The Rise of Nations

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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.

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