Tag Archives: Nationalism

The Recklessness of Nationalist Brinksmanship

So after a wave of rather violent anti-Japan protests I argued were state-supported, the madness has wound down — or rather, been wound down — by the same folks who drummed it up: the government. This is not an uncommon tactic at all, but it is an exceedingly dangerous one.

Let us take, for example, the attack on US Ambassador Gary Locke’s car that occurred near the end of this wave of protests. Chinese security stepped in fairly quickly and there was little damage to the car and no injuries to anyone involved. That’s fortunate, but just consider the ramifications if something had gone differently.

Say Chinese security reacted too slowly, being unprepared for a threat to the US Ambassador’s life at a time when everyone was busy destroying Japanese things. Say some overzealous protester in the crowd brought a molotov cocktail, or that Locke had been dragged out of the car and beaten or killed. It is certainly possible; while the vast majority of protesters would certainly never go this far, there were reported beatings in several areas during the protests and the ethnically Chinese US Ambassador could feasibly become a target of some rage if the US is perceived as opposing China’s claim to the islands. Anyway, let’s say things go badly and Locke is dragged out of the car and beaten, perhaps killed.

The damage to China’s international reputation would be immediate and severe. China’s government will claim that the protests were not government-supported and point out that Chinese security forces were attempting to protect and rescue the Ambassador, but these claims will be downed out as the international media reports on the many inflammatory articles and reports that appeared in state-owned media prior to the protests, and compares China’s approach to controlling anti-Japan protests to its approach to controlling pro-democracy ones ((I don’t have room to go into this here, but if you haven’t been following it, this is one of the interesting sub-stories from this round of anti-Japan protests. Many of the protesters who were arrested by security forces were people who were chanting slogans opposing corruption or advocating political reform, not people who were violently vandalizing Chinese-owned, vaguely “Japanese” businesses.)). It will point out articles like this one by Evan Osnos of the New Yorker, which says that police loudspeakers were blaring messages of sympathy and support even as they urged rationality and calm. The foreign media will come to the basically same conclusion I did: at best, China’s government could have done far more to control these protests; at worst, China’s government was actively encouraging them and supporting them until they got out of hand. Opinions of China will plummet internationally, and the incident will reinforce the stereotype that Chinese people are brainless nationalist drones. (To a certain extent, this has happened anyway).

China will condemn the attack, and find and punish the rioters responsible, but this will not sake the anger of the United States Congress, which will (because it is mostly full of idiots) be screaming for blood. Some will consider it an act of war. Chinese flags will be burned in the streets, and Chinese-Americans will start saying their parents are Taiwanese, at least for a little while. It will get ugly, and even imagining the best case scenario, it will impede any kind of development in the Sino-US relationship for years to come. Meanwhile, Chinese nationalists will be protesting the backlash, creating an echo-chamber of nationalist yelling and mutual flag-burning.

Of course, it’s possible that this will never happen. I’m not sure what the chances are. But the government is rolling the dice every time it encourages outpourings of nationalism like this with a media frenzy like the one we saw leading up to these protests. The media should be free to report whatever it deems newsworthy, and protesters should be free to protest whatever they want. But in China, where neither of those things are the case, the government must understand that it is going to be seen as ultimately responsible for what the press says and what protesters do. If it keeps allowing things to reach the brink of boiling point before pulling back, one of these times, it is going to be too late, and even though it wasn’t the government committing the crimes, the government will ultimately be left holding the ball.

Yang Rui, etc.

For any foreigners currently living under a rock ((by which I mean not on Twitter)), I suppose I have to start by showing you this rant, posted by CCTV Dialogue host on Sina Weibo:

The Public Security Bureau wants to clean out the foreign trash: To arrest foreign thugs and protect innocent girls, they need to concentrate on the disaster zones in [student district] Wudaokou and [drinking district] Sanlitun. Cut off the foreign snake heads. People who can’t find jobs in the U.S. and Europe come to China to grab our money, engage in human trafficking and spread deceitful lies to encourage emigration. Foreign spies seek out Chinese girls to mask their espionage and pretend to be tourists while compiling maps and GPS data for Japan, Korea and the West. We kicked out that foreign bitch and closed Al-Jazeera’s Beijing bureau. We should shut up those who demonize China and send them packing.*

There are a lot of things I want to say about this, and most of them are swear words ((I seriously considered titling this post ‘Yang Rui Can Go Fuck Himself’)). However, you’ve probably got some creative epithets of your own swirling in your mind at this point, so let’s move on to some slightly more constructive avenues of discussion.

On Integrity

On reading this post, the first emotion that struck me — after anger, that is — was extreme regret. I have taped two episodes of CCTV Dialogue with Yang Rui, although the first one was never aired ((I never heard why, but I was speaking pretty candidly about the Wenzhou crash and I suspect that may have had something to do with it)), and now I really wish that I hadn’t. Of course, I had no way of knowing that nearly a year later, he’d be spewing such hateful nonsense, but I wish there was a way to delete myself from the program retroactively.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Yang was quite rude to me when the cameras were off before and after my appearances on Dialogue. At the time, I chocked it up to the ego that comes with being a professional television anchor ((albeit on a show that I don’t think anyone has ever watched a full episode of)). In retrospect I wonder if perhaps there was something more going on.

Either way though, I want to make it clear that what I regret is the association with him, not my appearance on CCTV in general. In the past, certain people have suggested foreigners who appear in or work for state media — myself included — lack integrity. I think that is nonsense. Although I long ago stopped writing occasional op-ed pieces for the Global Times and I have no intention of ever appearing on CCTV again, I don’t think having done either of those things has damaged my integrity. In both instances, I spoke honestly and directly in defense of my own viewpoints, and eschewed self-censorship ((which is why much of my work fell afoul of ACTUAL censorship)). I don’t regret anything I wrote or said ((At least not for political reasons. I regret a few of my Global Times columns just because they were bad writing, but that’s a separate issue.)), and I don’t think appearing in State media is tacit support of the Party or the Party line if what you’re saying is just as critical as what you’d say to any Western media outlet. Nor do I think taking their money to write content that discredits their editorials and their bosses is doing them any financial favors.

Some may disagree with me on this, and I do understand that point of view. But if I have a chance to go on State media and criticize the response to the Wenzhou train crash, I think that’s just as valuable, perhaps more valuable, than only sharing my criticism here. ((That said, as previously stated, I’m done with Dialogue and probably CCTV as a whole.))

On Soft Power

It’s interesting that this outburst came from Yang Rui, who is in some ways one of the faces of China’s soft power push. Dialogue is an English-language program, which means it is targeted at foreigners in China and abroad by default. The fact that its host (one of them, anyway) is apparently a racist xenophobe is probably indicative of how successful China’s soft power push is likely to be.

But beyond that, it is rather incredible that someone who has been talking to foreigners for years — indeed, someone who is supposed to be one of China’s representatives to foreigners — apparently knows so little about us that he actually believes crazy shit like this:

Foreigners who can’t find a job in their home country come to China and get involved in illegal business activities such as human trafficking and espionage; they also like to distribute lies which discredit China to persuade locals to move abroad. A lot of them look for Chinese women to live with as a disguise to further their espionage efforts. They pretend to be tourists traveling around the country while actually helping Japan and Korea make maps and collect GPS data for military purposes.

It’s so shocking, in fact, that some have wondered if this isn’t satire. I suppose it could be, but if so, Yang seems content to let people continue to think he was being serious; he has updated his Weibo numerous times since that post but none of the updates suggest he was kidding, and some of them suggest he definitely wasn’t. Plus, he doesn’t really seem like the sort for that kind of sarcasm.

If this were any other country, there would be rampant speculation that Yang Rui was about to lose his job. But this is China, and I think we all know that he won’t. That being a rabidly xenophobic (and apparently extremely stupid) person doesn’t disqualify you from holding a post that is dedicated entirely to dealing with foreigners is as strong a sign as any that China has no real interest in soft power. Or perhaps is just utterly incapable of implementing it.

Xenophobia and Weibo Responses

Yang’s comments come at a particularly sensitive time for foreigners, many of whom are concerned about their safety after a British scumbag and a Russian idiot have stirred up a lot of nationalist, anti-foreign sentiment online (all foreigners are the same, so we’re all guilty by association). Probably related is the crackdown on illegal foreigners in Beijing that Yang was commenting on. This crackdown is perfectly fair in theory — every country has immigration laws and the right to enforce them — but the language and imagery that’s being used to promote it is sort of concerning, as is the idea that foreigners will now be required to carry their papers at all times ((technically this has been legally true for a long time, but I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of it being enforced, and there’s no reason to enforce it because it’s pretty ridiculous)) and submit to random checks. Suddenly, Beijing is feeling a bit like Arizona (that’s not a good thing).

Anyway, the response to Yang Rui’s rant is comparatively heartening. Although there are some commenters who agree with him, there are many who don’t, and as usual, their sarcastic condemnations of his idiocy bring warmth to my twisted foreign heart. Some examples:

Host Yang, you haven’t gone far enough! We should bring back all the officials’ wives and children from overseas to help build the motherland, we must not allow them to be polluted by foreign trash, yes, and also we should close the borders/forbid international travel, so that there is no contact with overseas forces.

There is a reason fewer and fewer people are watching TV…

Yes, and we should close down all the TV channels that speak foreign languages! [Yang works for CCTV English]

At first I thought that it was just Mr. Yang’s English [abilities] that were disappointing, but now I see there are many disappointing things about him.

The fact that this CCTV host isn’t writing editorials for the Beijing Daily is truly a waste of talent.

Isn’t your daughter studying in the US?

Haha, so Yang Rui is really this big a dumbass. A dumbass pretending to be cool but actually a Boxer.

So this is the quality of CCTV? Anyway, where did you study your English? Do the people there think about you this way?

I want to ask, can you speak Chinese? How can someone so incoherent become a TV host…

This is exactly how the Boxer Rebellion started…

Of course, there are also comments in there that are serious and seriously disturbing. But it’s heartening to see that the sane people still seem to outnumber the racist xenophobes.

Stay safe, everyone.

ADDENDUM: This is probably obvious from the post itself, but I would strongly suggest that foreigners boycott CCTV Dialogue and decline any future invitations to appear on the program. There are numerous other ways to interact with the Chinese media; there is no need to support the efforts of a man who so clearly has nothing but hatred for foreigners.

*Note: I have switched out the Global Times translation for the better translation offered by the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time blog. (Click that link for their full post on Yang).

Thoughts on Patriotism, Old and New

The other day, my fiancee asked me — rather out of the blue — if I was proud to be an American. The question caught me off guard. Pressed for an answer, I suggested that I was sometimes proud to be American, and by way of example noted the recent “terror mosque” controversy that’s happening in the US right now as something I am not proud of ((because the people opposed to this “terror mosque”, which is actually a muslim community center, should be an embarrassment to any American who has read (or even just glanced at) the Constitution.)). (As a side note, Jon Stewart and the folks at the Daily Show have, as ever, been doing an amazing job skewering the idiots opposed to the community center and I highly recommend watching their coverage if you aren’t already).

In any event, such questions always make me think about patriotism, and in this case caused me to search for a famous essay of Chen Duxiu’s I read and translated back when I was working on my undergraduate thesis. Unfortunately, I didnt end up using the translation in the thesis, and have since lost it. It has been translated many times before, but a quick Google search didn’t immediately turn up a translation, and I discovered the Chinese original text isn’t that easy to find either (though I did find it). So, though it’s been done earlier and better elsewhere, here’s a quick translation of Chen Duxiu’s famous “Should be be patriotic?” essay. If you’re looking for a copy of the original text in simplified characters, mouseover my translation for that (or use this cool mirror site).

Chen Duxiu: “Should we be patriotic?”

“Be patriotic! Be patriotic! These days, this call permeates even the furthest reaches of our society. It is on the lips of corrupt officials and barbaric soldiers; even the traitorous don’t dare say unpatriotic things in public. Since the Shandong incident [in which parts of Shandong province were ceded to Germany in 1897], the patriotic clamor has risen to a roar. It is as if the word patriotism [爱国] itself has been ordained by heaven, no discussion is permitted.

Emotions and reason are two important parts of the human spirit, but there are times when the two conflict. Patriotism is mostly emotion, and reason plays a relatively minor role. At times, reason plays no role whatsoever (German and Japanese soldiers are like this). Human behavior is the natural result of impulsiveness. I think if reason could be used as the foundation of this ‘impulsiveness’, only then could emotions be solid and unchangeable. In society, when emotions are running high, people think that their rashness is righteous, and blindly forgetting about reason, they do evil things their rational selves never would (the murder of civilians in England and France during the first World War is an example of this). This is because in large groups, people cannot use reason as the foundation of their emotions, so a mass of people is blind. Sometimes, they do good, other times, they do evil. Because of this, I’d like to raise a rational discussion from the word that everyone so blindly follows, “patriotism”, and ask everyone: should we be patriotic?

If we don’t found our discussion in reason, then patriotism won’t be able to be any kind of lasting motivating force for our behavior, whether the impetus for it is that the masses are blindly following the call for “patriotism”, the officials are ordering us not to be patriotic, or the government is telling us to be patriotic.

If you’re going to ask whether or not we should love our country, you must first ask what our country is. Originally, countries were just groups of people who banded together to resist oppressive forces from outsiders, and a way of managing travel and interpersonal disputes. The good could use the idea of “country” to repel outside forces and pacify internal disputes. The evil could use it to repress outside forces and oppress their own people.

We Chinese were closed off from the world, and before the domination of Japan and the commencement of trade relations with the West, we had only the concept of Tianxia [天下, literally “all under heaven”], there was no concept of a nation-state [国家]. So among the common people, the idea of “patriotic thought” hasn’t penetrated very deeply. If you want to make it long-lasting like it is among the peoples of Europe where multiple nations have coexisted since ancient times, rather than just temporary, I fear that will not be easy.

In Europe, multiple countries have coexisted since time immemorial, so patriotic thought has become a deeply-rooted part of their natural characters. Recently [in China], some lofty thinkers, individualists, and cosmopolitanists have not only suggested that the idea of a nation is artificial rather than natural; moreover they’ve seen and heard about dark and evil things done at home and abroad, all in the name of the nation. Since they oppose the nation, it’s natural they aren’t advocates of patriotism. In their minds, patriotism is another name for something that hurts people. They view patriotic martyrs as confused lunatics.

We are uneducated, unknowledgeable, disunited Chinese, our lack of patriotism is not the same as the lack of patriotism practiced by that group of lofty idealists. And officials preventing the people from engaging in patriotic activities is also, needless to say, very different from what those people are saying. Although at present I cannot dare to hope that we uneducated, unknowledgeable, and disunited Chinese could have lofty ideals, I don’t want Chinese to be uneducated, unknowledgeable, and disunited for long. Even if our countrymen were to suddenly be educated, knowledgeable, and united, only later could they be qualified to unite with lofty idealists the world over and unify the world.

Our China is weak and oppressed, and there are of course also still many internal evils being committed. Patriotism can be used as a tool to extort the people and repress individuality, but China does not at the moment have the ability to use it to oppress outsiders. To even suggest that China could use nationalism and the people’s patriotic spirit to oppress someone else [at the present time] is preposterous.

Lofty thinkers oppose patriotism, hateful opportunists use it to repress others. Although China can’t use patriotism to repress anyone else, we’ve already been oppressed by others nearly to our breaking point. Unlike oppressing others, being patriotic for the sake of resisting oppression and surviving is not something that should be opposed, no matter how lofty a thinker you are. A person’s self-respect, regardless of how it develops, is not a bad thing so long as it does not have a negative effect on others.

So, in accordance with the discussion above, if someone asks whether or not we should be patriotic, we should shout: What we love is the nation of people using patriotism to resist oppressors, not the government using patriotism to oppress other countries! What we love is the country that exists for the happiness of its people, not the country that people must sacrifice themselves for! ((In my translation here I referred several times to one I found rendered in Striving Toward a Lovable Nation: Nationalism and Individual Agency in the Writings of Chen Duxiu, an undergraduate thesis by Wesleyan 2010 graduate (one hopes) Antoine Cadot-Wood. I came across it only by chance, but its focus is quite similar to that of my own undergraduate thesis, which is interesting.))

Just a few months ago, Southern Metropolis Daily published a modern take on Chen Duxiu’s classic essay by historian Hong Zhenkuai, which was translated in full by the wonderful but distressingly inactive CHINAYOUREN blog. We suggest you click through for the full piece, but here is a relevant excerpt [I have made some minor changes for grammar]:

The functions of a State should be performed by the government. If the government can do these functions, then the State is “seeking happiness for the people”; if not, then it becomes “the State for which the people sacrifice”. In human history the most common in practice is that the government cannot fulfill the State’s functions, or else it does them poorly. In this case it can appear that government equals no government. Or that government is even worse than no government.

[…]

In any society there are some large tasks that involve many people, and there is no way any organization can do them other than the government. If the government cannot perform its responsibilities, the society becomes unruly, and public interests suffer. For example, food safety, public health, protection of the environment; these kind of affairs need to be taken charge of by the government.

In the development of human societies, this problem has been encountered for a long time: the people need the government but the government cannot live up to their expectations, protect them against outside menaces or provide internal services. In many cases it even evolves into an organization that infringes on the people’s rights.

To make the government do its task diligently, the people need to have the right to supervise the government, and the most effective way is to elect the government by voting. The people need to understand what is common sense – that is, as Liang Qichao said, that the State is not the dynasty (government). The dynasty can be changed for the survival of the State. What the people should love is their country, and not the dynasty.

As Chen Duxiu points out, however, this modern conception of patriotism is not something that’s existed in Chinese culture for long. In my own research for my undergraduate thesis, which involved May Fourth-era patriotism among other things, I found that overwhelmingly, “patriots” from traditional times were people who sacrificed themselves for the government, often in cases when it was painfully clear that the government was in the wrong (see, for example, Qu Yuan, Yue Fei, etc.). And, of course, the whole question is also mucked up by the fact that it’s difficult to trace terms like “patriot” across linguistic and cultural barriers and through history without sacrificing some accuracy. Thus, I wrote,

It is difficult to trace exactly when the term aiguo first came into use and when it was applied to figures like Qu Yuan. It seems likely that in traditional China, there was no differentiation between patriotism and political loyalty, and appeals to any kind of patriotic or loyalist sentiment based on China as a cultural entity came only in times of external threat. Still, Giles’s A Chinese Biographical Dictionary (published in 1898) specifically mentions that figures like Wen Tianxiang were patriotic. This indicates that, at the very least, these figures were understood widely as patriots at least two decades before the May Fourth movement began. Those who would argue that patriotism is an entirely modern concept that did not exist in traditional China must at least admit that the actions and writings of Qu Yuan, Yue Fei, and Wen Tianxiang were considered patriotic in pre-May Fourth China. Whether one understands them as loyalists who were later redefined as patriots when the term was introduced or not, the effect is the same. They indicate what was considered love of one’s country in traditional China and how that love was primarily expressed: through loyalty to one’s superiors.

The idea of patriotism meaning loyalty to the dynasty, it seems, has fairly deep roots. This is not, of course, altogether untrue outside of China’s borders. Certainly in the US, morons on both sides of the party lines routinely accuse their critics of being unpatriotic because they oppose something an incumbent official has done.

In any event, rereading Chen Duxiu’s essay in 2010 is interesting because China’s situation has changed radically. It is now very much in a position to use patriotism as a force to oppress others, should it wish to. In fact, China’s more technically apt netizens fire off a volley or two of just that sort of nationalism from time to time. Oscar Wilde called patriotism “the virtue of the vicious.” Was he wrong?

What should the role of patriotism be in modern China? Or to put it in Chen Duxiu’s words, should we be patriotic?

“On Driving Out Villains and Protecting the People”

[This is an original translation of this post by Li Yinhe. Previously, we translated Li’s critique of the nationalist book Unhappy China; in this post she addresses a larger issue inspired by the book’s front page.]

I went to visit Xiaobo’s grave [i.e., Wang Xiaobo, her husband]. A wind sprung up suddenly, and light pink flower petals — I don’t know if they were cherry or peach blossoms — floated down one after another. I thought of Xiaobo’s life, just like this flower: after blooming magnificently, it floats softly down. My heart filled with an endless sigh, my tears clogged up in the pit of my stomach.

That day, Hong Huang (of Frank Remarks) and the authors of Unhappy China had a chat I was connected to via phone line, I talked a bit about my opinion on “driving out villains and protecting the people”:

On the title page of the book [Unhappy China] it says we must “drive out villains and protect the people”. This desire is good, but there are two problems with it; one abstract and one concrete. Or, to put it another way, one is an ideological problem, the other is a problem of interest.

First the ideological problem: we want to “drive out villains and protect the people”, but who is the “villain” and who is the “people” is not black-and-white; in other words, there’s no standard that everyone can accept to know for sure who is a “villain” and who is a “person”.

For example, America attacking Iraq could be subjectively called “driving out villains and protecting the people”, as Sadaam’s government was corrupt, but there are also those who say America was only waging the war to get at oil. According to the standards of “driving out villains and protecting the people” of the people who wrote this book, should we help America attack Iraq or help Iraq attack America? Another example, supposing North and South Korea started to fight each other, according to “driving out villains and protecting the people”, should we help North Korea or South Korea? In a word, I mean that it is abstract, who is good and who is bad is not easy to clearly separate.

Then there’s the concrete problem: Thinking from the perspective of national interests, if we go to attack another country it’s for the interests of our own country. That is certainly unjust, it’s invading someone else, and we cannot do that.

If we’re not [doing things] purely for national interests, and instead only work to safeguard justice, then our efforts definitely won’t be rewarded in the same way. “Driving out villains and protecting the people” costs money, can a poor country like this one afford it? Although on the large scale our economy is already the third largest in the world, on a personal scale China is still a poor country. Rather than spending money trying to right the injustices of the world, it’s better to give that money to the rural population that struggles below the poverty line.

Of course, there’s one kind of exception, if a new Hitler were to arise, then we should give money no matter how poor we are and not hesitate to make great sacrifices, “driving out the villain and protecting the people”. Looking at it carefully, I believe that there is no “new Hitler” currently in the world, so talking about “driving out villains and protecting the people” isn’t really applicable.

Our Comments

Li Yinhe is undoubtedly right in saying that “driving out villains and protecting the people” (which is our translation of the chengyu 除暴安良) is easier said in the abstract than enacted in reality. She mentions there’s no international standard for good and bad, but even within China, what’s good or bad. Even what’s in the nation’s best interest is hotly disputed. Given that, how can China “drive out villains”? The answer may be that, practically speaking, it cannot. No matter who is defining the terms, there will always be villains, whether those villains be corrupt officials, Tibetan “splittists”, foreigners dating Chinese girls, etc. A more productive question than “how can we drive off villains to protect the people” might be “how can we live in harmony with villains to protect the people”, or more simply, “how can we turn ‘villains’ into ‘people'”.

What do you think? Is “driving out villains and protecting the people” just nationalist dogma or is there something to it that Li Yinhe missed?

Li Yinhe and The Limits of Nationalism

[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)