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Hung Huang on nationalism

In this interview, blogging media figure Hung Huang talks about Chinese nationalism and hurt feelings. See also Hung Huang interviews on Danwei TV: Blogger, film maker.

There are currently 10 Comments for Hung Huang on nationalism.

Comments on Hung Huang on nationalism

The funny part for her is no matter how successful she is in China, she is only labelled as a blogger by MSNBC.

She was doing ok, and then came the same old song:

"Our cultural deficit to the world is so great that nobody really knows what China is like..."

That is utter nonsense. Period.

She's spot on at the end though, when she raises the issue of the Chinese people having no sense yet of the global responsibility that comes with superpower territory.

As the Chinese people don't get to choose their leaders (although elected GWB's global responsibility is open to the severest scrutiny), it is the unelected leaders of China that we need to look to for moral leadership.

No sign of that yet.

her point was that China has already been far more influenced by the West than outsiders realize and she is correct.

"Our cultural deficit to the world is so great that nobody really knows what China is like..."

"Our cultural deficit to the world is so great that nobody really knows what China is like..."

she is right. see the article by Xu Wu, The real US deficit with China – knowledge,

when she talked about how the Chinese were shocked to see and unable to comprehend the power of idea embodied in Dalai Lama's world-wide influence, she completely failed to mention, and the majority of Chinese wouldn't know, the complex working-out of this particular idea of Dalai Lama's have come to power as we see today. It's anything but a victory of pure idea.

there is a thing called collective unconscious

for years west just eagerly drawing china in the only way they can understand, the mirror image of themselves, as Soviet Union in Afghanistan, as Nazi germany, as red Cambodia, functions like ads provoking ppl on unconsciously level. it's such a efficient and economic way for them to feel good. and they dont bother to check out what's really going on since they already put themselves on the seat of judge.

so when we talk about issues on tibet, there r totally two different images in both sides' mind, so conflict start at the base of this pseudo-, malfunction- communication.

and its a bundle mixed with white superiorism, religious frenzy, Eurocentrism, political interest of states and nato, loads of bad smell odds and ends.

"west just eagerly drawing china in the only way they can understand"

Yeah, this had nothing to do with the cultural revolution, Tiananmen square, the Korean war etc. etc. etc. Yadda, Yadda, Yadda - you have no doubt heard this all before.

Where do negative attitudes towards China come from? Simple - China is a dictatorship, and a pretty extreme one at that.

Is, is, is, is a dictatorship - people will never forget this.

This very fact is the thing that drives western attitudes towards China, change this, and western attitudes will change.

I think she did a pretty good job of explaining how and why the Chinese (some of the Chinese?) may feel the way they do in response to the criticism (right or wrong, grounded or ungrounded and valid or invalid as it may be) about the Tibet situation or about some of the other features or characteristics of China and the Chinese system that are either tacitly or explicitly not liked by some "Westerners".

I don't know if Chinese people actually feel and react the way they do precisely for the reasons she outlined, (and indeed also feel as she described) but I give her the benefit of the doubt about both, or more accurately, simply respect her expertise about her own people, until if and when it may be demonstrated otherwise.

And I also added in "some of the Chinese" because I would think that just as is it is the case in every other country on this planet the population of China is notwithstanding some of the perhaps somewhat greater ideological homogeneity, still reasonably and perhaps even remarkably diverse. (including psychologically)

As a counter-example (the one she brought up herself) if a Chinese person came to the U.S. and went up to some American on the street and said "I hate your Iraq war", there would be at least some people who would say...yes brother and so do I.....and there would be others who might disagree and try to discuss, ....and still others who might take offense and even more so because the comment was coming from a foreigner.

And such diversity of reaction I would expect to exist not only with respect to political issues but also with respect to many issues of a socio-cultural nature.

I also would like to think - perhaps erroneously- that the Chinese too might show some very similar measure of political, social, cultural, economic ideological, and psychologically-determined variation in both their perceptions and their understandings of other peoples and nationalities and issues.

But the bottom line for me vis-a-vis the Chinese after seeing her video remains unchanged. And it is the very same bottom line I would employ or adopt vis a vis any other nationality or people.

If I like or if I do not like something about their country or their government or their culture (and typically I hardly ever dislike any countries or peoples or cultures per se, but rather their governments, political systems and their respective results or effects) generally I will say so. (unless there may be some special or particular reason to keep quiet)

Of course if I need to express something negative I will try to say so politely and while also trying to understand how the recipient of the criticism or comment may feel or interpret what I am saying. (As in any interpersonal communication) (or perhaps following so called "good interpersonal relations psychology" (which I also happen to think is very simplistic) intersperse it with some praise if indeed I also do feel some praise)

But I will NOT self-censor just because someone else might not like what I may think or I might have to say about him/her or his country. Just as I don't expect others to do the same vis-a-vis me.

And I certainly do understand that there are significant cultural differences also regarding the cultural acceptability of such straightforwardness or lack thereof.

But the bottom line here too is that just as I don't expect any Chinese person (or any other nationality) or group to be or to think like me, I ask them to kindly not expect it of me either to think or behave or feel like them.

We all live in a world of remarkable diversity and heterogeneity in which some people will like us and some will not for a whole host of possible reasons, right or wrong, anchored in reality or not, as these may be.

And also because they either may have different values or because they may have misunderstood us, or perhaps because they have indeed understood us very well and still may not like everything they see.

I think free speech, democracy, dialogue, and reasonable reciprocal tolerance are the principal ways and means that are most effective for dealing with and moving forward on such differences -sometimes reconciling them and sometimes not- of perception or of understanding or of substance.

And if I understood her correctly it would appear that she probably would agree with the preceding. And so it shouldn't be that hard to talk to her regardless of her blogging and "extra-blogging" background and experience or about further substantive points of agreement or of disagreement.

And I am certainly always happy to hear that bloggers DO also have other lives!

I watched the video of the above interview once again and I would like to add a few additional comments, but this time of a more personal nature:

I can certainly understand -also given their recent (and not so recent) history - that the Chinese may see their own nationalism and national pride as very important and their accompanying (and so far) "peaceful rising" as having greatly benefitted them to the point of also trumping any concerns they may have about the presence or absence of any movement towards more democracy, and any "inconvenience" that such may bring to them.

And I think I also can understand that the Chinese at this historical moment may be prioritizing (over- prioritizing?) some fairly "practical values" (as she called them) about financial success, power and etc. etc. (though I personally think other values are in fact in the end /ultimately a lot more "practical" at least in terms of how to lead and achieve an overall "successful" life at the psychological level)

And so once again I also do hope that there might be some more enlightened Chinese out there regarding these "values" aspects too. (and I do NOT mean "enlightened" in the sense of the Dalai Lama at all, since generally speaking I am also anti-religion and anti any other forms of transcendental superstitious philosophy)

But in fact I am also very afraid of any manifestations of excessive nationalism and patriotism and of any other such "prides" , glories or collective narcissism or triumphalism almost as much as I am afraid of unchecked so called "fundamentalist" religious fervor.

And this whether such nationalism may be German, Japanese, American, Russian, Israeli, Iranian or Chinese just to name a few examples that one could have some fairly good reasons to fear based on either their recent "performances" or their possible future performances on the world stage. (but there are many others and many lesser players too such as for instance the "democratic" republic of Congo which should not be excluded just because its own sides and factions are militarily weaker)

That is, I personally do not like "nationalism" and "expressions of great collective pride" - (whether national, religious or ethnic) not only because when these are properly analyzed they typically quickly also lead to external factors as well as internal ones and to contingencies to explain whatever successes or "superiorities" they may have achieved, but also because I do not think these are a very likely to be positive or constructive forces for peace, stability and sustainability in the 21st century.

Nor do I think that personal financial success and power are the most important goals and values in this world either. In fact I tend to think rather the opposite, with some qualifications and measure of course.

And so maybe (if the lady is right) this would tend to place me in some sort of stark ideological or values opposition to a lot of Chinese as she describes them at least. (and to a lot of Americans too by the way)

Should I then therefore somehow refrain and restrain myself from voicing my own opinions (as misguided as these may appear to be to others) simply because these other people may feel "hurt" or end up "taking it personally" or might be very confused by my own reactions to them?

Which is what I thought she seemed to definitely be suggesting at the outset of her interview when she said "you just can't do that"? Or should I ultimately not give much of a damn about anyone's hurt feelings and instead politely stand up for whatever I think and believe?

I am old enough and also fortunate enough to have known personally some individuals who personally much earlier had fought Mussolini and Hitler and all their own co-citizens (fascists and nazis) who had supported them. (at enormous personal risk to themselves and their families)

And just as those earlier supporters of fascism never had much of a concern about the "feelings" of those resistance fighters and partisans who opposed and fought against them, so did those brave souls who had the courage to stand up not have much concern for how THEY in the end might have felt. (which is maybe also why Mussolini finally was hanged)

And is this really such a far fetched comparison? Although it is probably rather extreme to say (or indirectly imply) that right now China is a full "Nazi" state isn't it true that it is a socialist state which is quite nationalistic and with a great deal of concentrated centralism?
And so how is it so "definitionally" different from "national socialism"?

And so it is so far fetched to fear that it might just as easily evolve into something much worse as into something much better?

Rather than all trying not to be "so personal" for fear of hurting or humiliating one another let's all instead "get very personal" and tell one another precisely what we think of each another, what we are concerned about, and why. (and I think Chinese and Americans in particular BOTH would have a whole lot to learn, though probably for different reasons and practices)

And so as I had said in another blog let's also go back to the original Olympic game spirit and have "Confucius" and "Plato" run stark naked and without any disguises or cover -that is, as they truly are- standing before all of us all in the big world audience in their real psychological and political and symbolism- birthday suits- in naked splendor, as they then run (or crawl) towards that mythical finish line.

And then let's just let the best man win. Or, better yet, let both "men" win by learning what there is to learn from one another and thus also becoming truly worthy of a real gold medal.

To conclude it seems to me that perhaps the very bright Chinese lady who was interviewed has spent too much time in the U.S. (and as a result also tends to come across about as American as she does Chinese in terms of her socio-cultural and psychological profile and mannerisms) and while in the U.S. she maybe also picked up a few too many genteel values about "not hurting other people's feelings" and avoiding "making" others feel "humiliated".

And more often than not, incidentally, it is also pretty difficult to "humiliate" anyone unless the other person cooperates in wanting to, or in allowing themselves to feel that way. (and I certainly say this with "no offense intended" towards anyone!)

And so without going back to the cultural revolution and its practices of public criticism and self-criticism and its dunce hats and public acts of contrition, it might be useful anyway to remember that criticism and critical thinking and its various forms of expression are one of the main ways by which the world moves forward and any people can make progress.

And so let's engage in more of it instead of less.

Max Jones - I agree with a lot of what you say, people are too sensitive in general. But I'd like to make a few observations. It accures to me that the people who most poo- poo Nationalism are people who live in countries that have a national identity and cohesiveness that is so well established - that is so deep, it can be taken for granted, along with the security it affords. These countries are not not Nationalistic, their Nationalism is only more deeply rooted, more profound, and therefore less desperately displayed. It is a kind of paradox that the oldest continuous culture in the world lacks confidence in its systems, but it does - (in certain respects it is a very young country) at least the People's Republic of China does. The educated Chinese I speak to are more concerned about chaos breaking out than democracy. So let's stop poo-pooing Nationalism from the comfort of our own Nationalistic armchair.
Also, I think it is silly of you to equate China today with Nazi Germany. China is Nationalistic and Socialist therefore National Socialist! Juvenile, don't you think? Nazi Germany was a one-man band. One mad racist freak of a man, whose philosophy was brutal Darwinians mixed with a heavy dose of psychotic racism - hence the horror of the Nazi regime. China's philosophy is positively Christian by comparison - and even if the leaders of the past have not lived up to the party line - the very fact that the party line is Socialism not fascism means that it moves in that direction. As the bad doctor Goebals would say, "Say something often enough and it becomes the truth."
Finally - again it is all very easy for the secure in the first world to criticize the poor in the developing world for their materialism. You statement that you think, "financial success" and "power" are the "opposite" of desirable goals – by opposite do you mean poverty and powerlessness? This seem to me your most complacent statement despite your "qualifications and measure."
Finally, after Iraq, surely we can countenance the idea, in the West, that “Democracy Now – This Minute, may be a slogan that in the end does much more harm than good. If we have the interests of humanity at heart, and we don’t want to be simply – “holier than thou.”

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