Apparently, it is rising rapidly within the last three decades. The west sometimes takes the China power as a threat, which makes sense for me since we are such a huge population as a counter-power.
Before any comments, you may be interested in why it grows so fast as what it is nowadays (more about the national motivation), and why Chinese can be so nationalist or feel inferior about themselves, which needs to go back to the modern history of China (1839-1949). I am not going to repeat the jibber jabber here, and linked a video about this “century of humiliation” at the end of this article, if you do not really feel reading, go check it.
How do I think of it?
I would like to put it in a short story instead. It is not necessarily an answer, it’s more like an explanation of the complex situation. But personally, I love this country and I am proud of being a Chinese, not for what I might be influenced by the education, but for what it is. So, I don’t want to entitle it to “nationalism” or “patriotism”, not with the “-sm” stuffs, and I do believe there are more and more Chinese young generations treating our sophisticated country and rich culture in this way.
(20 April Updating: Also, I found a video one month after I wrote this story, here I linked it in the article. We’ve talked this story in a similar way and this YouTuber, serpentza, has been living in Shenzhen China for 11 years. I appreciate the way he analyzes and discusses China’s social problems, and this dude does know more about China than many Chinese (me too XD). So, it would also be awesome for you to refer to his western perspective if you feel tired reading.)
Simplify the power game
If we take the globe as a huge primary school, China definitely plays a role of the nerdy kid.
Although in Chinese society, the nerdy kids with high marks in the exams are always praised by teachers and parents—-they are regarded as intelligent and intellectual models, being respected by the others no matter where he or she came from; they can gain their chances to get the best education, and step by step, the life-changing opportunities.
However, we are here talking in a global context after all, where the west dominates the rule of games—-oops, Class Bully the USA didn’t like it. Peer pressure comes, the other kids laughed at her disgraceful family background, scum parents, frail body and ridiculous outfits. They took away her belongings and forced her to pay the protection racket. China, the kid, paid off her only money for the daily meal, she was desperate and starving. In a period, she started to imitate what the other kids do, in which way she thought they would not prank and bully her again. 😦
Very soon, China realised that she did not have enough expense to be “cool” at all, and the other kids would not treat her from the heart at all even she took all she had in the pockets. She can never dream of having the same grand family names and assets as they do. But she happens to be an ambitious kid, noticing that the only way to stand with them equally is to equip herself with knowledge and wisdom, and more importantly, become financially powerful. She swallowed the bitter pills of life, concentrated on studying and working, day in, day out.
Years passed by, the bully kids grew up as conscientious gents, with fame and fortune blessed. China keeps reaching the top of the pyramid, she strained every nerve to amass the ability, skills and wealth. When she finally entered the power circle, the gents started to blame her unethical behaviour in climbing based on their aristocracy traditions which she never had a right to learn in the past. Once again, she felt threatened and sensed a new gap, but this time she determined to stay cool and be brave. 🙂
But she would never give an impression of weakness ever again—-although their wealth and aristocratic education were still as distant as a star to her; meanwhile, she also quietly took some of their criticisms which stimulate her with new progress and infused with what she has learnt based on her background.
Cherishing the hard-won opportunities and the sweat credits she has ever accomplished, China never wants a conflict—-in fact she was never an inherently aggressive person. The money-oriented and upper-conducted society embedded its survival laws with everyone inside including her. For long, she holds an ideal dream to build another block in equal height with that pyramid, where everyone like her has a chance to change their own destiny by themselves without looting or being looted, without oppression and embarrassment of any kind.
Whew, the story continues, but I need to stop here. 🙂
My bedtime stories
It is merely a simplified version which depicts my understanding of the essence of power games among countries. China power can not only be a pride for (the majority of) Chinese, more importantly, it also touches
us me deep inside.
This feeling mainly comes from my passion for history. Comparing it to its own history, China falls apart from the world’s most productive economy into the dark abyss since the beginning of the 19C. From the 1890s to 1910s, China was invaded and occupied by six empires, during when we finally ended the feudal autocratic monarchy ruled the land for more than two thousand years. To depict this long story, I will link a documentary about the century’s humiliation of China at the bottom, hope it can help you observe this history holistically.
As it comes to the modern history, it is nearly another century full of struggling but I won’t stress on that cause I don’t wanna be a narrative nationalist. In short, China won a period of the Republic (1911-1949) and fought in a running battle with Japan for 14 years during the WWII (1912-1949). The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was established in 1921, who later had a Civil War with the Kuomintang (KMT/Nationalist Party) twice (1927-1937;1946-1950). The Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) was established in 1949, since then we have been governed as a whole in the contemporary history.
Timeline of Chinese history since Qing Dynasty ©Wikimedia Commons
In fact, all of the mess, poverty and struggle was not far from the present time. In my case, my grand granparents were born in the late Qing Dynasty, I heard lots of old stories from grandma about how her mom forced her binding feet before she was 3 years old; my grandparents were born at the wartime, grandpa served the Eighth Route Army during the Second Sino-Japanese War, and was caught in jail by the “Red Guards” (followers of Mao) during the Culture Revolution (1966-1976); my parents who were born in 1967 and 1969, have luckily escaped from the darkest time where the education and other social service were shut down, but my uncles and aunts who are ten years elder were not as lucky as them; then came with my cousins’ (yes I am the only child as most of us) and my peer generation, who were finally born in a peaceful and prosperous time. 🙂
Oops…in the end I jibber jabbered so much on the history. XP
But I was always curious about the past, so my families reluctantly unveiled the past as my bedtime stories. Having known about what the life was before, I just feel so impressed and truly grateful, for the divine luck I was blessed to live in such a good time.
Despite some may disagree with the present form of the Chinese government (here I would not start a discussion, let’s talk about it later in another article) and there still exists many social or system problems, the majority of Chinese citizens are quite satisfied with the quality of their government (See article 1; article 2). People do not take the one-party dictatorship as the perfectly divine one for sure, yet we neither think any western model of the democratic system will function normally in Chinese society. From my understanding, the form of a government and the ideology should be considered as a tool rather a trap; the CCP is just a major figure in the present stage of history. How far will the ‘democratic dictatorship’ go on? Definitely not forever.
But for now, briefly speaking, let the power stay powerful for 1.4 billion people in such a turbulent global environment—-as long as it stays representing ‘people’ as the written words said in the Party Constitution.
For the people in China who just survived from distinction during one-hundred-year turbulence recently, they cherish the peace and prosperity in life more than individual rights as citizens. People do not want repressive rule while they are much more reluctant to be ruled by a weak government.
But this won’t last very long. Both people and government know that very well.
At last, hope you this documentary useful:
- I don’t like the cover XD.
- This video gives an image of China’s ‘national humiliation’ to some extent. It explained questions include but not limited to the followings:
- how Chinese society function under the Confucious’s conduct;
- from the utility perspective, how much alike the Confucianism was to a national religion which never exists in the Chinese society;
- why the individual is less emphasized than the community;
- why China claims they will not treat the others;
- what is the origin of Chinese’s nationalism and what does that mean.
- It takes 1:17:33 in total, or it can be around 45 min if you played it at the 1.25/1.5 speed.
P.S. This video may have the bias or some faults in historical facts. Here, I would like to address the most obvious one which happens to be an important point in understanding China:
[10:40] The notion of ‘nation-state’ in the Chinese language: the man tried to deconstruct it in Chinese, but he made a confusion between the ‘nation-state’ and ‘country’, which these two notions are never the same thing. China is not a nation-state but a civilisation-state. What he said ‘guo jia’ (“国家”) refers to ‘country/state/nation’ (yes, for this single word “国家”, it doesn’t distinguish among these three) rather the ‘nation-state’: