OnPoint by Keith Ng

Read Post

OnPoint: Relationship Status: It's complicated

61 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 Newer→ Last

  • Russell Brown,

    Thanks Keith: informed, thoughtful and relevant.

    Clever headline too ...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • Tze Ming Mok,

    Thanks from me too. I had been thinking about doing a guest post on this, but it all just made me want to gnaw my own tongue off.

    It's not a pure nation of craziness though. Here's a great blogpost: 'My Motherland is not my Mother', from my Chinese friend in Beijing.

    SarfBank, Lunnin' • Since Nov 2006 • 108 posts Report Reply

  • Cecelia,

    Thank you, Keith. We need to understand. I'd like to hear more about this. The blog site above ain't in English!

    Hibiscus Coast • Since Apr 2008 • 523 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Thomas,

    strong stuff. i wonder if a generic kiwi whitey could've written this article without being accused of being xenophobic.

    how do the chinese demonstrators reconcile living in NZ with their chinese nationalism? is it something like kiwis living in london, but doing a haka in westminster park? (sorry, trite, but i couldn't help it)

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 315 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    i agree. great post.

    but every conception of nationalism depends on a selective and conscious retelling of history

    and that statement is right on. the retelling creates the national imagination, and that in turn creates a "national conversation" that ends up dominating the way a nation projects itself overseas.

    for example, i only need to say, "land of the free, home of the brave" and everyone knows who i mean.

    my question is how you see this "unified motherland" projection effecting little places like new zealand?

    i get tze ming's point about not all chinese buying into the mythology, but dissent is meaningless when china reacts by projecting its power the way it has. especially because the projection is all about drowning out dissenters, chinese and other.

    do you think this type of reaction is only because of the olympics? or could you imagine another situation where china mobilises its non-resident citizens to voice the party's position?

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • Bob Munro,

    And what are people with Tibetan friends meant to do?

    Christchurch • Since Aug 2007 • 418 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    strong stuff. i wonder if a generic kiwi whitey could've written this article without being accused of being xenophobic.

    I think a kiwi whitey who could read the banners and place the whole thing in a nuanced historical context would still have been on fairly strong ground.

    Keith, is there any sense in Chinese nationalism of an equivalent to American exceptionalism -- of manifest destiny? Is China supposed to be destined to save the world? Or just China?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18970 posts Report Reply

  • Charles Mabbett,

    Good one, Keith. Clear and insightful.

    I was having a discussion with a Japanese journalist this week about this issue. He had been to Canberra to cover the torch relay and he noted that the pro-China demonstrations in Australia had also sparked fear and unease amongst the Australian public.

    I do think that the demonstrations in Wellington and Auckland were unnecessary - after all the torch didn't come here.

    But at the heart of the demonstrations is a persecution complex that many overseas mainland Chinese have developed about the way their country is perceived internationally. This made them ready and willing to participate in these counter demonstrations.

    The strategy that Beijing has clearly adopted is that in view of the organised pro-Tibet protests that they face, they will organise counter-demonstrations.

    It isn't a particularly productive public relations strategy that will win many friends around the world but their thinking is fairly predictable and not exactly creative.

    Since Nov 2006 • 236 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    Very interesting and balanced read, thanks.
    I'm interested in your take on how your wrap up

    The only message that rallies like last week's send is: "We are upset." It can change actions, up to a point, but it does nothing to change people's opinions. It might have made those students feel better to voice their sense of grievance, but as China's bridge to the world, the international students should aspire towards better.

    applies to the Tibetan protesters around the world as well?

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1721 posts Report Reply

  • Mark Thomas,

    But at the heart of the demonstrations is a persecution complex that many overseas mainland Chinese have developed about the way their country is perceived internationally. This made them ready and willing to participate in these counter demonstrations.

    i think that's an important point. we often seem to be a bit too willing to assume the worst about chinese sweatshops and government.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 315 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    It isn't a particularly productive public relations strategy that will win many friends around the world.

    But is that the aim? Judging PR success depends on the audience it was aimed at. Maybe footage of pro-China demonstrations abroad plays very well in China?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2968 posts Report Reply

  • Charles Mabbett,

    I think the Chinese government has a very poor understanding of public relations.

    But yes, Stephen, you're probably right. The counter-demonstrations were likely aimed with the Chinese domestic public in mind.

    Since Nov 2006 • 236 posts Report Reply

  • Danyl Mclauchlan,

    I think the Chinese government has a very poor understanding of public relations.

    Perceptions of China will certainly improve over the next few decades - but the ambassadors are going to be authors, filmmakers, pop-stars, super-models, consumer brands, luxury goods and so on. I think the state has to recognize that the Chinese Communist Party is never going to be wildly popular in the west and try to keep as low a profile as possible.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 902 posts Report Reply

  • Don Christie,

    Would it be impolite, Tze, to ask for a translation of that blog you linked to?

    The only message that rallies like last week's send is: "We are upset."

    But when a super power becomes upset what then? That was the more chilling message and I am sure the Chinese Government and many of those involved in the rallies knew they were sending it.

    I wonder how Taiwan, let alone Tibet, feels right now?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1616 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby,

    But when a super power becomes upset what then? That was the more chilling message and I am sure the Chinese Government and many of those involved in the rallies knew they were sending it.

    my thoughts exactly.

    sure, the protesters were out there for a chinese domestic market, but at what cost to the perceptions of a chinese minority on the part of "ordinary new zealanders"?

    we've already got big-time xenophobia in segments of new zealand society. exercises of power within the sovereign borders of this country can only add fuel to "sleeper-cell" paranoia.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2026 posts Report Reply

  • Charles Mabbett,

    I don't think any of this comes as a surprise to the Taiwanese. They've been living with the potential threat posed by mainland China for decades. And yet the Taiwanese public still elect pro-independence leaders. However the incoming president Ma Ying Jeou is said to be more favourably disposed towards China.

    and in terms of what happens when a super power becomes upset - well, we've already seen that with Iraq and Afghanistan. However the Chinese government has been very careful to cultivate a 'peaceful rise' line through its soft power.

    I think it is in everyone's interests that there is little disruption to the Olympic Games because if China is humiliated, it will only play into the hands of hardliners in the government.

    Since Nov 2006 • 236 posts Report Reply

  • Andrew Paul Wood,

    Is in yr country, doing our domestic politics. It is interesting to see how China's antagonisms with unwilling bits of itself gets played out on the world stage, because they can't at home. Taiwan and PRC chucking money around in the Pacific Islands for example, the suprising diaspora of Tibetans around the world and the counterpointing patriotic nationalists abroad. Its a little like the time I was trapped in my flat for a good half hour because my skanky neigbour was having intimate relations against my front door. It makes me feel a little uncomfortable.

    Christchurch • Since Jan 2007 • 175 posts Report Reply

  • Charles Mabbett,

    Since Nov 2006 • 236 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I think the Chinese government has a very poor understanding of public relations.

    ...I think the state has to recognize that the Chinese Communist Party is never going to be wildly popular in the west and try to keep as low a profile as possible.

    They should probably start by changing the word "Communist" to something more west-friendly. Calling it the Chinese Capitalist Party would keep the initials the same and save on stationary, in important cost in any rebranding exercise. Or do they keep calling it that for domestic consumption?

    Incidentally, on the subject of national PR, is anyone following Doonesbury?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Its a little like the time I was trapped in my flat for a good half hour because my skanky neigbour was having intimate relations against my front door

    You don't *have* to live in Christchurch..

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • Charles Mabbett,

    How about the 'Clean China Party' or 'China Century Project' or 'Collegial China is Polite' or 'Chinese Community be Peaceful'? Something along those calming tones ....

    Since Nov 2006 • 236 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    strong stuff. i wonder if a generic kiwi whitey could've written this article without being accused of being xenophobic.

    Yeah, I think I'm shielded from that to an extent, but at the same time, I'm also vulnerable to being called an Uncle Tom, banana, etc. Still, I think I can make a claim to a neutral perspective more than most.

    how do the chinese demonstrators reconcile living in NZ with their chinese nationalism?

    Awkwardly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 535 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    my question is how you see this "unified motherland" projection effecting little places like new zealand?

    do you think this type of reaction is only because of the olympics? or could you imagine another situation where china mobilises its non-resident citizens to voice the party's position?

    I don't think the students were really expressing "the party's position" - it's a position that they genuinely hold, and take very personally. But like I said, they really need to think about how they want to express it, and how to do it in a way that engages with, rather than alienate, the West,

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 535 posts Report Reply

  • Keith Ng,

    Is there any sense in Chinese nationalism of an equivalent to American exceptionalism -- of manifest destiny? Is China supposed to be destined to save the world? Or just China?

    No - and perhaps manifest destiny was the term I was looking for in my post. Towards the end of the Mao-era, there was an idea of China being a leader of the global socialist revolution, but without communism, that idea makes no sense at all now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 535 posts Report Reply

  • stephen walker,

    Yes, Chinese nationalism is actively promoted through the schools, but every conception of nationalism depends on a selective and conscious retelling of history, and China's no different. It's taught as a historical narrative of China being once a great power, weakened by corruption and in-fighting, humiliated and subjudicated by a series of colonial powers; this narrative frames modern China from Sun Yat Sen onwards as a project to strengthen and protect China – from internal corruption and fracture, as well as from foreign interference.

    Surely the Chinese students participating in these demonstrations are (at least partly) the product of the era in which they grew up and the version of history that has been forcefully promoted since they were born.

    Taking the long view of Chinese nationalism, the Han Chinese are apt to see themselves as the "rightful" (natural?) leaders of East Asia and to some extent Southeast Asia. Until the Ming Dynasty, China had been the dominant culture in the region for a very long time (more than 1,000 years). Their influence on languages and cultures is similar to the Greek/Roman influence in Europe. Their technology was also way ahead of Europe in many areas before 1492.

    Since then, their subjugation by European powers, the US and Japan was a stunning fall from power lasting several centuries. Civil war and the losing Nationalists fleeing to Taiwan added to the fracturing begun by colonialism.

    The Cultural Revolution and internal CCP power struggles in the 1970s were pretty much the low ebb.

    Economically, China seems to have achieved the impossible by rising so quickly from such a low base to where they are now. It's hard to think of any historical comparisons to this meteoric rise in fortunes. Just 30 years from the bottom of the heap to almost the top. Barely a single generation. Whoah! Hard to see how this wouldn't create incredible tensions down the track...

    But back to those students. Born just before or since 1989. They have been on the receiving end of a very big push by TPTB to prevent any recurrence of what happened in 1989. The CCP came within a whisker of losing power. Sparked by student protests (oh, the irony) that had been inspired partly by Tibetan demands for true autonomy (more crushing irony?). There is unprecedented affluence among a large proportion of the Chinese population, for which the CCP is very eager to take full credit. And Chinese prestige in the world has been greatly restored.

    The problem for these students is, imho, that they need to reflect on whether their generation's shunning of dissent as part of the all-important economic drive will be worth it in the long run. Or whether the current golden weather is really sustainable given the problems now beginning to surface. If, for whatever reason, the wheels fall of economically, will they still be keen to push the no-dissent line?

    Environmental degredation and resource depletion loom large in the Motherland, even if they have the most money in the bank right now (meaning they can spend up large overseas to buy resources and productive assets). All those US dollars could turn out to be worthless much more quickly than the orthodox view would have us believe...

    Tibetan demands for autonomy could turn out to be the least of the problems faced by China's current rulers and beneficiaries of the economic miracle.

    (sorry, way too long. must do some work)

    nagano • Since Nov 2006 • 634 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.