29 April 2008

China and (inter)nationalism

More protests and scuffling as the Olympic torch is run in Seoul. Yet another issue is brought to the fore. China's view of the international order is out of date. Full essay.


Charles said...

I have to disagree with Yawning Bread on two issues:

China interferes with the internal politics of other countries. It is one of the major arms exporters to the Sudan and Burmese government. These governments are in turn, responsible for human rights violations against innocent civilians.

Yawning Bread also suggested that the Chinese should raise an outcry (rather than the South Africans) on the arms shipment to Zimbawe. However, that is a flawed logic. For if the South African workers have NOT done so, these weapons are very likely to have arrived at Zimbawe and end up being used against civilians.

As for the pro-Chinese demonstrations along the torch relay countries, they were, I believe, reacting to a knee jerk defensive mechanism, assuming that the Tibetian protests are against the ethnic Chinese identity (which is not).

The protestors were protesting against Chinese government heavy-handed repression against the Tibetians. Unfortunately, the protestors were unable to distinguish the differences.

yuen said...

I have no doubt you mean well, but what is in it for China to adopt your advice? How should it have handled the anti-torch protestors, instead of rounding up supporters to overwhelm them?

BTW, the Singapore government appears to fully endorse what China did on this issue; it too has a reputation for being prickly in the face of criticism

Anonymous said...

I disagree on Yawning Bread's point that China strives not to interfere. China supported the Khmer Rouge. China invaded Vietnam in the 3rd Indochina War in 1979, and continues to occupy Tibet, which it invaded. Hardly non-interfering. It also interferes in the domestic politics of Taiwan through incessant threats to lob missiles at the democratic people there. Taiwan is not a part of China in any meaningful way other than their embassies around the world being called "cultural centres" to avoid pissing off these always-ready-to-be-insulted communist leaders in Beijing. They are worse bullies than the Americans by far. Americans in Singapore seem, well, very good-natured even when I complain to them about Bush. Mention even a single word, though, against any policy of Mother China and prepare to be told how everyone around the world is trying to "keep China down."

AsIseeIt said...

The ancient Chinese warrior Sun Tzu taught his men to "know your enemy" before going into battle. For if "you know your enemy and know yourself," he wrote, "you need not fear the result of a hundred battles." But he warned, "If you know the enemy but not yourself, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat."

If an effectively bilingual person of Chinese descent is familiar with Westen history, literature, society, philosophies, etc instead of a just a few common phrases such as "Oh my God!", he will be able to look at the world, both East and West, in a more balanced perspective. He will longer view the West with awe and admiration. He will not regard everything that originated from the West as the best or the final truth. He will be able to differentiate between right and wrong without prejudice.

He will be able to dig out all the "historical and political dirt" that had been swept under its own carpet by the West, e.g. the genocide of America's natives, particularly those in North America, since the day Columbus first set foot in the New World. By conservative estimates, the population of the Native Americans prior to European contact was greater than 12 million. Four centuries later, the count was reduced by 95% to 237 thousand.

Like many of his Western counterparts who engage with global issues by openly meddle in China's Tibetan affair, don't you think the Chinese should also focus on global issues such as the plight of Iraq's war victims and the fate of Native Americans who may perish from the Earth like the mammoths within the next two centuries?

With this regard, I agree with you that China's citizens "need to become citizens of the world, open to and engaged with its (global) issues". In my opinion, it is the Chinese government, not the millions of Chinese, who is out of step with the rest of the world" because many of them have come into contact with the outside world when they stay or study in the West or other countries.

bOb™ said...

Your article itself treats China as a single entity; ideologically, despite past recriminations, chinese nationals invariably support their government in international affairs. A question of ideology perhaps? The media tells us that social injustice may exist in China on a slightly larger scale, but dissidents aside, Chinese are very much persuaded of their patriotism.

The rest of the world usually take the media and ideology with a pinch of salt.

Anonymous said...

According to YB:

"I have an unshakeable belief that the Chinese people are more than capable of being socially engaged and internationalist. You look at the way countless Chinese agitate over farmers rights, treatment of migrant workers, environmental degradation and civic freedoms, with a passion and organisational skill that put many Singaporeans to shame, you cannot but conclude that they as a people are capable of caring and of being involved. And of being idealistic."

Whilst I would not disagree that there are indeed Chinese people with idealism and caring but it is worth noting that culturally the notion of being engaged in the affairs of the wider world is not innate.

Chinese people, even overseas one, are by and large a parochial lot and burden by a large dose of victim-hood.

As a Singaporean in London, you can see the dynamics of such microcosm operating. Here you see sometime third (3G), if not later, generations of British Born Chinese (BBC) only mix and associates with other BBCs. They get their news from Chinese channels. They spend their time in China Towns. Very rarely do you see them engaging in the affairs of their adopted country. Their sense of victim-hood can at time seemed more fervour than people from their "motherland".

For instance, in the recent Olympic touch relay, I have noted that several 3G BBCs were in the forefront of condemning the "western media" and some even confronted the Tibetans for being a traitor to their own country -- i.e. China.

Recently, there also appears to be a marked shift in attitude from sympathy for Taiwan to mainland China. For instance, one of my BBC friend's mother have suddenly develop such a love for China that any mentioned of Taiwan independence would agitate her. Despite her being expelled by the Communist. She even beamed when the UK -- her adopted country where she holds her a passport -- handed back Hong Kong to China. She has also, based on her understanding of Taiwan politics, have come to the conclusion that democracy is a bad thing. Isolated view of the world?

Maybe my friend's mom's may be quite extreme, but I think they are not unrepresentative of how many Chinese people think. I suspect a culture of centring on not loosing face, it was going to be inevitable that when criticism is thrown at China, and here I mean the Chinese government, somehow it trigger a sense of ethnic victim-hood.

All-in-all the problem of China, by that I assume YB mean the communist government, may not be just confined to the Communist leadership in China but an innate ethnic culture of victim-hood and face-saving. From the Chinese Communist leadership, this may not be a bad thing because it could be used as a weapon against criticism!

BK said...

I find that many people from the West, including people over here who understand Western culture and history a lot more than China, don't appreciate why the Chinese are so prone to 'victim-hood' mentality.

Actually we all know the reasons. We know that in the last one, two hundred years, miserable is an understatement to describe what they had been through. From losing several wars with Western countries and Japan, resulted in losing Taiwan, HongKong, Macau and a large part of Mongol; even more people suffered and died in famine, natural disasters, government mis-managed (early communist stage) campaigns; and the Japanese invasion (yet again) for a total of 13 years including WWII, and finally internal conflict between communist and KMT. They all attribute these long list of failures to a weak, poor and technology inferior nation.

It is understandable that this long period of time has shaped their thinking and their world view, that the world is somehow always coming to their place to create problems. Though China is progressively showing their true super-power potential, the people is still lagging behind to behave really like someone from a powerful country, just like an American does now. Pls give them some time, they are still collecting back their confidence as they go along.

I believe their urge to do well and prove the world through the Olympic game is unstoppable. You can say that China is over-doing this and over-reacting to anti-Olympic forces, but I'm seeing them more like a delinquent teenager so eager to show his family members he scored an 'A' in his report card.