I stumbled across a BBC blog by James Reynolds, the BBC’s current Beijing correspondant. He addresses some questions regarding the source of national pride in China. One BBC reader leaves the following comment.
“One cannot help, upon reading such comments, perceiving that the Chinese feel an immense patriotism which we in the West have often tended to underestimate. Any critical reporting on the part of the foreign media is immediately met with charges of bias – and this, presumably, from fairly ordinary citizens. What I, and no doubt many other foreign observers, find hard to understand, is the source of all this national pride.”
Reynolds goes on to give a brief history about China’s Century of Humiliation. It is something that is well-taught in the Chinese education system. Even those who grew up in British Hong Kong are keenly aware of this history of humiliation. With the protests surrounding the Olympic Torch relay, many Chinese of different backgrounds actually came together to protest the protests. People from the Mainland and other Chinese areas were in support of this fierce Chinese pride.
There’s a period in between the Century of Humiliation and “recent events” that Reynolds does not mention. After the “liberation” of China in 1949, China was a largely isolated nation that underwent extreme internal strife. There was the “Great Leap Forward” in the 1950’s where the country tried to leap ahead of all other nations in industry and agriculture. It turned out to be more of a minor hop, if not worse. There was “Cultural Revolution” of the 1960’s and 70’s. Many of the middle-aged Chinese still live with the wounds of this time where any “counter-revolutionary” was to weeded out of society. A whole generation of academics and artists suffered during those times. These two to three decades of events have also shaped much of the psyche inside the PRC.
I think it’s best to read a country’s history to understand the context within which their culture exists. Canadians are forever shaped by our English and French heritages. Japan has ongoing effects from their defeat in World War II. Most Asian nations harbour a strong disdain for Japan that comes from Japanese occupation.
It’s also interesting to read another article from the BBC about the BBC website being unblocked in the PRC. There’s a mix of different reactions from the Chinese public covered in that article.