Thursday, April 17, 2008

Love China love China love China

On Wednesday morning on the bus, I caught sight of the headline of a newspaper over someone’s shoulder: “CNN must apologize!” Oh no, I thought. What’s happened now? At work I turned on my computer and thought I had stumbled onto some kind of strange cult. Nearly every Chinese person on my MSN list had a “(heart) China” in front of his or her name. One workmate logged on and thought her computer had a virus.

Every major Chinese newspaper in the country had the same headline story: Cafferty, a CNN commentator, has insulted the Chinese people. He called the Chinese people “goons” and “thugs.” He must apologize to the Chinese people.

Naturally, there was no mention of the CNN statement emphasizing that Cafferty was, in fact, talking about the Chinese government, not the people (which is abundantly obvious to anyone who is familiar with these American right-wing anti-China folk). There were no interviews with any Americans, who might have mentioned that CNN, and other mass media news stations, are full of such angry, hostile commentators, and they frequently make angry, hostile statements—and that, in fact, there is other Western media besides CNN. No editorial brought up the fact that Cafferty made his statement last week, and was only now being reported—could this not indicate a sudden purposeful campaign to drum up anti-Western sentiment?

Such propaganda is nothing new in China. What was really disturbing, though, was the extent to which people bought it. Educated people who had traveled abroad were saying things to me like, “If he comes here, he’d better watch out!” Some people expressed a mere love for country, but no one considered the timing. Loving your country is no evil thing, but the circumstances of this outpouring of patriotism belie its good intent. Blind, manipulated patriotism that is fueled by hatred and misunderstanding is something every country can do without. I, as an American, know that all too well.

Though there’s no reason to have expected it would be any different, I can’t help but be shocked at the government’s treatment of the whole situation. Is it really a good idea to be stoking anti-Western sentiment on the eve of the Olympics? Doesn’t anyone realize that this violent show of nationalism is scaring people away? Is that what Chinese people really want?

On my MSN list, one brave Chinese friend had something different: “(heart) United Nations.” I’ll end with a cynical comment from him (he wrote in English, and I straightened it up a bit):

Me: Did anyone get mad at you for not putting "(heart) China" [in your MSN]?

Him: Of course not, nobody cares. Chinese are sometimes united, but a plate of sand most times. I’m Chinese, I’m not betraying my motherland, nobody intends to. You know, if China becomes enlightened, it will be the same, no matter how modern it appears.

1 comment:

IntangibleNtangible said...

what did s/he mean" it will be the same no matter how modern it becomes"? just had a little difficulty figuring this out...:)