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Aug 31, 2021
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China saddled a tiger: the West is losing money

© AFP 2021 / Wang Zhao

Hong Kong SouthChina MorningPost published research report on a very rare topic: that the new generation of Chinese has acquired a different nationalism than the previous one. The current (born after 2000) patriots have grown up confident, active to the point of scandalousness, they create a powerful base of support for the government, but as soon as it shows weakness, this support may be deprived.

This is an absolutely Russian topic for a variety of reasons. Firstly, because we have passed, or, more precisely, we are going through the same stages of national feelings, therefore it is useful and interesting to observe fellow men in reason. Secondly, because Chinese nationalism, as we are constantly frightened by those who want to undermine relations between Moscow and Beijing, may also affect us.

Let’s make a reservation right away: in Russia there is ambiguity about the difference between nationalism and patriotism. The first was almost written down in the category of swearing, almost as a synonym for Nazism, and with the second everything is fine. But in the outside world, everything is not necessarily so – there, for example, nationalism is often called the policy of governments aimed at defending their interests as opposed to “common to all mankind”, that is, Western alliances of different eras with their system of values ​​and so on. This battle over terms is quite interesting, and we’ll come back to it.

So, the publication of a Hong Kong newspaper, which diligently retains its old, colonial “British” face, while remaining completely pro-Chinese, or at least objective. She describes the famous “warriors of the Internet” for whom 250 thousand subscribers are not a sensation. Such people do not go outside the Internet into the real world yet, but there they very competently arrange, say, boycotts of foreign brands if they succumb to their ideologues and refuse cotton from Xinjiang, where the Uighurs are allegedly oppressed. And these people demand from Beijing more aggressiveness in foreign policy, first of all, so that the country is more respected in the world.

The most interesting thing about this publication is the analysis of the difference between generations. The bottom line is that the previous generations grew up in a country that is noticeably poorer and weaker than the West. The current one is already living in another state, and at the same time she travels to this very West (as, incidentally, to the East, South and North) for any reason, even if just to rest. He sees the world and observes: life in China is at least as good as anywhere else.

In 2018 – when Donald Trump was already in the United States and the country was already shaken by internal battles – the sociological service of Purdue University found that 42 percent of Chinese students studying there had a worse opinion of the United States after they lived there and watched what was happening. And 46 percent began to think better about their country after living in America.

The history of Chinese nationalism is long and instructive. Nationalism of various kinds usually emerges when the public discovers that other countries exist, but for China it was a reaction to a national catastrophe that arose back in the late 19th century colonialism. It was painful, oppressed, vicious, funny nationalism – but it grew up among the educated class of an ancient civilization, which really excelled many others in terms of printing, personal hygiene, the justice system, and so on and so forth. Not to mention gunpowder or tea. And so generations of intellectuals, as well as completely illiterate people, have found out why other and obviously barbaric countries are tearing China apart, invading, humiliating, despising.

In fact, the hysterics of the hungweipings in the 60s at the Russian embassy in Beijing (and, by the way, they once had their Sabbath on Red Square in Moscow) were also the last echoes of that very original and oppressed nationalism.

Further, one might think that if a nation gets richer, especially as China reaches the level of a world power, then it becomes well-fed and complacent, like a boa constrictor.

But world history shows nothing of the kind to us. The Romans, who ruled a huge empire, tended not to notice that the peoples they conquered sometimes turned out to be somewhat more civilized than themselves. What can we say about America. Since the beginning of the last century, this nation has entered the stage of self-intoxication, from which it is emerging just now, before our very eyes. These peaceful tourists could sneer at anyone – Europeans, Asians and others, but politicians and military strategists in all seriousness thought that they exist in order to make everyone Americans, and sometimes by force.

That world, we repeat, is crumbling, a completely different world comes – with its own nationalisms and patriotisms. And what can we expect next from a self-confident China? From India next? From the Arab world?

Everyone has their own historical account of grudges towards the outside world. By the way, Russia too. And this account is at least partially based, it is not necessarily fictional.

Globalism was the answer to this problem, but, apparently, the rejection of nations, their special cultures, their patriotisms was not a very clever answer. Not to mention that it was simply about the fact that one civilization had to swallow all the others. Did not work. What’s next?

In China (we return to the publication of a Hong Kong newspaper) the situation is as follows: the authorities have saddled a tiger. So far, there are no fatal differences between Beijing’s policies and the sentiments of the younger generation. Still, it is a tiger, and it is not entirely safe to drive it. At the same time, there was and will be a dispute in the political elite between the “pandas” (who believe that the image of the country abroad should be peaceful, herbivorous, voiceless and smiling) and “wolves” who know well what it means to live with wolves.

But the fact is that the situation looks the same within any political class of any other country. And one of the challenges of the coming new era is not to repeat the mistakes of the previous eras, when the wolves had something like a monopoly on the development of correct forms of nationalism.

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