, and social discourses of citizenship in mainland China and discusses the politics beneath the conformity. It suggests that the fundamental values of liberty and equality constitutive of the common core of citizenship should not be lost but localized to serve as the conceptual and analytical compass in the contestation of citizenship and citizenship education discourses in contemporary China.
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