As a Chinese person, I am pained by the appalling show of nationalism from China. In recent years, Chinese nationalism has reached a distressing level, with the public masses criticising the US, Japan, fellow Chinese and any perceived enemies with unimaginably vicious language and malice. Is there any other country where nationalism is as frightful as compared with China?
Let me give three examples of China’s painfully shocking nationalism.
Once a friend, then an enemy
First, claiming that the Americans are cannibals. In May 2020, Yao Yuxiang, who goes by the handle Mr White Cloud (白云先生), posted a claim that with over a million Covid-19 fatalities, the US has been unable to handle the number of corpses and probably turned them into frozen meat used in burger patties and hot dogs, and eaten by other Americans. He alleged that the US has a history of cannibalism after all — consuming Blacks, Native Americans and Chinese — so they had no moral issues against it; and it was only a few decades ago that the US stopped large-scale cannibalism.
Second, boasting about destroying humankind. In September 2020, university lecturer Zhao Shengye claimed that detonating a nuclear submarine loaded with warheads in the Pacific Ocean could submerge “all areas except the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau”; detonating “thousands of nuclear bombs in the Himalayas” could change the earth’s orbit and send it along with all humankind to the endless reaches of dark space; and drilling down 10,000 metres into the Sichuan Basin and detonating thousands of nuclear warheads deep beneath the earth could trigger “the collapse of the earth’s core” and end humankind. He believed that if then US President Donald Trump was bent on fighting against China, leaving no living space for the Asians or blacks, or even intervening in a war to liberate Taiwan, the ultimate result would be “the destruction of all mankind”.
Third, gloating over the misfortunes of China’s “enemies”, with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dictating who’s “enemy” and who’s “friend”. When the CCP was based in Yan’an, Mao Zedong called US President Franklin D. Roosevelt a “wise leader” and the US the “closest friend” of the Chinese people. But after the CCP came to power in 1949, the Soviet Union became China’s “friend” amid Mao’s pro-Soviet policy, and the US instantly became an “enemy”. And in 1959 when Mao fell out with Premier Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Union turned into China’s “enemy”, and US President Richard Nixon and state secretary Henry Kissinger became China’s “friends”. The roles reversed again by 1989, as China began to oppose the West and befriend those against Western democracies.
The Chinese people cheered during the September 11 attacks. The day after the incident, Shanghai University professor Ge Hongbing surveyed the views of over 180 students — 80% gloated over it and said that it was cathartic; 10% said that there was no need to be concerned as it had nothing to do with them; only one student expressed sympathy for the civilian casualties. And in 2011 when news broke of Osama bin Laden’s death, Chinese netizens were very unhappy. In a poll by ifeng.com, over 280,000 people or 59.9% voted that they were disappointed that an “anti-US fighter” had fallen.
Meanwhile, Chinese netizens cheered the fire that broke out in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on 15 April 2019, leaving comments such as: “Heaven has finally avenged our Summer Palace. This fire should have been started by the Chinese to quell the rage hidden in every Chinese person’s heart for over a century! Next up: the British royal palace…”
When the pandemic broke out in 2020, a porridge eatery in Shenyang expressed hope for the pandemic to last a very long time in the US and Japan with a banner at its entrance. And when Trump caught the virus, the Chinese felt it was a “gift” to China and celebrated. A short clip on Douyin featured a group of children around six years old dressed in red and white school uniforms, and one boy said, “I want to know why Trump is so bad, calling us the Chinese virus. It was them who started it!”
The Chinese were excited when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022; their idolisation of Russian President Vladimir Putin is unbelievable. A Chinese female netizen wrote, “Putin’s charm is incomparable. Even my father praises him, and we get up late at night to watch the news, anxious that Putin will get into a tough spot. He’s like a tiger that appreciates the rose, who doesn’t like a man like that?”
Another wrote, “He’s outstanding and handsome. I saw a video clip of him writing. I was smitten when he looked over his shoulder and smiled.” A third netizen passionately wrote, “I like him so much I ovulated.”
“... if assassinating Tsai Ing-wen can bring peaceful reunification, wouldn’t that make people happy?” — Chinese nationalist Sima Nan
When former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated, China celebrated. Some stores took the opportunity to roll out promotions, with banners advertising one-for-one deals to celebrate Abe’s death. One advertisement showed, “Today only! So happy former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot. To celebrate, get 8.80 RMB cashback for every 100 RMB spent.”
One of China’s best-known nationalists Sima Nan — with nearly 3 million followers on Weibo — made use of Abe’s death to champion the assassination of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. He wrote, “The peaceful liberation of Taiwan is the hope of every Chinese”, but “if assassinating Tsai Ing-wen can bring peaceful reunification, wouldn’t that make people happy?”
Extreme nationalism in China’s history
Chinese nationalism shows the dark, perverse side of humanity, the result of over 70 years of careful moulding by the CCP. The general xenophobia among the Chinese people can be traced back to the Southern Song period — the people of Song fought against the people of Jin, and even if they could not win, a call for peace would be traitorous.
In the real world where peace should be the norm, extreme nationalism has led to a loss of rationality and the ability to see the world as it is. The Boxer Rebellion was an extreme nationalist movement in Chinese history, which led to the deployment of troops into Beijing by the Eight-Nation Alliance. But without the Chinese authorities’ support, neither the rebellion nor the alliance would have existed.
On the one hand, the class struggle is aimed at eliminating the people’s dissatisfaction with reality; on the other, it is a way to resist the influence of Western values on the Chinese people.
The current surge of nationalism in China is also the result of manipulation by the CCP, whose political power grows out of the barrel of a gun (枪杆子里面出政权), and also has to be defended in the same way. Violence is the secret to the CCP’s existence, and advocating the class struggle is the ideological weapon for China to exert violence.
On the one hand, the class struggle is aimed at eliminating the people’s dissatisfaction with reality; on the other, it is a way to resist the influence of Western values on the Chinese people. The CCP has long advocated the class struggle, and has destroyed the humanity of the Chinese. Being devoid of humanity has become a key characteristic of Chinese society, and extreme nationalism is just one manifestation of that.
Support from the Chinese leadership
It is definitely a lie to say that Americans eat human flesh, but in fact, the Chinese have done so. There was cannibalism in Guangxi amid the fighting during China’s Cultural Revolution. After the vice-principal of Tongling Middle School Huang Jiaping was criticised and beaten to death, two students surgically removed her liver, stripped her flesh to the bone, grilled the meat in the school kitchen and ate it.
Over 120 of the 200 subsequently confirmed cannibals were part of the state machinery — leaders of local armed forces, commanders of armed militia, revolutionary committee cadres, and top leaders of commune productivity teams. These people believed that eating human flesh was a show of support for the revolution of great leader Mao Zedong. Who is to blame for the uncontrolled class struggle that led to the consumption of human flesh?
Comments in China about destroying humankind can be traced back to Mao Zedong. During Mao’s second visit to the Soviet Union, he and Khrushchev engaged in an intense debate at the Conference of World Communist and Workers' Parties held in Moscow in November 1957.
Mao asserted that the atomic bomb was “nothing great” and just a “paper tiger”; at most in the case of a nuclear war, half of the world’s 2.7 billion population would die and there would still be half left alive; China would still have 300 million of its 600 million population — who should Mao fear?
Khrushchev and the Czechoslovakia general secretary were visibly shell-shocked. Indeed, the Chinese people who call for arms and the destruction of humankind in the name of Maoism are seen as patriotic.
In China, patriotism is a business, and belittling the US is a way of life.
The CCP has used the class struggle to indoctrinate the Chinese people and nurture extreme hatred towards “enemies”. The figure Lei Feng — whose existence and life story are questionable, but whom the CCP has propagated as a hero — has a famous line: “Treat individualism as leaves swept away by the autumn wind, and treat enemies as ruthlessly as harsh winter.” In China, kindergarten children are taught to emulate Lei Feng and to treat the US as the enemy.
Generations of Chinese who grew up on “wolf’s milk” are disposed towards extreme nationalism — a consequence of China’s long-term indoctrination of its people. On the internet, a young Chinese boy said that when he was four years old, he hated the US so much he bled from the mouth — that was surely an exaggeration, but one that would be praised by teachers, and the boy would be seen as highly “perceptive”.
In China, those who are “perceptive” are recruited as CCP members, and they would easily become civil servants and make money from their position. Those who cannot be officials can gain online traffic and earn money by spreading extreme nationalism. In China, patriotism is a business, and belittling the US is a way of life. Patriotism as a means to wealth is the result of CCP indoctrination.
The authorities cover it up under the guise of safeguarding national security, causing China’s nationalism to be revealed in all its wretchedness and the country to lose its international image in the eyes of the civilised world.
In short, under the banner of class struggle, the CCP has replaced, and ultimately destroyed humanity with the party spirit; there are countless stories of this in China. In October 2020, a student from the class of 2020 at the Guangxi Arts Institute wrote an open letter saying that they were willing to kill all the poor people in China, including their own parents. This is the new generation that the CCP has nurtured.
The world cannot understand the inhumanity of Chinese nationalism. As of now, the Chinese authorities do not explicitly talk about the class struggle, but it persists in thought and practice. The authorities cover it up under the guise of safeguarding national security, causing China’s nationalism to be revealed in all its wretchedness and the country to lose its international image in the eyes of the civilised world.
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