‘Nationalist’ label obstructs communication

By Jiang Shixue Source:Global Times Published: 2017/9/19 21:23:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT


Some Western people and media outlets are always labeling Chinese "nationalists" especially after Wolf Warriors 2 was screened last month. Meanwhile many Western scholars and media believe that globalization since 2016 has been challenged by rising nationalism. 

Many are not acquainted with the definition of "nationalism." Objectively speaking, nationalism is loyalty and devotion to a nation, especially a sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.

Nationalism that advocates win-win cooperation and respects other countries' interests is undoubtedly a positive thing that will boost citizens' patriotic sentiments and instill motivation toward globalization. But selfish nationalism is hazardous and will only fuel populism and thwart globalization.

Public opinion and the government can intervene and guide parochial nationalism in a positive direction. The government should make its diplomatic policies more transparent, dismantle the barriers of elite diplomacy and acquaint the public with the diplomatic activities. Meanwhile the public should be allowed to express their opinions freely under the legal framework.

Nationalism will have political, economic, diplomatic and cultural influences that cannot be overlooked.

Politically, patriotism is the embodiment of nationalism. As a civic virtue that everyone is supposed to honor, patriotism implies national pride and loyalty, the abandonment of which is disloyalty and even betrayal of the country. Patriotism is advocated by governments of all nations in the world.

Economically, nationalism can become a theoretical basis for a country's economic policy and therefore it is often called economic nationalism or resource nationalism. Some governments, led by such national ideas, impose various restrictions on foreign capital and goods, and sometimes even attempt to nationalize foreign enterprises.

Diplomatically, nationalism is always closely linked to national sovereignty, national image and international relations. Thus a country will see soaring national sentiment if its sovereignty, territory or other national interests are jeopardized. But extreme nationalist activities are not encouraged.

Culturally, nationalism is reflected in disapproval, aversion, restrictions and even resistance to foreign cultures. Such nationalist sentiments will make cultural exchanges difficult.

Nationalism has exhibited its vitality in different forms at different times in history. The rise of nationalist sentiment is especially common in the era of globalization as drawbacks emerge.

For many, globalization has weakened national characteristics and imperiled a country's economic interests. Thus parochial nationalism becomes an ideological weapon for those opposed to globalization.

In some countries, parochial nationalism, combined with populism, has become the sentimental basis for a xenophobic mentality.

Regrettably, parochial nationalism and populism have proven popular in US and European elections and disrupted the normal political atmosphere.

Although globalization has helped eliminate barriers between nation states and strengthened globalism, it is not a zero-sum game between nationalism and globalization. Globalization has made state-to-state exchanges more convenient, which in turn promote globalization.

China has seen rising international status in recent years. It is not surprising that nationalism in China has become a focus of attention among international media outlets and scholars. 

However, some foreign media outlets and scholars are prejudiced against China and as a result, those who openly advocate China's national interests are always dubbed "nationalistic." Such media and scholars expect Chinese to give up their defense of national sovereignty and other national interests which is absolutely unreasonable and downright rude.

Some argue that China's nationalism may have triggered panic around its peripheral countries. This is unwarranted. China sticks to the principles of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness in neighborhood diplomacy. Admittedly, certain Chinese people were irrational when China's national interests were jeopardized by other countries. But such parochial nationalist behavior is strongly opposed by mainstream Chinese society.

In an article on the website of Australia's East Asia Forum headlined "The rise of China through the eyes of China," the author says that of 3,000 Beijing students interviewed, fewer than 5 percent support "extreme nationalism" and nearly 80 percent support patriotism. This suggests that voices calling for "extreme nationalism" do not represent the views of mainstream Chinese society.

The author is a distinguished professor at Shanghai University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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