A Sub-Culture of Pride: Why the Chinese Are So Patriotic

Setting aside the situation of China pointing missiles at my homeland (i.e., Taiwan) or the news we hear in the States about media censorship by the Chinese Communist regime, general violations of human and civil rights, lead-poisonous toys, subjugation of the Tibetan people, outlawing reincarnation (just because they can?), among other miscellaneous shameful ways China behaves, I could not have foreseen myself singing in the shower a song with the lyrics, “I love you, China! I love you, China!” I also never imagined myself glowing with admiration for the Chinese people (look at how they came together to help victims of the Sichuan earthquake; when Hurricane Katrina happened, Americans plundered and looted; when 512 shook up China, the Chinese ran toward ground zero to rescue their countrymen). Dare I say it, my heart has begun to beat with a pulse of pride in China, the blessed Middle Kingdom.

Why? Because here in China, I’ve been watching TV and shopping at malls.

There has been a massive scale movement in both the government-controlled media and the subculture of Generation X and Y to breed patriotism. And I, like many other folks in China, have been swept away with giddy nationalism and gotten brainwashed. But can I really help it, without proactive self-evaluation and 24/7 critical analysis? Why exhaust myself like that? Especially when the “I Love You, China!” jingle is so darn catchy! As I mentioned, I absent-mindedly croon the chorus in the shower.

A popular T-shirt worn by youths in China sports a knock-off of the “I (Heart) New York” logo design, replacing “New York” with “China.” Waiters at night clubs, restaurants, and mall employees wear the “I (Heart) China” T-shirts as part of the company uniform. Furthermore, the T-shirts are sold for cheap anywhere one buys clothing, so many of the kids walking the streets are wearing these tees as well. When I passed a street vendor selling cute little baby tees with the logo and the tees cost 10 yuan (about 2 bucks US), I succumbed and bought one, too. I now own an “I (Heart) China” baby tee. Who among those familiar with my politics could have seen that one coming?

Also, if I watch three commercials, one of those three will refer to the greatness of China. A particular toothpaste commercial begins with a celebrity declaring, “I trust in the strength of China. Likewise, I trust in the strength of [Toothpaste Brand].” I’m not too good with my philosophy, but I think that’s a logical fallacy. Moving on.

There are frequent interruptions to scheduled programming on TV to air government-sponsored music videos featuring singers belting from the Great Wall or dancing hand in hand in the blooming pastures of central China. (There are tons of depictions in the media of various minority cultures in China wearing their traditional garb, holding hands and smiling, a la It’s-A-Small-World-After-All; who’d know from watching such footage that many of these cultures clash in civil strife and ethnic tension.) The songs for these music videos are always about the beauty, the magnificence, the strength and tenacity of China, the determination and heart of the Chinese people, yada yada ad nauseum. I say ad nauseum now, but at the time of watching such musical numbers, I get moved to tears and feel compelled to leap into the air and applaud. They’re so feel-good you can’t possibly watch unscathed. The direct correlation of America’s MTV-youth-subculture here in China would be pop stars singing and rapping about how great it is to be Chinese and fashion that include national Chinese emblems, like the Chinese flag.

There’s at least one channel on TV that broadcasts around the clock heartrending inspirational news about the earthquake. By news, I don’t mean the corruption of government officials in the Sichuan area who let negligent construction of public schools go uninspected, thereby causing the buildings to collapse like a tower of playing cards. By news, I mean the heroism of Chinese soldiers, the bravery of law enforcement officers, and the greatness of earthquake victims who received government relief checks but gave every penny right back to the government to “help other earthquake victims…” or so the story goes. The truth of the matter? I do not know. Nobody but the government really knows. Basically, after watching that channel for an hour, one cannot help but feel a sense of respect and esteem for the Chinese government, grateful are we to the core for all the Communist Party has done to rescue earthquake victims.

I caught the evening news a few nights ago and couldn’t help noting the difference of tone in Chinese news broadcasting and American news broadcasting. If negative news is reported in China, such as a horrific crime or natural disaster, it ends the broadcast with an uplifting message about what the Chinese government has done to step in and help victims or survivors. This gives the viewer a sense of security and reliance and faith in the government. I don’t ever recall feeling that way after watching American news broadcasting. In American news broadcasting, I get the daily sense that the world is coming to an end tomorrow and all hell is breaking loose. The more news I watch, the less sense of security and reliance and faith in the government I feel. No wonder the Chinese people seem to love their government and we Americans seem to hate ours.

Finally, while the rest of Asia’s soap operas and dramas are about unrequited love, suicide in the name of love, threats of suicide in the name of love, and general deaths as a result of being lovestruck, soap operas and dramas produced in mainland China are about the Communist Party. I’m constantly flipping past programs on TV about the courage and bravery of soldiers during the Cultural Revolution, the Communists fighting the KMT, the evil KMT, and the intellectualism of Maoist philosophy. The number of military movies is quite frightening. After watching just one or two of them, the seeds of patriotism were deeply implanted into my subconscious. Nurturing that seed with a shower of Chinese-pride commercials and music videos and before I knew it, I found myself a born again Chinese patriot. And I’m not even Chinese. I’m Taiwanese.

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About akrypti

small town roots. enthusiast of many trades. oh, and yeah, high-maintenance like you wouldn't believe. tweet with me @akrypti.
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