[This piece is a translation of a post on Li Yinhe’s blog. Li Yinhe is a sociologist, sexologist, and is the widow of the famous writer Wang Xiaobo. The original post is called “My Two Comments on Unhappy China“. Links inserted by ChinaGeeks for historical context.]
I saw a report online about Unhappy China. I still haven’t seen the book, nor do I want to read it, I’ll just sweep an eye over it and comment; I’ve heard that inside it attacks liberal intellectuals, including Wang Xiaobo and me.
I only have two comments on the kind of books that stir up nationalism like this:
First, In 1840 China was being taken advantage of by foreigners, nationalism was necessary. We could not become a defeated people, China is our homeland and no one can come and take advantage of us. Our fathers’ generation were all solemn and ardent youths in the opposing the Japanese Invasion in WWII, what they did was not nearly so boring, absurd, and argumentative as attacking Lust, Caution as treasonous. They were fighting with their bodies, losing their heads and sprinkling [the ground] with their warm blood. If today foreign powers invade, we mist all follow the banner of nationalism and forcefully resist. But there is a limit to nationalism, and if one crosses this limit and wants to go taking advantage of other countries, that is wrong. I’ve heard that in the book it says since China is now powerful we should take more natural resources and move to lead the world. If this “take more natural resources” is indicating [we should] invade other countries, then the line has been crossed.
Second, nationalism is a banner and democracy is another banner, we should raise both of them high . If we raise only the banner of nationalism and don’t raise the banner of democracy, then we can only reach the level of the Boxer Rebellion. The relationship between such advocates and power can only be like the relationship between the Boxers and the Express Dowager Cixi [i.e., all the control still rests in the hands of others and not the people]. Especially in times when there is clearly no enemy invading, there is [the phenomenon of] ignoring major issues to deal with the trivial and even ingratiating ourselves with power. Nationalism is the value of an ethnic group, democracy is a universally suitable value. Especially in a country that lacks the democratic tradition such as this one, at present the duty of intellectuals and patriots is to push forward the progress of democratization, and not to incite nationalist feelings.
Recently, I’ve often heard people say “soft power”, I don’t know specifically what they’re referring to. Probably it’s that since China’s economy has come up, they want to show the world the idea [behind] our superstructure. I hold that the only “soft power” China should show the world is the degree of advancement of our democracy. Perhaps it has Chinese characteristics: they call it “parliament”, we call it “People’s Congress”, but these “special characteristics” should not make [our democracy] worse than other nations’ democracy; they should make it even more democratic [than the democracy of others]. On freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, etc., we should do better than others, on human rights we should do better than others. That should be the kind of “soft power” we show the world, not this Boxer-like culture of nationalism and even more not the culture of Empress Dowager Cixi.
Also of Interest:
-A Tokyo court rejects a lawsuit filed by Chinese women who were forced into sexual slavery by Japan’s system of “comfort women” during WWII. (Xinhua)
-Everyone in China is building subways, but is anyone going to want to ride them? (NY Times)