So today when I was having coffee with a couple of friends (and by “coffee” I of course mean “iced chocolate”) Cherry asked me if I’ve noticed “(Heart) China” (MSN shortcut for the heart is (L) ) in front of any of my contacts’ names on my MSN list. I then realised I had seen it next to one friends, and on arriving home noticed two more. We talked about it a little and Cherry told me she’d heard some Taiwanese are using “(L) Tibet” or “(L) Taiwan”. I did a quick Google search and found out that yes, it’s a technological example of the wave of patriotism sweeping across China in reaction to the situation in Tibet, and the perceived bias of Western media. Check out an example of a current MSN list, as well as reactions from various people at Shanghaiist.com.
One thing I’ve noticed in a lot of the places I’ve been reading is the way that this patriotism seems particularly strong among younger people, and it is often they who have reacted so much. When my friend returned recently from Beijing she said there was a strong anti-European sentiment and people really were boycotting Europeans products, in particular French shops and products, such as the huge chain store Carrefour. (Check out this awesome, and entertaining, account from ground zero – Stupid Pig’s blog from Beijing)
I think we Westerners have a tendency to get nervous when we hear about Chinese patriotism. Admittedly I sometimes get a bit weirded out by clips on TV of Americans with flag poles on their roofs and in their front yards and American flags all over their clothes. But I think when we think about China we’re thinking about a billion people whose lives, culture, values we know nothing about – and who know nothing about us – and who only know what their oppressive government lets them. This is obviously wrong, but it’s still what we’re afraid of when we see this form of “blind” patriotism.
I think maybe all patriotism is blind. Americans fly their flags for their loved ones who died in the war, not in support of Guantanamo; on ANZAC day we remember the bravery of young Kiwis and Aussies fighting for their motherstate, not the way thousands of NZ boys were used as canon-fodder fighting another country’s war. Chinese people are not vindicating any of their nation’s wrongs by this show of patriotism, but are unifying to defend themselves against what they see as an unfair attack on their country.
I’m not saying that they are right or wrong, but I just feel that they’re doing what any of us would do if we felt our country was being treated unfairly by others. Is is the responsibility of every Chinese person to figure out issues like this, just as it’s our responsibility.
Let’s face it, we all belong to a country, we belong to a people, and no country, or people, is perfect.
(L) CHINA ?