The Rise of Nations


I just caught this story on ESWN and found it extremely interesting to get a more in depth look at what Chinese people think. The article is basically a collection of translated comments from people who happened to have watched CCTV's recent 12-part series called The Rise of Nations. The show details, using CCTV-style history, how major players of the last couple centuries have risen to power; America, Japan, Russia, the UK and Germany are all covered. Here are some of ESWN's translations of the original comments:

What does "The Rise of Nations" mean?  Why use this title?  I have not yet see the series.  But several days ago I saw the commercial for the series.  At the time, I felt uneasy about the title "The Rise of Nations."  When Chairman Mao got up at Tiananmen Square and proclaimed, "The Chinese people have stood up!" we rose.  Afterwards we busied ourselves with helping the oppressed people of Asia, Africa and Latin America to fight the imperialists.  Then we became the strategic partner of the United States and we were proud and honored to be sitting with the superstrong Big Brother (unfortunately a few of their guided missiles hit our embassy by mistake and the honor of the strategic partner was shattered).  Therefore, I have no interest in the rise of nations.  I care about the rise of a system of law, democracy and justice.

Today's episode (the second chapter on America) mentioned President Roosevelt's freedom from want.  I recall that President Roosevelt said that humans have four basic freedoms.  CCTV avoided mentioning the other three freedoms.  For the record, here is Roosevelt's complete list:

  1. The first is freedom of speech and expression –everywhere in the world.
  2. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way– everywhere in the world.
  3. The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants –everywhere in the world.
  4. The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor –anywhere in the world.

To put it bluntly, this was just more false voices packaged through a party mouthpiece.  There is nothing new here.  I even think that the series is intentionally misleading the people and advocating the resurgence of the Chinese people.  This is the kind of thing that certain leaders like.

I just finished watching the first chapter on Russia.  I suddenly understood the true intent of CCTV: expansion by force does not work; capitalism does not work; the simple socialism of Soviet Russia was doomed to fail.  So the only thing left is the "peaceful rise of a harmonious socialism with unique Chinese characteristics!"

Now, of course it can't be generalized that all Chinese people think the same (as these comments quickly prove), but in day to day dealings, I'm betting most of us laowai would agree there is an assonant quality to much of what we hear from the mouths of the Mainland; which is to say, the government line.

This has got me thinking, is this just a mask that is presented to foreigners? Do many Chinese feel its ok to voice their displeasure about China to each other, but feel it will cause them to lose face in front of people from other nations? Is a voice of unity somehow connected to nationalism and pride in one's country?

Sociologically (of which I have no right to really speak with more than a Gr. 10 Family Values class knowledge about), it does add up I guess. I would bitch and complain about members of my family, but if someone spoke ill of my family, I would defend them immediately. Taking this one step further, while I lived in Canada I had no shortage of things to complain about (going so far as running for government in two elections[2003/2004]), but I often only speak of its good qualities while abroad. And again, would be quick to defend it should it be verbally attacked by a non-patriot.

Anyway, whatever the reason, it's nice to see varying opinions stuck in with the regurgitated propaganda that are my day-to-day conversations in China.

8 Responses

  1. Well, the opinions may be varied, but the response to such opinions seems to be the same. You seem to have been blocked again. As usual, proxy got around it.

    Maybe someone (the guy with the switch) read your last post and decided, “Damn, they figured it out. This’ll show ’em.”

  2. Not blocked here….check your ISP Chris….

    I completely agree with your point that foreigners once outside their country will defend their nationality and heritage to the bitter death (Imagine a Klyngon cage match if you will). China is like that, praise their foul alcohol and you shall be loved, insult the memory of their fallen idols or ping pong and vengance shall be theirs.

    Ahhh ye olde CCTV 9, propoganda mouthpiece to the masses….

  3. I think in general, they’ll defend China.

    But every now and then you’ll run across someone who will confide in you that they don’t like China. I’ve met a few. One was a insane university student who was in love with all things Japan and has since moved there.

    Another was a cab driver that I had on the weekend when I was up in Shenyang. He was complaining about how Chinese people are just after money. Take, take, take, he said… Chinese people are not cool (buxing), he said.

  4. Hi Ryan, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

    I have a few really close Chinese friends, and they will quite openly discuss China’s faults. Surprise surprise!!! – they have similar ideas to us as to how things could be improved. These are usually people in their late 40’s and 50’s who have lived through some interesting times. They have all done pretty well out of China, and are not stuck for a few bob, but will still offer constructive criticism.

    On the other hand, a lot of younger people (like some of our school’s adult students) have lived life in a coccoon (sorry about spelling) and probably think ‘if it aint bust, don’t fix it’ (if they think at all about such things). They tend to be vociferous in their protection of their motherland from slights by Laowei.

    Also, I have even met people who spit on the floor at the name of Mao, and they were comparative strangers. So who knows what Chinese people really think?

    Talk about inscrutable!!!!

    Just my observation.


  5. @Chris: I was worried I might be. I don’t know what it is, perhaps my URI has been flagged as a “minor problem, to be watched” or something. I’ve not had any problems today accessing the site though, and I seem to usually be the first to get locked out.

    @Valehru: hehe, Klingon death match… I miss ST:TNG.

    @Panda/Phoebs: I’ve met a couple people like that, but they are generally very few and very far between.

    This post really got me thinking today that this is largely why I don’t have a lot of Chinese friends. It’s not just that I wouldn’t get along with them, but really… they would hate me after not too long. I’m not one to know when to keep quiet and not state my opinion. It’s a wonder Maggie ever agreed to marry me. I think making friends with Chinese people in China requires either an amazing amount of patience and understanding about cultural/situational ignorance, or said ignorance in ones self. That or a bit of luck that you’ll meet some really great people despite it all.

  6. You raise a very good point, and one I think is true of Korea, but I am not sure about China. I have a couple of very good Korean friends who tell me that Koreans will put on a “Korea is perfect front with foreigners,” but then act far differently among themselves.

  7. I had considered that perhaps the oppressive nature of China (especially last century) may have contained some talking openly about their disdain for certain things here. In talking to the wife (or soon to be at least), she did confirm my original thought that Chinese people continually say derogatory things about China and the status of things, but would not say these things to outsiders as they don’t want to be looked down upon.

    She furthered this by saying the mind-set is not limited in Chinese interactions between themselves and foreigners, but also on smaller scales as well. She made the example that even if a family hates each other they will present that they care deeply for each other to their neighbours out of fear of being looked down upon. That seems to fit well with my own analogy above about me speaking ill of my family, but damned if anyone else can.

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