A Godfather of Chinese Nationalism Has Second Thoughts

Oct 27, 2022 · 93 comments
tkelly (Washington, DC)
Charles de Gaulle once said that "Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first." Nationalism is an ugly thing.
ABC (Flushing)
The People’s Daily runs anti West stories constantly. A monthly TV show in China that has run for years says USA did not land on the moon in 1969. China uses footage of your US protests in a program where a cute Chinese girl in military fatigues repeats every 5 minutes “the average American lives in fear of their government”. I lived in China 19 years and speak Chinese. When I saw a Chinese group at the Smithsonian Air and Space museum, I asked them about the Chinese TV show. Embarassed and losing Face, the Chinese lied and said they don’t know of any such show.
Kilometer Kendig (Brussels Sprouts)
This article uses the term "nationalism" 15 times and "nationalist" five times. Never once do you define these terms and how they differ from "patriotism," a term that is not used. I have seen this also in numerous other articles in the New York Times that address nationalism. And I have noticed from the comments that some readers do not understand what "nationalism" means, apparently confusing it with "patriotism," and consequently arguing that there is nothing wrong with nationalism. A nut graf defining nationalism, and clearly explaining the form it takes in China, would have been helpful. Perhaps these terms are already defined in your style manual. If not, it might be a helpful for future articles. I happen to know something about China first hand, so I was able to follow this interesting article. But many of your readers do not, and would appreciate some orientation somewhere in the first five paragraphs or so. Nationalism is an important issue in China, and will become even more so under Xi's endless and unlimited rule.
David J. Krupp (Queens, NY)
Gone too far! China is now becoming a '1984' state.
Nolapdog (Australia)
Read the article:Exxon and Chevron Rack Up Giant Profits. Stop being distracted by what is happening elsewhere, that what politicians want. Start concentrating on domestic issues like the cost of living. No more distractions.
James Mitchell (Everett WA)
My Chinese friends and their friends spend their days around Shenzhen mimicking the styles and mannerisms and practices of American business professionals in every way. They love taking their families out shopping at luxurious stores and malls, identical to ours. And cars? You can't tell the difference between their crowded city streets and ours. Freeways with comfortable rest stops featuring playgrounds and rides for their children, restrooms with fresh flowers, villages with old style open markets on weekends, a beautiful country that loves celebrating their peace and prosperity. These people have NO enthusiasm for war. NONE. Xi is trying to whip them up, but it isn't working. Nationalism is the cancer of civilization. It is eating us from the inside out. We need to see this path for what it is, and find some way to abaondon it.
Kilometer Kendig (Brussels Sprouts)
Nationalists like Wang Xiaodong say that after an era of humiliation by foreign powers, they want to restore the glory that once was China. But some Asian nations, such as Japan and Thailand, maintained their sovereignty and dignity during that period. Why did China stumble? Poor decisions by China's leaders bear much of the blame for the humiliation China blames on others. The glory of China's past lies in promoting the arts and sciences and culture, while maintaining peace and stability within and without. The old China was never a bully or warmonger. What is it now? Instead of learning from history, and striving to treat other nations better than European nations treated them, China now wants revenge. America had long been China's friend and aided its defense against Japan's invasion with the guidance of General Vinegar Joe Stilwell. Japan offered America a treaty prior to World War II if it would only concede to Japan sections of China. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt absolutely refused, and cut Japan's access to raw materials, which became a pretext for their attack on Pearl Harbor. Throughout WW II, America aided China, including with the construction of the Burma Road and its truck convoys carrying materiel. China's goal now: The colonial exploitation of Asian and African nations through its Belt and Road Initiative, and the humiliation of Western nations, especially America. Nationalist China has now become everything it has despised in others, and more.
BC (New York)
It's curious that there's a world view of being No. 1. What does that really mean in geopolitics. China should be commended in their incredible transformation, lifting millions of People from poverty in 40 years. But they have a hierarchy view of the world and what it means. In my opinion, they are already a superpower nation. But what do they choose to do with their superpower status? Is it to control every nation and be hated by it's global leaders? Or should its goal be to promote itself as a good neighbor?
cb (Houston)
We should aggressively pursue a policy of divestment from China in favor of countries that aren't actively causing us harm. We should start with rescinding China's most-favored nation status.
Mike (Ohio)
Population for China is 470 million in the year 2100! Currently population is 1.3 billion. US population will grow to around 450 million. Largely due to immigration. China does not encourage immigration. A larger proportion of the people alive in China in 2100 will live in Xixang region and Tibet vs in the Northeast. This largely due to the one child policy and dramatically falling birth rate. Much of the territory we know as China has citizens that would do anything to no longer be rule by Beijing. This will lead to political turmoil in the country as there will not be enough young men to enforce the current centralized control over citizens by police and military rule. There will be too many elderly, a world wide problem, relative to working aged. Don't get me wrong. China will be a formidable rival. Yet they are on an inevitable path where they either loosen central control or the non Han Chinese will seek to govern themselves. It appears that Chinese militarism we see now is largely due to the fact that as the years go on they realize their population decrease will not allow them to intimidate their neighboring countries as much as they can today.
Vid Beldavs (Latvia)
Missing from Mr. Wang's nationalism and his more recent rebalancing is concern about global threats - climate change, pandemics, solar mass ejection, asteroid impact, and Russian ultranationalism. Global threats demand global cooperation. China's deep engagement with UN institutions suggests that it could be a source of leadership advocating for greater cooperation rather than for China to emerge preeminent in a world facing climate disaster or a global war. China has the power now through the good will it has built over decades through UN agencies to bridle the ultranationalist Putin regime and prevent Russia's war from becoming a global war and drastically weakening global capacity to address all other global threats. Russia is in process of destroying science in Ukraine which also isolates and destroys science in Russia. China has the moral responsibility of stopping the Russian war because it threatens the survival of humankind If there were a vote in the UN General Assembly requesting the Security Council to freeze Russia's veto power until it stops the war a positive vote by China would be a major step to end the war. Given Russia complies and ends its attacks, China could then lead for a vote of the Security Council to re-instate Russia's permanent member status. Such global leadership is not possible for any other country and would position China to provide leadership facing other global threats.
Distant observer (Canada)
@Vid Beldavs What wishful thinking. Putin is now Xi's boy. Xi is using him to disrupt the world and distract the U.S. while he goes about his nefarious business. It doesn't help the world that America is tearing itself apart these day in large measure because Putin's boy, Donnie Trump, has undercut the pillars of the country's constitutional system of government. Bottom line: China is not our friend.
Christian (Perth Australia)
Hi all, this story demonstrates several human attributes: One, when people are humble and open minded - they learn and grow into better people. China 1978 - 2008. Two, when they are still standing when others have temporarily fallen they get the wrong ideas, such as invulnerability. China 2008 - 2012. Three ,when people think they know it all - they attack all other opinions , become self righteous, no longer grow into better and nicer people, and want to impose their views on others. China 2012 until now. Let's hope part three doesn't last any longer than it has to, and that wisdom prevails.
Gary (Halifax)
Can we hold off on the China-bashing stories, at least until the Russia-bashing stories have run their course? Might one venture to suggest that going full-jingo on the bulk of the Eurasian land mass is rather ambitious for the US, which, to put it mildly, has problems of its own?
Kilometer Kendig (Brussels Sprouts)
@Gary - This was a timely, newsworthy and balanced profile. I see nothing untruthful or biased about it. I am certain there are many educated people in China who would agree that it is the truth, if they could read it. But they can't. When I got on the plane to China from a connecting flight years ago, I was offered a copy of the New York Times. When I arrived, I could read the Times online. The only site blocked at the time was Facebook. Then Google was blocked, but Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc. were still accessible. Then any webpages with links to Facebook were blocked, sort off - it was easy to get around. Then the Times published an investigative piece about Xi's family, and China used this as a pretext to block the paper's website. Ditto for the CBC following its investigative reporting. And PBS. These are respectable news outlets. They were not "China bashing." They were simply reporting the truth. Now, everything is blocked. American news media has done plenty of articles about China that were not negative; their space program is one example -- same with Russia. China and Russia have done a lot of negative things lately. What do you want the Western press to do, refuse to publish these news articles? That's what they do in China and Russia. It's called CENSORSHIP. It is no secret that China has official censorship offices. If you publish anything without the censor's approval you go to jail. Here in America, if the press wants to "bash" China, that's their right.
Distant observer (Canada)
@Gary China bashing? Russia bashing? Hardly . . . not when both countries are hellbent on imposing their own twisted versions of political order on the world.
W.B. (WA)
@Gary You're the ballast we need in these heady times, Gary. A steady hand at the tiller, a kind word for all. Thanks for the reminder.
Christine (Ca)
“Excessive self regard” Let’s see, who else; Trump, Putin, Xi, Javanka pair, Santos, LePen, Truss, Trump sons, too many to name, all want power for their own self grandisement. Beware of such people as leaders. The Ghandis’ of the world are a rare breed. And sadly often overlooked.
Kasha (NY)
Very interesting article. Wish we had more like this than typical politically skewed stuff.
mirror (oaktown)
To all the commenters with anger and disgust at China, a country and people you barely know, I feel sorry for you. China's billion plus population has endured hardships of poverty and foreign bullying for over a century. Now that they have earned some prosperity and economic stability through hard work and long term planning, the West denigrates and disrespects their accomplishments. Do they not have the right to enjoy life and prosper? If you are to throw stones, look at your own history. You would see a lot of rocks strown far and wide and your pile dwindling.
Gabriel (Europe)
Hubris and aversion to criticism has destroyed China's hopes of being a world leader. The exact same mistake they made over 100 years ago. There won't be a Chinese Century if the developed world is against it. China will never be large enough to challenge the combined might of all Western nations and its Asian allies. If they were smart, their first task should've been to pull advanced countries to its side, not "Wolf Warrior diplomacy" or "they'll align with us once we have a money!" (laughable). Like Imperial Japan, modern China underestimates the strength of the West, and more importantly, misunderstands WHY the West is strong (open, critical debate among diverse viewpoints without regard for 'face'). They base their worldview on materialism only, not realizing that wealth, high technology, and desirable living standards are products of abstract social values that cannot be quantified. Attempts to tell them this are met with rage and snarling defensiveness. It's too late. The world isn't going view China favorably anytime soon. They Global South isn't enough to help them, especially not with a hostile India. China has crippled its own future with its anti-social behavior.
Thomas Renner (New York City)
Nationalism is really a funny thing. Most people who talk about it, wave the flag and march in parades go back home to their nice lifestyle. If asked to give up that lifestyle to keep nationalism strong and well, they look for an off ramp.
Gary (Halifax)
What's the goal of the stream of articles stirring fear of China? What's the point? I see nothing in the article, or most of the comments, but an ill-advised belligerence.
Kenneth Joseph Marsh (Anaheim, CA)
I don’t like commies and China has way too many people. What were bad are they thinking?
Tabula Rasa (Monterey Bay)
Any insights why the PRC Organ does not play the “splittist” card anymore?
Me (Miami)
The Chinese are a country of sheep led by demagogues. They actually like being ruled with an iron fist. We may have gun violence here in the states but at least we don’t sit back as our freedoms are taken and the rule of law is discarded, The Chinese have gotten what they deserve……have fun I’m sure the old man will be executed if he hasn’t been already.
Kilometer Kendig (Brussels Sprouts)
@Me Are you serious? The Chinese people did not get what they deserve -- they had no say in the matter. In recent history we have seen many remarkably brave Chinese speaking out and protesting China's increasingly restrictive laws, some going to jail, some being shot. Now protest is virtually impossible within China. Apartment buildings in China are designed with high fences and guarded gates to be self-service prisons, as the Covid-19 lockdowns demonstrated. Virtually everyone in China is a potential prisoner, in the event of civil unrest. I feel nothing but sadness and deep sorrow over what the Chinese people are experiencing now, and their fear for a bleaker future. That is the reality that they now face. Mr. Xiaodong's nationalism was just a cruel illusion.
Chandra Varanasi (Broomfield)
Wonder why countries need some justification or another to wage a war. Why is it so hard to live in peace? Why invent some imagined slight, some dug up historic injustice, some past humiliation to get militant? Is it boredom? Reminds me of a quote I read somewhere: when Thatcher began the Falklands war, many foreigners thought there must be a lot of oil in the Falklands for Britain to be waging such a long distance war. The punchline was "there is a lot less oil to these conflicts than you think."
John (NYC)
Indoctrination. That is simply what the whole of this is about isn't it? I find myself asking a basic question. Why is it most governments do not understand the simple power of freeing their people to do as they please? Or, in looking at all that is done to corral and contain the people (of China) perhaps they do? Power as evince by China and all autocratic societies always lives in such fear, doesn't it? That the People will topple them. The irony is that those that pursue power never understand that it is entirely by their own self-serving actions that they insure they do fall. Unfortunately, this usually comes with much pain and blood. So it goes. John~ American Net'Zen
Paul Wusteman (London)
It turns out that the Russians will believe anything that they are told by their government - hence the Ukraine and the absolute need now to deal with Russian adventurism and imperial pretensions supported (or at least condoned) by the Russian population. There is no reason to assume that the Chinese in a similarly restricted environment, are not exactly the same. Western economic pressure will settle the Russian problem and similar medium/long-term plans have to be made for China.
Kilometer Kendig (Brussels Sprouts)
I don't think people in China have anything near an accurate understanding of the history of the 20th century. Are they taught in school that during World War II Chinese soldiers trained in India alongside Indian and American soldiers? Or that Chinese aviators were trained in America? Not from what I saw in China. If Wang Xiaodong is having second thoughts, perhaps he could start by re-examining what he knows about China's history during the past century or two. A good place to start would be reading Barbara Tuchman's "Stilwell and the American Experience in China, 1911-45." General Vinegar Joe Stilwell was a good, honest man who knew and loved China and the Chinese people. But Tuchman's book does not always present a flattering picture of American or Chinese actions. For entertainment, he might watch Hollywood movies about China and compare them to the facts. "The Inn of the Sixth Happiness" (1958) is an amusing example. Frank Capra's 1932 movie "The Bitter Tea of General Yen," while fictional, seems more realistic. Capra also made "The Battle of China"(1944), a documentary which is loaded with historical information. If there are inaccuracies or bias in such movies and documentaries, it would be worthwhile for someone such as Mr. Xiaodong to provide an objective, factual critique from the Chinese perspective. I would find it interesting. If Mr. Xiaodong wishes to make amends, there is a simple antidote to excessive nationalism: Historical objectivity.
The Constitution Matters (missouri)
@Kilometer Kendig Can I put in a vote for one more recommendation? Edgar Snow's "Red Star Over China", from 1937. How ironic that the cult of Mao (who was just one among two dozen CCP warlords, at the time it was written), and his subsequent international celebrity; how odd that the entire modern-day CCP themselves therefore owe their entire EXISTENCE to the random hagiographic panegyric of some random... American... journalist? Who set the whole "faith" in motion! A Yank! Talk about a totalitarian monolith having humble beginnings! But, then again, americans always were good at selling things.... Starting with a good story. The connections between the US and China are old, and strange, indeed....
Gary (Halifax)
@Kilometer Kendig This is an odd comment. Tuchman is a largely discredited 20th c. popular historian, hardly to be trusted on Chinese history (or any other.) And 'historical objectivity' is a very odd concept. It means something very different in places like Beijing and, say, London (where it simply means 'whitewashing our entire colonial history.')
Kilometer Kendig (Brussels Sprouts)
@The Constitution Matters "Red Star Over China" sounds very interesting. Thank you for the suggestion. Gen. Stilwell respected the Communist fighters far more than Chiang Kai-shek's army, which did not fight the Japanese nearly as aggressively, with thoughts for the future after the war. He urged Washington to open a dialogue with the Communist leaders, expecting that they might gain power eventually, according to Ms. Tuchman. Capra's documentary was also sympathetic to the Communists fighters, which I think were described as guerilla fighters. Maps diagrammed with arrows showed their clever tactics against the Japanese. It should be noted that Capra's "The Battle of China"(1944) was commissioned by the U.S. Army and shown to Allied troops, as well as in movie theaters on the home fronts. Capra was the most popular American director of the 1930s. If America had developed friendlier relations with the Chinese Communists earlier, it might have helped. They also say Ho Chi Minh was an admirer of America, earlier in his life. Russia probably played a role in pushing China into a more anti-American stance. In the end, what could have been done to change the direction of Mao's dictatorial leadership? I think the Chinese and American peoples really could have been good friends if the Communist Revolution had not gotten in the way.
Old Major (HK)
Many countries think of themselves much stronger than they really are -- fuelled in a large part due to echo chamber social media creates and fosters. The article is correct, China is neither as strong as the US nor likely to be in the foreseeable future unless US commits an egregious mistake on its own part. Trumpism is probably China's greatest hope and US's greatest weakness, and it is scary how close US came to destructing its great institutional framework. The irony is that this brush with anarchy was called "America First".
I consider myself a China Hawk on economic, military, and ideological fronts. For example this November I am voting for the Party that I believe will be most likely to hold actual honest hearings into the origin of the virus that killed a million of our citizens and caused enormous economic and social pain without being scared of where the answers may lead. With that said I sincerely hope we are able to avert the worst possible outcomes, and would like US leadership which understands one of key strengths is also allowing other great powers to rise and prosper peacefully. That said, should rising powers continually threaten or use their status to harm our interests we must also have the strength to say enough is enough. We do not owe it to the Arabians to ensure they can ship 10mil barrels a day of oil to China without their militaries having to guarantee safe passage. Their Navies can’t do this and there’s less and less incentive for ours to do so everyday.
Gene (Philadelphia)
@BTS You need to look forward. Lets assume that it was a lab leak. Lets assume our NIH or WHO funded some of the research that is related to COVID19. Are you going to work on policy chsnges or just blame Fauci? Last week a lab in the Boston area performed gain of function research with two COVID19 variants that increased its lethality to 80%. Insanity! What policy proposals will you bring to the table to prevent this research in our country?
David (Henan)
I live in China. I am currently under a lockdown for Covid. As a white American, I've always been treated quite well here, almost to the point of privilege. Nationalism is definitely a strong force, but for the average person I would say it's tempered by pragmatism. I think a big reason there is this nationalism is the overwhelmingly negative press China gets in Western countries. As a an American in China, I click on all articles about this country - 99.999 percent are negative. Including podcasts, late night TV shows, etc. What do you think the response is going to be?
Gary (Halifax)
@David Excellent comment, but it's wasted on this audience. They seem to think going to war with the bulk of Eurasian landmass will be another cakewalk. And in the process, they're willing to revive all the unpleasant xenophobic stereotypes of the Cold War.
Kilometer Kendig (Brussels Sprouts)
@David: "What do you think the response is going to be?" Nothing. Because most Chinese are blocked from accessing Western news media. Using a VPN without approval is illegal and can result in imprisonment, I was told before I left. Even with a good VPN, my connection to foreign sites had slowed to a crawl. Before Xi, most of the Internet was open, and anybody, Chinese or foreign, could get a SIM card without showing ID. That changed completely under Xi. As to your claim of "the overwhelmingly negative press," I am flabbergasted! What kind of press are you reading? The "Global Times"? Real news media is objective. There is no negative bias in the reporting on China in any American media that I see, unless you consider the truth biased, which the Chinese do. As to "negative press" being a "reason" for "nationalism," can you really say that with a straight face? That is utterly absurd. Nationalism is a common device sometimes used by a nation's leaders to distract the attention of the average citizen from their own failings. It is almost inevitable in totalitarian countries, but is sometimes seen, sadly, in Western democracies, including the U.S. Nationalism is very different from patriotism. Nationalism seeks to make one's own nation seem better by denigrating other nations. As to living in China now as an expat (or as a citizen if I were born there), you could not pay me enough money. I prefer freedom.
The Constitution Matters (missouri)
@David With all due respect... I highly doubt you are who you're saying you are. The identity-politic gambit doesn't cut it. Because most Westerners in China think Xi (and his Zero Covid depredations) is completely bonkers. And you would know that if you, a real person really living in China, actually talked to these other Westerners.... Your fellow ex-pats who are out there surrounding you! Because I know I have, taken their temperature... and the consensus (even among ex-CCP fanboys!) is definitely not what your comment is making out. Most, indeed, have been forced to leave the country. They've voted with their feet; and it's reflected in the numbers.... Because Xi has made it almost impossible for foreigners to live in China, or feel welcome.... Anymore. (And you would know that if you were a real person talking to them, of course!) Between wolf warrior saber-rattling and Xi transmogrifying himself into a germaphobe Second Coming of Mao personality-cult; I respectfully would have to disagree with you here... if you're presuming to speak on behalf of all "expats"... in rushing to the defense of the CCP. Because you don't. And the vast majority of expats wouldn't absolve Xi of all responsibility/agency here, in his turn toward totalitarian xenophobia and jingoistic nationalism.... Especially those who lived through the relatively chill and live-and-let-live Hu Jintao era.... I think you may be carrying the water for a vicious autocrat, David. Please reconsider!
Longtime Japan (Japan)
Fascinating that some readers are so obsessed with Trump that they feel the need to mention him in the context of an article that has nothing to do with him. Apparently “Trump Derangement Syndrome” is real.
The Constitution Matters (missouri)
@Longtime Japan No... it's just that Trump tried to overthrow our duly-elected government on the January 6th Capitol Riot: the first time anything like that had happened in over 200 years. So, it was kind of big deal. And still is.... In that he was never impeached or held accountable by the "establishment" GOP (Mitch McConnel/Kevin McCarthy)... just like they were supposed to, as per their oath "to defend the Constitution", (and just like they did with Nixon)... and so instead Trump's terrible brand of Know-Nothing demagogic politics is still gravitating around its figurehead; and zombifying the GOP. The authoritarian tactics Cheeto-Jesus used (or tried to) were identical to the Orwellian ones perfected and deployed in places like Xi's China... each and every day. So again... parallels abound. There's a lot of crossover.... CCP "might makes right": versus popular plebiscite... as its supposed to work in a functioning democracy (and had, here, until MAGA came along). So all in all, since you brought it up (indeed: your comment itself was self-referential/eponymously TDS!)... I don't see mentioning Trump in the context of hyper-nationalist authoritarianism impertinent at all. In many ways: Xi and the Boss of the Apprentice are mirror images of each other. MAGA's holy reverence for its supreme leader in Mar-A-Lago... not so different from Xi's millenarian cult of personality, in Beijing. Nope... not at all.
janson 63 (Los Angeles)
Paradoxically, the USA is the no. 1 country Chinese want to go to! With the lock down in Shanghai and other large cities due to the Covid virus, there are long lines at the US embassy and consulates to get visas for the US.
Longtime Japan (Japan)
Hopefully, his former wishes and current fears will come true, and China will collapse as it deserves to for its belligerent & bellicose behavior, human rights abuses, and decades of intellectual property theft.
Dennis (Plymouth, MI)
Like Kimmel said (or was it Trevor)....They took that guy (Hu Jintao) out of there, like Kanye out of a Bar Mitzvah.
D.A.Oh (Middle America)
That's the thing about creating monsters. Sometimes they keep growing and growing until they're beyond anyone's control.
F (Montana)
Reading this, I'm reminded of the words of the late Edward Osborne Wilson, "We are a civilization with stone age emotions, medieval institutions, and god-like technology." Imperious, exclusionary nationalism exemplifies Wilson's first two assertions, and his third underscores the consequent danger of our era.
Jim R (Omaha)
Looks like Western capitalists financing the strength of China while ruining the lives of their own country's working class was a bad idea. Is W's advice to deal with it by going shopping still the conservative remedy?
I think it’s fair to say that both Ws words, as well as Clinton’s creation of permanent normal trade relations with the Peoples Republic, are from a bygone era.
Dctroid (DC)
China may appear all-powerful today; but it sits on a demographic time bomb that threatens to undermine all its accomplishments. Thanks to the one-child policy that prevailed for decades, China now has a huge portion of its population approaching retirement with a far smaller generation to succeed them. Some projections show that the population could fall by more than 50% by 2060 if current trends persist. The economy is going to shrink dramatically in the next few decades as the workforce precipitously declines. What’s worse, a large generation of workers who grew up in poverty but prospered thanks to their selfless sacrifice and hard work are being replaced by a far smaller generation of “Little Emperors”—spoiled products of relatively wealthy single-child households. And thanks to decades of selective abortions to ensure that the one permitted child was a boy, there is now a huge shortfall in the number of young women available to partner up with all these surplus and sexually deprived boys facing a life without companionship or families. The last time China had such a destabilizing gender imbalance occurred in the wake of a massive famine in the 1830s that helped spark the Taiping Rebellion in the 1850s; a 15-year civil war that about 10% of China’s people. Xi’s rigid totalitarian regime lacks the flexibility that will be needed to implement the innovative social and economic changes that are necessary to ameliorate the worst of these looming consequences.
left coast finch (L.A.)
@Dctroid All of these macho, egotistical, and, frankly primitive men strutting their power trips on the world stage lack “the flexibility that will be needed to implement the innovative social and economic changes that are necessary to ameliorate the worst of these looming consequences”: Xi, Putin, Trump, religious extremist demigods, billionaire bros, and all of their worshipers and followers. This planet won’t heal until we kick them out of our societies and fully embrace the multicultural, gender-fluid, socialistic potential that is a freely expressive and mutually cooperative humanity.
Kilometer Kendig (Brussels Sprouts)
@Dctroid - Valid points. Chinese men have sometimes resorted to importing women from other Asian countries, particularly Vietnam (not always willingly, as the NYT has reported). Who would want to move to Xi's ultra-totalitarian China now? And how would Chinese bachelors pay for their mail order brides when so many are out of work because of the Covid-19 lockdowns? From the way China's nationalists tell it, people from everywhere should be begging to be let in to such a wonderful nation! For a while, well-educated Chinese expats were returning. But now a brain drain is likely under Xi. How many Chinese women will want to get married and have children under the new Communist policies? The CCP is a powerful force for abstinence. I asked an educated Chinese woman, and she said she did not find most Chinese men attractive; she preferred Asian men from other nations. Left to its own devices, China would never have come this far this fast, and would never achieve its lofty goals. Chinese leaders know that, and have a simple solution: They cheat. China steals knowledge through hacking, espionage, breaking into electronic devices of foreign visitors, and bribing foreigners to betray their country by passing them secret information. Americans know all this; it has been in the news for years now. Many young Chinese are unaware that China has had even the slightest help in the development of its modern manufacturing techniques and technology. But others would love to leave.
Joe Wolf (Seattle)
China's own 2020 census shows an inverted "population pyramid" that will cut its population in half in the next 40 years or so. The US talent behind its chip industry is departing. It imports vast amounts of fuel, food, and fertilizer. Deindustrialization and social collapse are real possibilities. China's days as a world power will be over soon.
jamiebaldwin (Redding, CT)
Persons or nations motivated by the desire to demonstrate their greatness typically end up proving themselves to be not so great. Contrast the United States' willingness but unsureness in undertaking to defeat Hitler with its hubris in seeking to dominate VietNam. I think other nations will respect China to the same extent that China respects other nations. Bullies may inspire fear and win the loyalty of cowards and weaklings, but they do not earn respect. It is usually weaklings who are preoccupied with projecting strength. (See Putin, Vladimir; and, while your at it, compare Nazi Germany's invasion of Russia with Russia's invasion of Ukraine.)
bubba (TN)
Never heard of this guy
Kilometer Kendig (Brussels Sprouts)
@bubba: "Never heard of this guy" Neither had I. I never had heard of James Lovelock until I read about him in a profile in the New York Times back in the 1970s. (I can't find that weekend article (Sunday Magazine?), but here's his NYT obit: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/07/27/climate/james-lovelock-dead.html?searchResultPosition=1) That's why this is called a "newspaper." I wonder if most Chinse have heard of Mr. Xiaodong? This profile has helped me to understand the trend in China toward nationalism. It is consistent with what I observed in young Chinese college students, who were sometimes quite adept at parroting the CCP party line in English. How much of this they truly believed, deep down, I could not safely assess. It saddens me to think of what these young people are going through now. I assume many of them feel betrayed, which is not entirely a bad thing: learning to question your government is an important lesson, even if it is in inner sanctum of your deepest thoughts. Mr. Xiaodong seems to be learning this, too. I suspect most Chinese really don't care about this Chinese Nationalism hokum. They probably just want the Chinese Communist Party to leave them alone.
magicisnotreal (earth)
Sow the wind....
Sara (NYC)
This sounds like many of our Bush-era and prior Republican officials. Of course, just like Mr. Wang, the consequence of their cynical actions was to elevate crazy zealots to power. And like Mr. Wang, their choice is then to follow the zealots, or to accept total marginalization (even villainization). Better would have been to have had a reasonable perspective when they actually had power to exercise.
Bob M**** (East Of Eden)
According to the Chinese: China is weak. China is strong. China is poor. China is rich. China needs to model itself on … Others need to model themselves on China. How China views itself is a joke. They control the media, internet and disappear all critics. The leaders of China are always flawless, even when they aren’t. Yes and Covid came from America. Did they learn these techniques from the Republicans, or vice-versa?
The Constitution Matters (missouri)
@Bob M**** Indeed: when CCP critics point out the danger posed by an entire country of 1.4 billion people not having any free speech/any independent journalism/any forums of dissent/any freedom of thought; this is what they're referring to! Most Westerners don't understand the degree to which the Chinese populace has been brainwashed by the CCP. Decades and decades of expunging any other source of alternative or "non-regime-friendly" information. It's a well-oiled disinformation/propaganda machine that has seeded the entire Chinese collective unconscious... at a scale even Orwell couldn't have imagined. When tankies/CCP-apologists try to make the case that it's "no big deal" China doesn't have free speech -- because that's just the "Chinese way" or something, (even though Taiwan is doing just fine on the self-expression front!) -- we need to keep pointing them back at the facts on the ground... and connecting the dots for them if we must. Because a lack of free speech INEVITABLY leads to militarism/belligerent supremacist xenophobia. It's a simple equation. Before any external war of imperial conquest; the first thing that must be overcome is the critical thinking of the internal populace. To stifle its ability to analyze a situation on its own, without the micromanagerial prompts, threats and coercions of the State... Just like Putin destroyed independent media in Russia, before electing to try to take over Ukraine. The lack of free speech in China is not okay.
Kilometer Kendig (Brussels Sprouts)
@The Constitution Matters I was surprised to hear a Chinese college student use the term "brainwashing" in reference to America. I told him to be careful how he used it, explaining that the term originated in China, and entered the English language in connection to the Chinese treatment of American POWs during the Korean War. Here is an explanation of the etymology from Wikipedia: "The Chinese term xǐnǎo (洗腦,"wash brain") was originally used to describe the coercive persuasion used under the Maoist government in China, which aimed to transform "reactionary" people into "right-thinking" members of the new Chinese social system. The term punned on the Taoist custom of "cleansing / washing the heart / mind" (xǐxīn,洗心) before conducting ceremonies or entering holy places. "The Oxford English Dictionary records the earliest known English-language usage of the word "brainwashing" in an article by a journalist Edward Hunter, in Miami News, published on 24 September 1950. See also: Thought reform in China" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brainwashing#China_and_the_Korean_War There is still freedom of speech in China, as long as you are talking to yourself. Very quietly.
ad rem (USA)
Yet another Dr. Frankenstein.
Donna Chang (NYC)
Lets be very clear folks: - The People's Republic of China is an existential threat to the United States, our future and our way of life - Every time we spend our money on "made in China" we are funding an enemy government - did we buy engineered products and plastic toys from Germany during the 1940s - no. So why keep buying from Communist China
Fadda Mush (Flatbush)
B/c Americans are averse to any kind of discomfort.
left coast finch (L.A.)
@Donna Chang I’ve been scrutinizing every “made in” label for the last decade trying to avoid supporting any country that doesn’t support my basic values. It’s now including sexist, racist, homophobic states from which I purchase online. It’s been hard at times but worth it. It has also slowed my spending down greatly. If I don’t have time to research, I simply don’t buy until I do. Every so often, I do relent if the need is overwhelming but I’ve now learned that I just don’t need to buy as much as I thought I did anymore. I also spend far more in thrift stores these days too.
Donna Chang (NYC)
@left coast finch - now that is what we call a Win-Win - save the planet while saving money by avoiding useless purchases!
pigeon (mt vernon, wi)
When I was younger there was a popular trope of the "ugly American", the brash, arrogant, overly self assured loud mouth who strode the world trumpeting post war success and advising everyone to conform to that notion of future development. Now that stereotyped individual has been replaced by its Chinese counterpart, especially among younger aspirants flush with money and success who feel it is their right and privilege to tell the world, especially what used to be known as the "third world", how to conduct themselves. Mr. Xiaodong is the progenitor of that hubris and it is no more attractive coming from the east than it was from the west.
Kilometer Kendig (Brussels Sprouts)
@pigeon - I don't know where you get your facts from, but they are wrong. "The Ugly American" was a novel by William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick written in 1958. The eponymous character was actually the hero, the good guy, the opposite of what you describe. From Wikipedia: "According to an article published in Newsweek in May 1959, the 'real' 'Ugly American' was identified as an International Cooperation Administration technician named Otto Hunerwadel, who, with his wife Helen, served in Burma from 1949 until his death in 1952. They lived in the villages, where they taught farming techniques, and helped to start home canning industries." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ugly_American#Characters_in_real_life Perhaps you should read the book, and learn more about American history, particularly the Marshall Plan (which rightfully should have been called the Truman Plan, but President Truman modestly wanted to avoid politicizing it), and the Peace Corps. America never behaved like the warmongering bully that the nationalist People's Republic of China has now become. I am confident that American tourists never expressed such undisguised contempt and hatred for the countries they were visiting that I have heard from some young Chinese tourists. But not all Chinese tourists are like that, of course. Some seek to learn from their experiences. Not all Chinese have been brainwashed by the Communist Party; access to the Internet was largely unblocked before Xi took power.
Kilometer Kendig (Brussels Sprouts)
@pigeon FYI: In the book, "The Ugly American," by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer, the character described as "the ugly American" was a good guy, and based on a real person.
The Constitution Matters (missouri)
Jingoistic, chauvinistic, xenophobic nationalism -- coming from any corner... including from Trump/MAGA -- is a potentially very dangerous thing, that should never be encouraged.... Responsible international stakeholders with the power of the pursestrings (ie, those Western financial interests still enabling Xi's illiquid capital markets), should take heed; and head for the exits right about now. Because situations like Xi's -- a strongman cult of personality without any of the other checks and balances that prevail in a democratic commonwealth -- can and do go off the rails. All too often: extreme nationalism will be harnessed to deflect attention from problems at home-- latching onto an external enemy as a scapegoat... in a phenomenon known as "wag the dog"-- just like we saw with Xi's manufactured crises over Taiwan last summer. A China that had a more diffuse, responsible, power-sharing arrangement would never have engaged in such hysterical, performative histrionics (emanating from one single man!); but because Xi's Zero Covid policy overreaches were so stridently unmitigated failures, he wanted to consolidate support at home by demonizing the threat of a harmless old woman like Nancy Pelosi. As Samuel Johnson pointed out: "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel". Let's hope Xi's government finds other ways of extolling and displaying the greatness of China, than demonizing other nations and threatening his peaceful neighbors with indiscriminate murder.
Braden Lindstrom (Utah)
Busy giddy minds with foreign quarrels - Shakespeare
SomeGuy (Ohio)
I wonder how long before Wang Xiaodong "disappears" like Jack Ma did, or is given the Chinese equivalent of the "bum's rush" like former President Hu Jintao. Or worse.
Wang yuhui (A 404 country)
Chinese nationalism is still a frightening monster, from kids to teenagers to adults to olders, most have an opinion which government and official media both provoke: Western countries are so bad, just a bunch of enemies. Moreover, there is no critical thinking courses in Chinese schools, even at college, Students need to take plenty of mandatory propaganda-like courses( theories of Marxism, Maoism and newly Xi's). Most teenagers are little pinks, and in recent situations which include US-China tension and Xi's arrogance the trend of nationalism is more extreme. I'm worried about it, What a toxic thing! And I think nationalism always lead to heavy toll in the world, it only can teach us blind arrogance.
Blue Flamingo (New York)
He sounds more like a bitter and aging thinker than a truly marginalized voice. I pity him as much as I pity Mitch McConnell for becoming a boogieman of the far right - which is to say, not at all. Nationalism is a blight, one that is seizing hold everywhere now it seems. There are no moderates - to me, they are all extreme, even if they are currently popular. Wang Xiaodong has no right to complain that the irrational extremism he reveled in has grown too extreme and irrational. I only hope that he never sees his ideology brought to its natural conclusion by the zealots he helped create - for our sake, not for his.
S.B. (S.F.)
The father of Chinese nationalism will find himself to be the father of the bloodiest war in history if his country isn’t careful. And it need not even involve the US - of the ten bloodiest wars in history thus far, five have been Chinese civil wars. They really need to turn things down a couple of notches there.
Detached Outsider (Johannesburg)
Although intoxicating and deeply self-fulfilling, uncontrolled populist group bravado can become the perfect recipe for stagnation and conflict, both internally and against powerful others.
Mark (San Diego)
He helped light a fire that inevitably burns out of control. Smart doesn’t mean wise.
shyegye (LA)
"I created them, but I never told them to be this crazy." When you unleash crazy, it doesn't care what you told it.
The Constitution Matters (missouri)
@shyegye Sadly Orwell already laid this all out almost a century ago. Don't support totalitarian regimes that can disappear you/your entire life's work without a trace! It always come back to bite one in the derriere, sooner or later. Humanistic individuals, of whatever nationality, should never support regimes that try to rewrite the past. Let's hope Chinese intellectuals/ Westerners of good faith can continue to see past their governmental differences... and remember the bonds of Culture which transcend nationalism. In that spirit, may I share this Du Fu Tang Dynasty gem: "It is almost as hard for friends to meet As for the Orion and Scorpius. Tonight then is a rare event, Joining, in the candlelight, Two men who were young not long ago But now are turning grey at the temples. To find that half our friends are dead Shocks us, burns our hearts with grief. We little guessed it would be twenty years Before I could visit you again. When I went away, you were still unmarried; But now these boys and girls in a row Are very kind to their father's old friend. They ask me where I have been on my journey; And then, when we have talked awhile, They bring and show me wines and dishes, Spring chives cut in the night-rain And brown rice cooked freshly a special way. My host proclaims it a festival, He urges me to drink ten cups— But what ten cups could make me as drunk As I always am with your love in my heart? Tomorrow the mountains will separate us; After tomorrow—who can say?"
shyegye (LA)
@The Constitution Matters Twin crazies have been unleashed, East and West. Not surprisingly, they hate us and each other quite equally. Let us hope that the mountains that will separate us will still have passes and be subject to erosion. And let us hope we still have time for an 'after tomorrow'.
Mike L (South Carolina)
China is a very dangerous country. Wrapped up in its own hubris, China has convinced itself that it is superior to the West in every way. This pride will most certainly be China’s downfall. No communist country has ever existed for more than a century. So we shall see…..
Neel Kumar (Silicon Valley)
@Mike L China is NOT a communist country. It is a capitalist country with a nominally communist party at the helm that does not brook discontent.
Craig (San Francisco)
@Neel Kumar I agree with you to an extent. I think China WAS a capitalist country with an authoritarian government, for much of its rise. When I first visited Beijing in 1993, I was astonished at the level of capitalism in the night markets, before any of the corporate development took place. But these days, Xi has now determined that the country's economic interests are subservient to the interests of the Party, and he will destroy whatever business, no matter how big or successful, that does not acquiesce to the demands of the CCP. He is also refocusing on redistributing wealth and smacking down the entrepreneurs in the country, who are leaving quickly. It's more from the Mao playbook than that of Deng Xiaoping or Jiang Zemin.
Alex (California)
The only remnants of communism left in China are the authoritarian regime and rampant corruption among the elite. Economically they're a juggernaut and that's not going anywhere anytime soon.
magicisnotreal (earth)
My pops was in essence a clone of tfg. But like most awful people he was not entirely awful. One thing he said to me that has rung true more and more as I get older is this; "If you have to tell me who you are. You aren't."
It is not unusual for youthful fervor to soften as one ages. Such is the way of life.
Observer (Canada)
Chinese youth today, let's say those born after 1990, experienced a China very different to that of Wang Xiaodong when he grew up. They received better education, they did not suffer from famines, many lived in China's large cities, some travelled or studied abroad. They are active on social media. They can afford to traverse China on the high-speed train network or by planes. They can't live without their smartphone. Even in their relatively young lives they witnessed the rapid advance and transformation of China in the last 10-20 years. They are much more confident in themselves and in the China's leadership than the previous generations. Optimism among Chinese youth is high compared to those of youths elsewhere. Xi's message from the just completed 20th Party Congress emphasized that China is under grave external threats and Chinese should not be complacent.  There is an ideology war going on between the colour revolution instigators and their targeted governments. Heightened nationalism among Chinese youth goes a long way to disarm the attackers. Of course hubris and exceptionalism have brought down great powers. Arrogance is a danger, not nationalism.
boston doctor (a logical world)
@Observer nationalistic jingoisim goes hand in hand with authoritarian regimes, nothing new here. As for the Chinese youh, I can't blame them too much--if I had been spoonfed propaganda since birth maybe I would think similarly. I pity them--they are still waiting for the real internet. And btw, no need to make false equivalences with the US re propaganda, etc--nobody is buying that nonsense.
Michael (Syracuse)
@Observer said:” Optimism among Chinese youth is high compared to those of youths elsewhere.” This may be overstating things as shown by the following article about Chinese youth, which is subtitled “ Draconian policies leave little economic or political hope.” https://foreignpolicy.com/2022/10/24/young-chinese-zero-covid-future/ Among other things, Chinese aged 16-24 have an unemployment rate of about 20% and a majority of college students who graduated this past summer remain unemployed. Many are “lying flat” (their term, not mine) and rejecting mainstream Chinese values.
Thomas Zaslavsky (Binghamton, N.Y.)
@Observer Mr. Wang's nationalism is arrogant, and all the more that of the people he criticizes as going too far, including Mr. Xi. Let it be said that the U.S. is not exempt from this description.
John (Singapore)
Not nearly far enough.
WSciman (TN)
@John Yes indeed. Very hard for many intellectuals to eat crow. Also, in his case, a combination of mellowing and balancing of views that comes with with age and experience, an outright fear of a Chinese prison, and worse to him, the erasure of his thought, records and continuing influence from the Chineses repositories.
See also