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China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

The Danger of Nationalism and False Identity

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There was a well-written IHT.com article posted yesterday on the issue that I think reiterates some of the points I made in my last post. Here are some highlights:

“Analysts have long debated how often the Communist Party steers and inflames nationalism versus how often nationalist public attitudes are beyond the party’s control. In the run-up to the Summer Games, the steady attacks against China on issues like Darfur, global warming, air pollution and human rights abuses have increasingly been interpreted by many Chinese, including those overseas, as an unfair attempt to undermine China’s Olympic moment.

But the Tibet crisis has touched directly on the raw nerve of separatism at the core of Chinese nationalism. Tibet is usually a low-profile issue within China, especially compared with Taiwan. But most Chinese, influenced by the government, are interpreting the Tibetan crisis as an attempt to split China.”

“Influenced by the government” is an understatement. The press has been bashing the Dalai Lama like he is Osama bin Laden, another man intent on destroying the world to promote his own agenda. Instead of engaging underlying Tibetan grievances, the CCP has aggravated ethnic tensions with one-sided reports on damages and the pain of Han Chinese. This goes against the image jogging its way around the world with Olympic torch in hand.

“Communist Party leaders have hoped the Olympics would showcase China as a modern, confident and nonthreatening emerging world power, while also validating the party’s hold on power. President Hu Jintao has advocated a “harmonious society” to signal a new government effort at addressing inequality in society. At the same time, China’s soft power abroad is rising with its bulging foreign-exchange reserves and its increasingly active diplomatic role on issues like the North Korea nuclear problem.”

But China’s geopolitical emergence hinges on support at home. As grand projects pave the way for a developed nation, the toll on society has been steep and often ignored. It is essential that the CCP maintain a positive image, providing its mandate for change.

“Scholars often describe nationalism as China’s state religion now that the Communist Party has shrugged off socialist ideology and made economic development the country’s priority. Dibyesh Anand, a Tibet specialist, said modern Chinese nationalism could be traced to Sun Yat-sen, the Chinese revolutionary who described the country’s main ethnic groups – the Han, Manchu, Hui, Mongolian and Tibetan peoples – as the “five fingers” of China… Today, Han Chinese constitute more than 92 percent of the population, but without one of those five fingers, China’s leaders do not consider the country whole.”

So, it is with the intention of preserving the mechanics of change that the CCP reacts reflexively with excessive strength and secrecy. It maintains order and promotes a mythically unrelenting reach of power. It reminds citizens that their government is capable of anything—developing China at a rate never seen on this planet and willing to conquer any obstacles in its way.

Does this ring any bells with government information campaign and agenda-setting in the US as it seeks to maintain its own mandate for waging an unpopular, inhumane war in Mesopotamia?

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Written by Miles

March 31, 2008 at 4:01 pm

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