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May 06

The Creationist Myth of Chinese Nationalism

Written by Buxi on Tuesday, May 6th, 2008 at 10:12 pm
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Written by Tang Buxi – May 6th, 2008

The LA Times follows in the footsteps of the New York Times in publishing an article discussing Chinese nationalism. See the LA Times article here , and previous NY Times editorial here.

These articles do insert some much-needed balance into the Western understanding of Chinese nationalism. The LA Times article is especially notable for offering a view that most Chinese would agree is mostly balanced. However, even in the excellent LA Times article, it seems the journalist buys into a persistent Western myth.

Myth: Chinese nationalism was recently created by the Communist Party.

A New York Times editorial about China starts with this:

CHINA IS NO LONGER THE HUMBLE NATION; In Nationalism She Has Rediscovered Her Old Strength And Now She Is Demanding Her Place in the Sun
A few years ago, when Chinese nationalism was becoming aggressive and anti-foreign incidents were occurring all over the country, a conference was held in an American city to discuss the situation. …. [China] is conscious of its newly discovered strength and revelling in the consciousness. It may even be said to be swaggering somewhat. One who knew China in the old days and returned there now could put in a sentence the contrast with ten or fifteen years ago: China is feeling its oats.

None of us would be surprised to open up today’s newspaper and find the above headline… but this article was actually first published in 1929. We’ll come back to this story at the end of this post.

In the mean time, let’s talk about the 21st century. The LA Times article says in part:

Over the last decade, the government has introduced new school textbooks that focus on past victimization of China by outside powers.

The government does, on occasion, emphasis “patriotic education” in China. The history of patriotic heroes are studied, and various tourist sites participate in a patriotic education campaign. It’s hard for me, however, to understand how this differs substantively from the American education system. Is the Freedom Trail in Boston not a “patriotic education” tourist site as well?

But most importantly, it seems to me Western observers are missing the obvious. The Communist Party didn’t create Chinese nationalism; Chinese nationalism itself created the Communist Party. Let’s not forget the name of the current ruling party across the strait in Taiwan: Chinese Nationalist Party (中国国民党). And yet, ironically, many historians would agree the Chinese Nationalist Party lost its civil war in the 1940s in part because it wasn’t nationalistic enough; many Chinese sided with the Communist Party’s argument that it had taken a more active role in the war against Japanese invasion. In other words, the Communist Party ruled China only because they were more nationalistic than the self-declared Nationalist Party.

The founding of the Communist Party itself is also tied directly to the May Fourth movement (chronologically and philosophically). The May Fourth (1919) movement is a hugely influential populist movement led by students/intellectuals that has really defined the fundamental nature of the Chinese nation ever since. Two years after the movement was put down violently, the Communist Party was born (in 1921). Several of the founding members of the Communist Party were directly involved in the May Fourth movement itself.

And, especially relevant to today, the May Fourth movement was a popular uprising in response to foreign attempts to divide the Chinese nation. The province of Shandong (the ancestral burial ground of Confucius no less) was acquired by the German empire (“leased”) in the late 19th century. After World War I, China had hoped its contributions to the Allied war effort would mean reclaiming this territory. Japan, however, was ultimately granted Shandong province, through the Versailles treaty. The government of Yuan Shikai is seen as having accepted this arrangement in exchange for international “support”, a form of betrayal that eventually led to his downfall. This was the single crystallizing moment in which many Chinese intellectuals and students decided they could no longer trust their government, and the task of protecting the Chinese nation lay on the shoulders of every Chinese citizen.

May Fourth slogan: “外争国权,内惩国贼”. (Fight for sovereign rights internationally, punish traitors domestically.)

Keeping these facts in mind… how could the Communist Party be anything but nationalistic? How could the Communist Party do anything but respond harshly to the perception that foreign powers are again involved in separating China? Nationalism is basically the Communist Party’s raison d’etre, while communism is only the tool that they tried to use to achieve the ultimate goal of a strong Chinese nation. The concept of turning their back on Chinese nationalism is as ridiculous as the concept of political parties in the United States eliminating their dedication to liberalism and democracy, and instead choosing to restore the British monarchy.

The LA Times article says further:

In 2005, Beijing initially fed the anti-Japan feelings with public statements. Then Beijing — which depends on Tokyo as a crucial trading partner and source of aid — tried to tamp down tensions by keeping much of the protest details out of the state media.

Western observers often tend to confuse the order of nationalistic expression; their interpretation tends to be first the government speaks, and then the public responds. If they paid attention to actual level of feeling on the ground, they’d understand that government is often forced to speak when doing anything else would mean tremendous challenges to their credibility.

Over the past month, for example, Beijing initially tried very hard to obscure the existence of anti-China protests during the early stages of the Olympic Torch relay. State media reports barely mentioned the existence of any protesters, instead preferring to focus on the hospitality of non-political observers in London and Paris. But in this day and age, the state media simply can’t hide a truth of this scale. The Chinese internet world exploded overnight with images and videos (taken from Western media) of the protests in both cities. The name “Jin Jing” was well known to most Chinese netizens long before she finally appeared on Chinese state media, days later.

This is not to say the government in Beijing doesn’t modulate nationalism. It clearly does. Protests in front of Carrefour over the past month have largely been centered in rural towns far away from direct central government control: Anhui, Yunnan, Wuhan, etc. The cities directly administered by Beijing (as well as coastal provinces widely recognized as having ‘better’ governance) were all relatively quiet. Protests in Beijing were snuffed out quickly, with state security people speaking politely but firmly with protest organizers long before they hit the streets. But even when it modulates nationalism, it does so with a gentle hand, knowing that it’s essentially handling live ammunition. The most common approach is to *appeal* to more nationalism, only redirected in a different direction. “Love your country by building your country”, for example.

In summary, the creationist myth of Chinese nationalism is simply wrong and misleading. Chinese nationalism evolved from a series of historical events, involving actors both foreign and domestic. Chinese nationalism later evolved into the Communist Party. And if the Communist Party does not remain true to its nationalist roots, if it does not give us the strong/united country that the Chinese have been fighting for for nearly a century, then China will inevitably evolve past them to a new ruling party.

And now, here’s a little more from that 1929 NY Times editorial about Chinese nationalism.

CHINA IS NO LONGER THE HUMBLE NATION
CHINA IS NO LONGER THE HUMBLE NATION; In Nationalism She Has Rediscovered Her Old Strength And Now She Is Demanding Her Place in the Sun
Chinese nationalism has won more than oepning successes. Essentially it is already conclusively triumphant. Chinese nationalism has succeeded beyond the hopes of the most optimistic young Nationalists. That this success has gone to China’s head is indisputable. It is difficult to see what else could be expected. For seventy-five years China has been a conquered nation, its government bending to the dictates of the powerful States of the world, much of its territory shorn away, its capital occupied by foreign troops, its people swallowing the humiliations of the conquered, their conquerors living amongst them, a lordly minority with all the privileges of conquerors.


Another illustration is from Hankow in 1927. Chinese mobs, it may be remembered, overran the barriers of the British concession area and took possession… For months it was difficult, sometimes impossible, for Europeans to go along the promenade on the Bund, or Yangtse River shore. Ragged coolies swarmed it. Wheelbarrows tore up the pavement. Beggars bedded themselves down on it on filthy matting. It was a refuse heap. And the venturesome European or American who tried to walk there was more than likely to be spat upon and shoved into the street. Once the writer talked to a foreigner who had lived in Hankow for years and remained through that period. “You can imagine what that meant to us,” he said, “when you realize that before that time an ordinary Chinese was not even allowed to walk on the sidewalk along the Bund.’ And he said it wholly unconscious that he was saying all that was necessary to explain the situation.


There is the probability that this stage will be of short duration. The Chinese are a conspicuously reasonable people. In the interval, however, the relations between China and the Western world will be strained.

This editorial from the 1920s is strikingly more insightful and “fair” from the Chinese perspective than anything we’ve read over the past month. Rather than blaming Western media for bias, it might be time to simply blame the Western media for having a very short memory. While most Chinese still distinctly remembers the lessons of the early 20th century, it seems today’s journalists are only guilty of forgetting what their predecessors easily recognized. In the absence of knowledge, it seems Western journalists have turned to creating mythical explanations for a historical fact.

And for those interested in digging through the historical archives even further, here are a few more New York Times articles throughout the 20th century. They help provide snapshots of the consistent face of Chinese nationalism, which has yet to be diluted, and has yet to achieve our long-term goals.

1949 NY Times – U. S. Appears to Expect A Nationalist Red China;
February 15, 1949 – Quite plainly the policymakers of the United States are counting upon the historic forces of Chinese nationalism to assert themselves as strongly under a Mao Tze-tung Government vis-a-vis the U.S.S.R. as they did under a Chiang Kaishek Government vis-a-vis the United States.

Freer Expression in China Part of a Search for New Path
January 14, 1979 – “Capitaism and socialism are just names – what is the real difference?” the college student said during the three-hour discussion…
What motivated him and his generation, he indicated, was the same purpose that has motivated all of modern Chinese nationalism. Ever since China discovered its backwardness when it was humiliated by Britain in the Opium War of 1840-42, Chinese reformers have wanted to catch up with the more advanced Western world.
In the 19th century, the early leaders of this movement talked about making China “rich and strong”. It is not a coincidence that many of the posters in Peking these days once again use expressions such as, “We must make China rich and strong.”

Earnest Patriot
April 23, 1996 – One thing seemed clear from these youthful expressions: the Communist Party leadership is benefiting from the wave of patriotic spirit — or nationalism — that is rolling through the student population.


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28 Responses to “The Creationist Myth of Chinese Nationalism”

  1. Bing Ma Yong Says:

    I agree with you. Chinese nationalism created CCP and also KMT.驱除鞑虏恢复中华 might be seen as HAN nationalism
    Chinese nationalism exists for thousands of years.精忠报国。

    My memory has two things are different from you artical which won’t change anything you are trying to say:
    1.Li Yuan Hong and Duan Qi Rui were the heads of BeiYang government on the May 4th movement. Yuan Shi Kai was down already.

    2.In Sino-Japanese war, KMT troops fought much more big scaled battles with Japanese invaders and suffered more lost. CCP troops were doing guerrillas fightings which was also important but suffered less. Many students joined the KMT army under 十万学生十万军 slogan.

  2. Buxi Says:

    Bing Ma Yong,

    Thanks for your comments.

    1) You’re completely right, Yuan Shikai was dead by the time of the May 4th movement itself. While he was at the head of the government, in 1915 he accepted the Japanese “Twenty-One Demands”, implicitly accepting Japanese control over Shandong. But he was not personally responsible for the policy decisions that led to the Versailles humiliation.

    2) Yes, I think mainland China itself is also beginning to reconsider the contribution of the KMT. I know many mainland Chinese netizens for example have been watching the Taiwanese movie 一寸山河一寸血, and come away with a much different view of the war. (I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I will when I find the time.)

    I didn’t want to get into an argument above about whether the KMT or the Communist Party did a better job in resisting the Japanese; both were necessary to the final victory, and the Chinese people’s ultimate victory belongs to both parties.

    My point is just that in the 1940s, the Communist Party did a better job of *convincing* the Chinese people that they were the more nationalist party.

  3. Jack Says:

    @Buxi

    “I didn’t want to get into an argument above about whether the KMT or the Communist Party did a better job in resisting the Japanese; both were necessary to the final victory, and the Chinese people’s ultimate victory belongs to both parties.”

    You’re buying into the revisionist history of the CCP fighting the War of Japanese Resistance. KMT, Soviet, Japanese, and American accounts have all noted that the major fighting in the war was done by the KMT. The CCP participated in none of the big battles, and their guerrilla efforts had a negligible effect.

    The fact is the KMT secured more supplies, funding, training and troops. Heck, the National Revolutionary Army also had 80,000 troops trained by the Nazi Wehrmacht, arguably the best infantry in existence during World War 2.

    But in the end it didn’t matter. The important war was the Chinese Civil War, and the CCP got to re-write history afterward s.

  4. snow Says:

    Those “demoncratically pious” westerners often forget that national sovereignty and stability is the precondtion for any democracy, and that
    democracy will have to go hand in hand with nationalism!

  5. citizen Says:

    This just makes no sense.

    The NY and LA Times articles say nothing about any such myth of the origin of Chinese nationalism. Your whole argument is pitched at a straw man. If I’m wrong, show me where…

    There are certainly ‘Creationist Myths’ about Chinese nationalism, but they’re coming out of China, not ‘The West’.

    Look at the recent official elevation of the Yellow Emperor and the absurdly recreated ceremonies. Look at the reported 200 million yuan spent this year celebrating Da Yu in Zhejiang. Look at Bing Ma Yong’s comment here about Chinese Nationalism existing ‘for thousands of years’ (point me to a nationalist text thousands of years old).
    ,
    Quasi-religious rhetoric is in fact quite the fashion, as the olympic vocabulary takes a sacerdotal turn – the ‘sacred flame’, the ‘holy light of the world’, – politico-mystical language not heard since the Nazis invented the whole darn torch relay.

    By the way you might have more credibility if you stopped talking about how ‘most Chinese’ feel (or even ‘all Chinese’ on another post. How on earth could you know?

    By the way you would gain a lot of credibility if you stopped pretending to know how ‘most Chinese’ feel. How on earth could you know?

  6. Buxi Says:

    citizen,

    Would you say that “most Americans” value personal liberty and human rights? Would you say that “most Europeans” remember the dangers of nationalist fascism?

    Is anyone really out of bounds by making the above statements?

    I’m sensitive to the possibility that I misrepresent “the Chinese” with my own perspectives. I try to moderate my comments, and distinguish clearly between my perspectives and what I considered values shared by most Chinese.

    Above, I made one statement on behalf of “most Chinese”:

    … most Chinese still distinctly remembers the lessons of the early 20th century…

    I have absolutely no problems standing behind that statement.

  7. Buxi Says:

    citizen,

    The NY and LA Times articles say nothing about any such myth of the origin of Chinese nationalism. Your whole argument is pitched at a straw man. If I’m wrong, show me where…

    The LA Times article is clearly the better of the two, but both in different ways make implications about today’s Chinese nationalists that I can not agree with.

    There’s a quote in the above article itself from the LA Times, which places the blame on “textbooks”. The New York Times article does the same in more direct terms, claiming the education system itself is responsible. Whether this goes far enough to be called “myth” or not is a rhetorical debate I personally am not interested in.

    What concerns me is the clear implication in these articles that China’s modern nationalists are a new creation without precedent. The articles from the New York Times archives linked above tell us that today’s Chinese nationalists would not be out of place in 1926, 1949, or 1978.

  8. citizen Says:

    Well, you also said ‘most Chinese would agree is mostly balanced’ – in this piece, and in another post you ‘all of us love our country’ – you see you’re not even aware of doing it. That is practically the definition of ‘knee-jerk’ nationalism.

    As for comparing Chinese public opinion with American or European, at present you simply can’t do that meaningfully. Who can say what opinions would emerge IF the people of China were free to learn and free to talk.

    Read the articles again, since they are the basis for your post, They talk about how the Party sometimes leads, sometimes follows popular nationalist sentiment. There’s simply no mention of before 1949, or any suggestion that the CCP invented nationalism – nor have I ever heard that opinion anywhere else. Again, your argument about the origins of nationalism is simply bogus, hanging on what you want to read in these articles, not what is actually there. Quote me a quote to prove me wrong.

    In fact the only historical comparison made in the articles- which you ignore – is that younger people seem more ‘Patriotic’ than the older. Would you like to try to account for that?

    As for ‘myth’ – it’s a very loaded term – but it’s your term.

    What do you think of Bing Ma Yong’s version of the history of nationalism in China?,

  9. dan Says:

    Buxi,

    To understand what you are saying, are you trying to tell us that Chinese Nationalism is not new, but existed for ten thousands years. Does that mean Chinese have always acted this way & it’s nothing new? I agree with you and it explains the history of how China treated it’s neighbors and it explains why Chinese reacts toward others who do not approve of their actions.

  10. Buxi Says:

    citizen,

    I believe you’re being rather harshly judgmental with my rhetorical devices. Are you equally offended when someone says “Americans are freedom-loving people”? The sentiment and scale is what should matter. The Chinese are a proud, nationalistic people who love their country. There is plenty of debate about what form that love should take, but there is near universal agreement that we do love her, and that we must do what we can to strengthen her.

    As far as your statement that “what opinions would emerge IF the people of China were free to learn and free to talk”, that seems like a rather convenient fig leaf for asserting your opinions over those of us who are free to learn, and trying to talk. It seems dangerously like the argument of those who ignored warning voices and insisted the Iraqis would welcome American liberators with flowers, if only they had the freedom to do so.

    If you were to engage the Chinese (inside and outside of mainland China) in discussions, you would have a very good idea of what public opinion “would look like”. The huge numbers of Chinese overseas who’ve come out world-wide, as well as the huge numbers of posts on overseas Chinese forums should give you some idea of what public opinion “would look like”, if you cared. The overwhelming reaction of those in Hong Kong should give you some idea of what public opinion “would look like”, if you cared.

    This is precisely what this forum and blog is intended to be. Say anything you want, link anything you want, and let’s see what Chinese public opinion in this context proves to me.

    As far as you and dan’s question about Bing Ma Yong’s statement that Chinese nationalism has been around for “thousands of years”… the two of you perhaps didn’t understand the significance of 尽忠报国 mentioned in his post.

    Let me try to explain. These characters literally mean “serve your country with complete loyalty“.

    History of the Song Dynasty (written in 1343 on the order of the Mongol Yuan emperor) records the history of Yue Fei, a general from the Song Dynasty who lived and died in the 12th century. He is the epitome, the very symbol of historical nationalism in China. He had 尽忠报国 tattooed deeply in his back as a child. The common story is that his own mother actually did the tattooing, although history is unclear on that detail. In the face of northern invasion by the foreign Jin, he gave his all towards defending his country.

    He was later framed and assassinated by court officials believed to be conspiring with the Jin, which also feeds into the traditional belief amongst many Chinese that our greatest dangers, our greatest traitors come from our own ranks. A temple was built in his honor in 1163 (on the edge of West Lake in Hangzhou), and has since been maintained and updated numerous times by subsequent dynasties (including the Manchu Qing). Today, 800 years later, you can still find bronze statues of the people believed to have framed Yue Fei, kneeling before his temple in eternal shame.

    The stories of Yue Fei was well remembered throughout Chinese history. It’s also become one of our greatest historical legends, something akin to Robin Hood or King Arthur in British-influenced countries… just with better historical documentation. And it also means that when Hu Jintao negotiates with the Dalai Lama regarding the future of Tibet, he has to keep in mind that if he fails to uphold certain principles, his bronze statue might be a target for spit/urine for another thousand years or so.

    You can say the Communist Party has done its part to maintain nationalism. But I would say just about every part of Chinese society (inside and outside of the PRC) has done its part to maintain nationalism for 800 years. The hugely, hugely influential 20th century Hong Kong wuxia writer Jin Yong repeatedly writes on these same nationalist themes. The “shame” suffered by the Song emperors is a constant theme in his books. He certainly never went through Communist China’s education system, and I strongly doubt that the nationalist students of today are any more nationalistic than he was.

    The Chinese nation has evolved over time, but the spirit of Chinese nationalism has never been far. This post is to remind the West that this nationalism predates the existence of the Communist Party; it existed in 1949, in 1926, and even during the “Non-Chinese” Qing and Yuan dynasties. And yes, as the LA Times writer suggests, I believe Chinese nationalism will continue to be a potent force long after the Communist Party is extinguished.

  11. CLC Says:

    “Who can say what opinions would emerge IF the people of China were free to learn and free to talk.”

    I think recently those Chinese in the “free world,” a lot of them from mainland China, have clealy expressed the opinions they have.

  12. snow Says:

    The LA article does appear to give a truncate account of the history of Chinese nationalism—taking the subject out of historical and international context. For people who are not well informed in Chinese history and international affairs it effectively create an impression that nationalism is merely an instrument manipulated by CCP.

    The author also paints the young nationalist in a broad brush, taking the face value of their slogans without asking meaningful questions as why on earth this new generation of youth, growing up in the heydays of China’s westernization, so much better off in education and living standard, well-traveled, idolizing more western stars as and western “values” than any previous generation I have done, would adopt a critical attitude toward the West. Make no mistake that this generation is perhaps the most individualist, brainwash resistant and independent thinking, well equipped to have tough dialogue with the world on equal terms. One of the most formidable “soft powers” that West is yet to reckon with.

  13. Buxi Says:

    snow,

    I think you ask a good question, which the Mutant Palm raised some time ago as well: Chinese have had passionate, young nationalists for almost a century now. When does “nationalism” become irrelevant as a force?

    My personal answer is: when the world is (democratically) balanced. When China receives a fair allocation of the resources, international influence, and political power appropriate for the size of its population.

    We have clearly not reached that point, as recent events would indicate. China unfortunately still has a long way to go.

  14. Bing Ma Yong Says:

    Dan,

    I don’t really understand your comments of “To understand what you are saying, are you trying to tell us that Chinese Nationalism is not new, but existed for ten thousands years”

    Where did you get the 10 thousands of years from? from your history book?

    What is the matter of whether Chinese Nationalism exists for 1000 years or 100 years ? I think Buxi is trying to say is Chinese Nationalism created CCP. Chinese nationalism is high when never China or whole Chinese is under attack.(I am not saying a party under attack)

    I think the Chinese mean of Nationalism more close to the English word of patriotism rather than the English word of nationalism.

    What do you mean “Does that mean Chinese have always acted this way & it’s nothing new?I agree with you and it explains the history of how China treated it’s neighbors and it explains why Chinese reacts toward others who do not approve of their actions. ”

    acted which way? to speak out something different with you? to protest? or do you mean all the 1.3 billion Chinese kicking or yelling to anyone with a different voice ? Where did you get all the counts from?

    what” their actions” means ? CCP’s action? 1.3 billion people’s action? few hot headed Chinese youth action?

    do you want to put the action of killing in IRAQ on everyone includes you?

    I don’t really know what your logic is

  15. citizen Says:

    Buxi

    >As far as your statement that “what opinions would emerge IF the people of China were free to learn and free to talk”, that seems like a rather convenient fig leaf for asserting your opinions over those of us who are free to learn, and trying to talk. It seems dangerously like the argument of those who ignored warning voices and insisted the Iraqis would welcome American liberators with flowers, if only they had the freedom to do so.

    If you were to engage the Chinese (inside and outside of mainland China) in discussions, you would have a very good idea of what public opinion “would look like”. The huge numbers of Chinese overseas who’ve come out world-wide, as well as the huge numbers of posts on overseas Chinese forums should give you some idea of what public opinion “would look like”, if you cared. The overwhelming reaction of those in Hong Kong should give you some idea of what public opinion “would look like”, if you cared.>

    Obviously I care, or I wouldn’t be talking to you. But my point was about the people of China. It is not possible to engage people in Mainland China in open discussion, except on a limited face to face basis. This is simply a fact. Talk to Hu Jia if you doubt it.

    I am not asserting a ‘known’ or ‘knowable’ opinion over the silence of Chinese opinion. I am just pointing out that the CCP will not allow you or me or anyone to know what the population think or want – except where they agree with the Party.

    Back to my main point though, you outline a ‘persistent Western myth’ – and I’ve never heard of it. Rather casts doubt on your motives.

    BTW on Yu Fei – You, buxi didn’t have a patriotic slogan tattooed on you by your mother. So tell me – WHY are you a nationalist?

  16. Buxi Says:

    It is not possible to engage people in Mainland China in open discussion, except on a limited face to face basis. This is simply a fact. Talk to Hu Jia if you doubt it.

    I think this is “a fact” that needs to be revisited and tossed in the garbage bin. If you are a Chinese speaker, you will find numerous opportunities to discuss even “sensitive” topics in mainland China. Political restrictions do exist, but I suspect you have no idea where they are. And I simply do not accept that this is reason to willfully ignore the opinions that are being shared.

    It’s a crime, for example, to display the Nazi symbol (or dispute the holocaust) in France or Germany. Does this imply French and German understanding of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust is fatally flawed, and we should ignore their points of view?

    And even if we cross out the 1.3 billion people in mainland China, what about the millions in Hong Kong and overseas who have regular, personal contact with mainland China? How often have you engaged us? Have you tried to understand our opinions?

    BTW on Yu Fei – You, buxi didn’t have a patriotic slogan tattooed on you by your mother. So tell me – WHY are you a nationalist?

    Shouldn’t you also ask… WHY did his mother tattoo Yue Fei? We don’t need a tattoo on our backs to be patriots. But you do ask a legitimate question that I will try to answer in a future blog post. Remind me if I forget.

  17. snow Says:

    everyone,
    here is an interesting article about the unique interpretation of Chinese nationalism (differing from influential western concept), the issue of Tibet and the nature of multi-ethnic co-existence of Chinese nation.
    http://www.wyzxsx.com/Article/Class17/200804/37585.html

  18. snow Says:

    citizen,

    “It is not possible to engage people in Mainland China in open discussion, except on a limited face to face basis. This is simply a fact. Talk to Hu Jia if you doubt it.”

    I have been visiting China every year since the early 1990s. I have friends from both the liberal left and liberal right. The discussions on politics they openly enjoyed were harshly critical of the current government and none of then have had problems with authority so far.

    Another example would be zhang boshu, whose article was published by CDT today, an audaciously critical account of Tibet issue to the point of eradicating entirely Chinese revolution and all its establishments. he has openly engaged in anti-dictatorship study for decades yet has been well established within the system as some kind of head of a nationally reputable cultural institution, well published, widely read in prints or on internet, and well-connected to the like-minded organizations and group of people inside and outside China.

    As far as I know, open discussion of many taboo topics has long been possible. Restrictions are applied to organized group meeting and activities suspected of foreign involvements.

  19. yo Says:

    Hey,
    In regards to the narrative of “Chinese victimization” in history books, it exists in U.S. high school history books too in my personal experience.

    In regards to the notion that you can’t know what Chinese people think because they are not “Free” to speak, for me, is a cop out answer used to justify an indoctrination that we have learned in school that Democracy is Good and Communism is Evil. People happy in Communist China?, that can’t be right… But then we have cases like Hu Jia, and suddenly the world makes sense again and we can ignore everything else.

  20. Buxi Says:

    But then we have cases like Hu Jia, and suddenly the world makes sense again and we can ignore everything else.

    Well said, yo.

    In the case of Hu Jia, coincidentally, he’s a “hero” paid for out of US taxpayer pockets (see National Endowment for Democracy funding). There are plenty of dissenting opinions being voiced out there in the Chinese world (and we will definitely introduce some of them on this blog)… but Hu Jia has never been a significant or convincing voice.

    Even harsh critics of the Communist Party largely scratched their heads this year when the Western media turned its spotlight on Hu Jia… and asked, who is this guy? The sad truth is for the last few years, although I believe he’s motivated out of a true desire to improve China, he’s been a prop for a specific political agenda.

  21. Buxi Says:

    snow,

    Thanks for the link above, good find. Perhaps we’ll translate that for the blog later. Do you read Chinese?

  22. S.K. Cheung Says:

    test

  23. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    Thanks for pointing me to this blog. I’ve actually learned something from these posts, which is more than I can say of the drivel on the other blog. I also appreciate that bloggers here can disagree without being disagreeable. It seems that this site perhaps attracts more university students, who have the intellectual capacity to tolerate contrarian points of view.
    I can read Chinese, but not the PRC simplified version. I tried to read “Snow”‘s link May 8 1157, but can’t make out enough of the words to comprehend completely. I see that you have translated other segments here. I hope you will have time to translate that article as well…what I could understand sounded intriguing.
    I do have 2 questions. You’ve argued that Chinese nationalism in fact engendered the rise of the CCP. But in the 21st century, is the CCP the best steward of Chinese nationalism moving forward? You’ve acknowledged some of CCP’s faults elsewhere. Is there not an alternate system that would accelerate China’s realization of her potential?
    With regards to Chinese nationalism, I also wonder if there comes a point when you have too much of a good thing. Germany under Hitler and Italy under Mussolini were extremely nationalistic. I am in no way suggesting that CCP remotely resembles those regimes. But I do wonder if there is a threshold beyond which it can become a detriment. I say this because, after perhaps interacting with some of the Chinese Internet Goons to whom you’ve referred, I detect almost a reverse bigotry and intolerance against any voice questioning the CCP and perhaps defending the virtues of western society.

  24. Buxi Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    1) I doubt that the CCP will be the best “steward” for nationalism throughout the 21st century; I will settle for being the best choice available for the next decade, and perhaps two. Even in the year 2008, the CCP has shown questionable judgment on various issues.

    And this goes into the next question.. is there an alternate system that would accelerate the realization of China’s potential? Well, this will be a recurring theme for discussion on this blog, so you’ll have to watch for that. The short answer is: none of the obvious “alternatives” are appealing to me, while I believe the best hope for China on the near term remains reform driven by (and around) the Party.

    2) On the dangers of nationalism… many people inside of China have talked about the cultural revolution as being a dangerous precedent for what we’re seeing today. (Many Western media don’t appear to have made that connection; I think they prefer interpreting the cultural revolution = “Mao’s evil actions” and being done with it.)

    I certainly don’t want to see a return to see a return to the ideology-driven society of the cultural revolution.

    Is Chinese nationalism in real danger of going in that direction? I personally don’t think so. Chinese nationalism will remain a very potent force, but I believe it has become an increasingly mature force.

    If there’s one thing I believe the last two months have proven… the Chinese still love their nation passionately, but we can also love it in a rational way. (And let me also add that the CCP has been “responsible” in its stewardship of nationalism so far. It’s willingness in this environment to hold talks with the Dalai Lama, as well as breaking the ice with Japan, shows the CCP’s own growing maturity.)

  25. Allen Yu Says:

    Want to add my two cents when Buxi (or any others) may preface their views with “most Chinese would agree…” or “most Chinese believes…”

    I think that’s perfectly legit – esp. if he thinks that is true.

    We all understand here that even though we all speak for ourselves only on this blog, there will be many recurrent themes are shared by many Chinese.

    The only time it may be pretentious to use such characterization is if there is a genuine dispute and instead of getting to the dispute, we pepper over the arguments by making conclusory remarks such as “but most Chinese feel…” … and then end of discussion.

    I don’t think that is the case here.

  26. 21688 Says:

    The way I see it, looking at China’s history for the past 200 to 300 years, especially the 19th and early 20th centuries, with regard to “nationalism”, China’s problem has never been too many nationalists, but rather too few.

  27. Buxi Says:

    21688,

    I agree completely. An impoverished, weak country can never suffer from having people care passionately about her interests. We just have to do it rationally and intelligently.

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