Opinion / Blog

My opinions on patriotism

By Judy_Zhu Updated: 2015-06-08 16:57

This article originates from a fierce debate (which developed into a quarrel) among Forum members (Chinese and foreign friends inclusive). After the debate, one foreign friend studying in China sighed: "I could not ever understand national pride, because to me, pride should be reserved for something you achieve or attain yourself, not somethinhg that happens by accident at birth.” Thus comes my opinion.

I realize that people who are born and grow up in different countries with different cultures and social environments will have distinct understandings of life values which should be respected by all of us. As for Chinese people, maybe you (our foreign friends) feel that many of us are sensitive and techy when others make negative comments about the nation, the government and the leading party.

Here I’d like to try to give you a probable reason for this phenomenon, from the point of Chinese culture.

This kind of national pride, or more accurately patriotism, is really not a small thing for Chinese, domestically and overseas, and even overseas Chinese who have changed their nationality for two or three generations. You may feel puzzled. But I think it's deeply related to Chinese culture.

You know the concept of “home” and “country”. In our culture, the two are tightly related. One wouldn’t expect that he could keep his home if his country had been invaded, occupied and taken over by a foreign nation. At a deeper level, home refers to a small family, while country means a greater one for all the people. Once the greater one is at risk, family members, I mean everyone in the country, should take the responsibility to unite and protect it leaving his own small family aside. It sounds to you guys there is no human rights to each individual, but this view of “the country is our home” is one of the most important components in the philosophy of Confucius. I think this is far different from many other cultures.

The period full of tears and blood for the Chinese nation, from 1840 until 1949 further imprinted the view deep in the minds of the people. The location of China is at a corner, with endless sea to its east and south, the insurmountable Himalayas to its west and barren deserts to its northwestern part. Thus the country is almost isolated and protected from outside. This is why nearly 5,000 years of Chinese culture has developed, conserved and passed down, until 1840. On the other side, China lagged behind other countries because ignorant emperors were so self-satisfied with the current state. The result was that Chinese people suffered from a hell-like life during the tough period, and there was nowhere to escape to. We realized how important it is to have our own independent country.

Then come the Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping periods. Problems appeared during the process of development, among which some have been resolved while others remain and new difficulties keep appearing. Today's China is very different from the one of the 1980s. Individuals begin to seek more rights. Social conflict has emerged and people today, especially the post-90s, many of whom don't care much about the nation, care more about the own rights, because they were born in a peaceful period with good living conditions. That's why many elderly sigh: “Oh, don't know what to say about the current youngsters!” However, this is not bad sign, because we can see that society is more advanced and more open. When I say China is great, I’m really proud of her, because it gets more open and keeps making progress. Although it's a new era, the two concepts of home and country are still closely related. In addition, Chinese people look for their position in the world. They may not realize one thing, but always keeps in mind that, “I'm a Chinese, and I belong to the Chinese nation.”  

But I don’t think this phenomenon is unique to the Chinese nation. I remember that I was deeply touched by a famous film Braveheart about 15 years ago. Mel Gibson portrays William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish warrior who led the Scots in the First War of Scottish Independence against King Edward I of England. I still remember the last scene when Wallace refused to submit to the king. When the magistrate offered him one final chance, asking him only to utter the word: "Mercy", and be granted a quick death. Wallace instead shouted: "Freedom!” and the judge ordered his death. He is really a national hero and there are many national heroes like Wallace in every country during such critical periods.

This is my opinion about Chinese people’s patriotism and I hope will explain any confusion. Your opinions and comments are welcome.

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