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Is the West afraid of our patriotism?by John Kennedy

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热度1585票 时间:2008年6月22日 21:22

Are there factors informing your perception of China circa 2008? Novelist-blogger and researcher of worldly affairs Yang Hengjun moves on from ‘How did America cover up the truth of the bombing of our embassy in Yugoslavia?' to his post last week, ‘Are Western countries afraid of the Chinese people's patriotic fervor?'

Having brought this up, there's something else from the past I'd like to bring up. Just thinking back to it, though, leaves me a little depressed. In 1997, with the Taiwan Strait Crisis looming, the situation was tense all around the Taiwan Strait. At the time we were in Washington doing a seminar on Japan and The Taiwan Question, and the keynote speaker at that seminar was a gentleman from the Japan Defense Agency who oversaw intelligence exchange between the US and Japan. As this Japanese intelligence official spoke about each surrounding country's views on the situation at hand, he used very ordered wording. Arriving at the subject of the possibility of America's involvement, his ordering went like this: how the White House views dangerous situations, how Congress makes decisions (dispatching of troops needs to be approved by Congress), and how Americans' popular sentiment will evolve (because American vox populi in the end determines how the president is to get involved in the Taiwan Strait Crisis, and to what extent); He said that across the board the response in Japan was this: What will the Japanese Prime Minister do, what will the ruling party and the Diet do, will right-wing forces lift their heads up, and how will trends in Japanese public opinion affect the outcome, affect to what degree; As he then spoke on Taiwan, the arrangement was similar: president Lee Teng-hui's intent, the military's anxieties, and how the attitude of Taiwan's population of 20 million would determine Taiwan's policy……
Then in the end he said mainland China goes like this: the Chinese government's views (which he even broke down into the moderate clique and the hard-line clique), some of the Chinese military's views, then Chinese local government (attitudes of the mini-bosses)—and then his talk ended there.

 

In response to the possibility that the Taiwan Strait Crisis could begin to deteriorate, this Japanese intelligence official brought up the likely stances held and steps to be taken by each country involved, basing them on publicly available information and Japanese intelligence agency assessments, so it was rather convincing. But, just as he finished his report, a former American military attache stationed at the embassy in Beijing brought up a question: in your report you discuss the stances held by various countries and powers, mentioning the interaction between government and people, very thoroughly. But, I've noticed one thing, that when you brought up the various responses in China and their possible impact on a final outcome, the only thing you didn't mention are the Chinese people and public opinion in China. So what, are the opinions of 1.2 billion people unimportant?

The incident is long past now, and I've brought it up on several occasions the effect this example has had on me. Yet, I'm reminded of it today, so I made note of it first. Is it possible that China is different now? If only it were so. But on that day, that Japanese intelligence official's defence of his paper went like this: popular opinion in China is probably consistent with the official stance, or at least it is controlled. People are unable to express their own [opinions], but even if they were, it wouldn't influence the government's decision. Moreover, at a time when there are no independent channels through which to obtain data on popular opinion in China, I feel I cannot include it in my argument, that to do so is inappropriate.

 

The public sentiment of 1.2 billion people actually cannot be predicted, and being under control, it is unreliable. As one of those 1.2 billion people, you can easily imagine how I feel.

Since 1997, the internet has quickly risen, and become the primary tool with which the West is able to understand popular opinion in mainland China. That said, if one considers the academic's perspective, this data is still problematic, mainly the question ‘are mainland public opinion responses given on the internet accurate? Aren't they controlled or getting deleted?'

[snip]

Yang spends the next several paragraphs shifting the topic onto the US bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, considering the truth of the matter, the anger in China regardless of one, and proceeds with the assumption that the bombing might have been mistaken, as claimed at the time:

Following the “mistaken bombing” of the embassy, the scale of China's response went beyond expectations and China-US relations immediately hit rock-bottom, to an extent even worse than during the Taiwan Strait Crisis. The biggest outcome of the “mistaken bombing” of the embassy was that patriotic fervor within the Chinese public blasted out, and this fervor was so intense that one was no longer able to tell if it was patriotism or if it was nationalism. The Japanese intelligence official from two years prior by that time had already returned to his job at the Japanese intelligence agency; I think this must have taken him aback, and I wonder if he said, ‘WOW, the voice of the Chinese people has finally come out!'.

 

Voice coming out is fine and well, but the real problem is: of these voices, how many of them will end up in his research reports? I mean, how else could he be assessing the Chinese public's patriotic fervor in his reports now? Will he be warning Japan not to lower its guard with the American government? Intelligence analysis of research into neighboring countries' issues of course will not miss patriotism and nationalism such on this scale, but is China's super-blend of patriotism and nationalism a key foundation of the government's approach to foreign relations? Or was it just a sort of tactical strategy controlled by the government to demonstrate for others its own internal policy? I believe that this was the thing that American and Japanese intelligence agencies paid the most attention to.

This is also the main point I want to make today, even if the embassy bombing departs from that. People would do well to consider a few questions: Chinese civil unrest that appears to be patriotic fervor and the nationalism that occasionally pops out from that, does this have any impact on our country's foreign policy? Does this affect China's relationship with the world, particularly with Japan and the West? Does this affect our international trade? Does it affect China's economic growth, or China's place in the world? And consider also, following every patriotic fervor episode, what changes has it brought to China?

Speaking for myself, this is of the utmost importance. Because I love the country, and fervently so. But regardless of how passionately patriotic I am, my goal is to see China be able to continue its economic development, social stability, and continuous political reforms so as to keep up with the times. But this is also what makes me worry about certain patriotic fervor or nationalism, the feeling that anyone regardless of how high-key or low-key your patriotism is, or whether you call yourself a patriot or a nationalist, that if your patriotism is unable to raise people's standards of living, or guarantee human rights, stable lives, and political transparency for the Chinese people, if your patriotism is incompatible with growing daily acceptance for humanitarian universal values, then your love for your country is actually wrong for this country, and with patriotism like this you're nothing more than betraying the nation. Loving your country also means loving its people.

 


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