Chinese Nationalism

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The Fenqing (meaning “angry youth” in Chinese) represent the modern face of Chinese popular nationalism. According to Nina Baculinao in her report “Fenqing: A Study Of China’s ‘Angry Youth’ In The Era Of The Internet” the members of this phenomenon share representative traits and buck some popular misconceptions (Nina Baculinao 94). They are highly educated and have global-awareness and international interests. They are young – most of them born in the 90s- and their interest in Fenqing is ephemeral; they will keep this nationalistic stance into middle age. They discredit the theory that the Internet should help educate Chinese youth gain global values of socialization. They debunk that myth that China’s Communist party is not influenced by public opinion. These youth may even wield more foreign policy influence than American or Japanese students. Finally, although they claim to be a grass-roots nationalism almost all Baculinao’s primary sources point to instances of the Communist party’s influence on Fenqing uprisings and quieting down times.

The Fenqing arose as China arose in international standing. National pride resurfaced. The Internet was crucial as the mass communication means of spreading the passion. The Fenqing have some basic doctrine. They are sensitive to other nations’ perception of China. They have a fear of Western oppression of China’s rise in world power and economic strength. They are militant and make attacks when angry. They want the government to stand up to the West and fight to become a dominant power, as they believe it deserves (Nina Baculinao 91).

The Fenqing claim a desire to adopt the great past traditions of China. However, they want to learn new principals from the West, even democratic ideals. They don’t want to return to past doctrines or radical socialism. They feel they are patriotic, not nationalistic. They claim “love of country” not “love of government”.

Professors Simon Shen of Chinese University of Hong Kong and Shaun Breslin of University of Warwick cite three waves of the contemporary nationalist movement in China (Nina Baculinao 85). The first wave (1999-2001) included Chinese intellectuals with Internet access protesting in a nationalist forum online. It was sparked after the accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade (Nina Baculinao 87). Chinese intellectuals with Internet access protested online in a nationalist forum. The second wave included many more people of the population as the Internet became more accessible. Conflict with Japan in 2005 was the first time an online nationalistic fervor campaign transferred its energy out to the street. The third wave of 2010 -2011 is suggested as a lull by Baculinao when all has been relatively quiet. It was also interestingly noted that all the major nationalist players in waves 1 and 2 are quiet in this third wave. The activism seems to fade to passive restraint as youth’s bloom also fades.

The latest grievances of the Fenqing are the Arab Spring rebellions and the U.S.’s recent push to rebuild its political clout in the Asia-Pacific region. The furor of the Arab Spring came from the perception that it was a Western plot to get control over important resource regions. The complaint of course of the U. S. in the Asia-Pacific area is that they are trying to contain China’s growth and power (Nina Baculinao 92.)

Exploring Fenqing nationalism or patriotism requires looking more deeply into why China’s youth are so susceptible to this phenomenon. Baoping Liao is an author and newspaper columnist who wrote Fishing out China’s Fenquing: Hidden Obstacle and Threat to China’s Rise. He is a former Fenqing who now sees it as a negative force and offers thoughts on why Chinese youth are practically predestined to go “through a phase in life as a fenqing (Nina Baculinao 92)”. Liao blames that on China’s educational system, which he believes stirs nationalism in youth rather than democracy. Whenever the public is...
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