Nationalist Indoctrination: China’s Double-Edged Sword.

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto is a policy analyst and part-time dungeon master. When not talking endlessly about matters of public policy, he is a dungeon master on the NWN World of Avlis

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14 Responses

  1. BlaiseP says:

    Those governments which live by the orchestrated Two Minutes Hate sessions shall also die by them. It’s like Galvani’s wretched frog, poked and prodded by electrical probes. Twitch! Twitch! go the frog’s muscles, its brain long since shut down.

    Sure, there will always be lots of willing dupes. Every tyranny features its slogan-screaming loyalists. Such loyalists were seen before in China, the Red Guards. Didn’t work out so well for China: by the time the Red Guards were through, they’d destroyed much of the cultural patrimony of that miserable country.

    Nowadays nobody in China wants to talk about that era. But as Auden observed

    Defenceless under the night
    Our world in stupor lies;
    Yet, dotted everywhere,
    Ironic points of light
    Flash out wherever the Just
    Exchange their messages:

    People are easily duped when they can be made to fear. Japan’s not completely innocent in all this, electing that great thumping jingo-ist Shinzo Abe. The cheap shochu of Nationalism is distilled in many countries and everyone swears by the superiority of his own local spirit. But within every bully is a core of fear and insecurity: when they panic, they lead others to panic.

    Doesn’t look good, the sabre-rattling and blustering. The Chinese seem intent on creating their own Dai tou a Kyoueiken == Great Eastern Co-Prosperity Sphere and nobody else seems to be signing on except their vicious dog North Korea. I cannot foresee if this anti-Japan sentiment will lead to direct conflict but China cannot continue to bait Japan without evil consequences in a wider world.Report

  2. Burt Likko says:

    China has rattled its sabre before. Taiwan remains politically independent of Beijing. As does Pakistan. Pyongyang heels to the PRC only as a result of its own astonishing impoverishment, and often enough these days it does so only with reluctance. China isn’t really good at imperialism of either the hard or soft variety.Report

  3. Kazzy says:

    I am far from an expert on China specifically or Asia in general. But I do remember this story quite well…

    It was 3rd or 4th grade (I don’t remember which but I knew it was that grade because I remember what school I was in when it happened). I don’t remember the specifics, but our teacher announced that we were going to be studying something about Japan. Could have been ancient Japanese culture, could have been modern geography, I don’t remember this either. What I do remember, quite specifically, was the reaction of one of my classmates.

    His eyes went wide and he clutched the front edge of his desk, pulling himself up to the edge of his seat. He leaned forward, ghastly white, shouting, “The Japs?!?! We’re going to learn about the Japs?!?! WE’RE GOING TO LEARN ABOUT THE JAPS?!?!”

    I offer this story only to show that school is not the only thing that influences children’s thinking. My classmate did not learn to have such a reaction at school, at least not during the two years I was there. And given that none of my other classmates, some who had been there longer than I, reacted similarly, I think it is fair to conclude he indeed learned whatever he thought he knew about Japan and its people elsewhere.Report

    • DRS in reply to Kazzy says:

      Well, you can’t just leave it there. What happened?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to DRS says:

        Heh, honestly, that is all I remember. Equal parts 20 years having passed and 4 concussions in the interim. His reaction is what burned into my memory. I don’t think I even realized the egregiousness of what he said (I think a part of me actually thought it sort of funny), but it still made an impression that the mere mention of a country would engender such an intense response from an otherwise pretty mellow and largely disinterested kid.Report

  4. North says:

    Here’s hoping it remains an artifact primarily used for populist pot stirring by the government and nothing more. I share your concern at the tone.
    There are practical considerations, though, China is distinctly in a bad position to wage war. Their economy operates on a strongly intigrated level. Disruption of internation trade of any kind could seriously hurt them; they have to import so much. They also are heavily dependant on export driven employment to maintain social stability. I would hope that their party leadership cadre’s remain keenly aware of those things.
    But your point remains salient. Jingoistic nationalism can start out small but grow into a tiger if you’re not careful about it and then you suddenly find yourself riding a beast that you would really not enjoy dismounting.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

      Jingoism begets jingoism elsewhere: it’s contagious. The rise of Shinzo Abe in Japan has me worried. Though China would be be horribly damaged by letting its mouth outrun its ass, such self-inflicted wounds are common enough in geopolitics to lead me to believe the possibility of such wounds wouldn’t act as any deterrent. China is playing an economic variant of the old Mutually Assured Destruction game: if China goes sideways, so does everyone else.

      The Chinese have a proverb, you usually only hear the first half of it: Fennu bang de qianmen shan when anger pounds on the front door, wisdom flees out the back door.

      Though China might not be in a position to wage war, they’re certainly in a position to provoke war. They’re not adapting very well to dissent within their own county and they’ve been rootling around in other people’s server farms of late, trying to find dissenters. I suspect the Chinese government is using the Senkaku issue as a distraction, fanning the flames of Chinese nationalist sentiments in hopes of creating enough smoke to camouflage their own internal war against reformers.Report

  5. Jaybird says:

    I’m sure the recent discussions about revisions of official apologies aren’t helping with the whole resentment issue.

    Let alone the bad blood that official apologies don’t really address.Report

  6. Kolohe says:

    Well, one mitigating factor (and correct me if I’m wrong) is that Chinese nationalism isn’t as expansionist as Japan circa GEACPS era was (for now).

    China is content (again for now) to allow its nationalism to simply fill the gaps created by a couple centuries of getting the short end of international dealings and also go about rectifying past slights. Which means they want to exhibit total domination of of area considered ‘China’ which includes the Senakus, Spratleys, Paracels, Tibet, Xinjiang, and Taiwan. Which is unfortunate for the ethnic minorities in those places, and for neighbors with competing claims over the same rocks, but that’s the extent China nationalism creates trouble in the neighborhood.

    In other words they’re not going to try take over the Dutch Indies rubber plantations – like the last rising East Asian power, with grievances real and imagined, tried to do.

    Chinese immigration (legal and illegal) could make things in the Russian Far East interesting in a generation, though.Report

  7. KatherineMW says:

    China’s got some good reasons to hate the Japanese, and Japanese denialism concerning WWII-era abuses doesn’t help in that regard at all. Chinese nationalism isn’t strongly expansionist in any military sense, so it doesn’t strike me as an especially dangerous global trend.Report

  8. Will Truman says:

    I know that some of these posts of yours don’t get a lot of attention and commenting, but I wanted to let you know that I really get a lot out of them, Nob. (If I’ve said so before, it bears repeating.)Report

  9. Wardsmith says:

    Nob, thanks for the link to Chinasmack, never heard of it before but have frequented lots of Chinese blogs over the years (the bilingual ones or run in English). As a yan gue dze (foreign devil) myself skipped past the article about the Japanese boy and went right to the laowai ones instead. About what I’d expect. Laowai means old foreigner and the stories lined up with what I’d heard and seen. I even know an old geezer here who is courting a woman 30 years his junior there and intends to marry her soon. She is the one with the money in the relationship, his only “attraction” is his US Citizenship. Went to a half and half party with dozens of couples. I was the only one who wasn’t considerably older than my wife (in fact I’m younger). China is becoming a horrible polluted place to live and these women are willing to put up with sharing a bed with an old codger to breathe fresh air and have a little freedom.

    It makes perfect sense that the Chinese would want to distract their citizens from the dozens of billionaires sitting on the Communist Party upper echelons and instead point them to the supposed evil Japanese (themselves with serious issues esp WWII related). I can always spot the paid netizens on the other sites carrying water for their government. In translation they sound like Elias, always attacking the other side and brushing off any criticism of their own. Since my wife is from Taiwan I take some interest in the saber rattling that goes there. The official Chinese position is that Taiwan MUST be returned because otherwise they will lose face, an embarrassment. Eventually I have no doubt they’ll push to take it over probably when some political catastrophe (worse than the ones we’ve seen) catches the party proletariats with their pants down. They’ll need a compliant president running things in the US of course. Like the one in office today.Report