Praise for China: A Reader

1. "Can we outsource FEMA to the Chinese?" asks one reader at MSNBC's World Blog, in response to a post on the temporary villages the Chinese government is erecting in the disaster area. Other readers also make Katrina/China earthquake comparisons. The MSNBC World Blog has been providing continuing coverage of the earthquake.

2. One of the side effects of coverage of the earthquake has been an increase in “human interest” stories on quake survivors. For instance, the story of a couple who survived together, trapped under debris, was one of the New York Times’s top e-mailed stories in the days following its publication, and a feature on the wedding photograph couples aired on CNN yesterday.

3. Quake survivors were not the only ones “humanized” by the disaster. PLA soldiers, too, have been depicted as helpful and concerned (as they are primarily viewed within China itself). [Photo below is by Guang Niu of Getty Images; reprinted from the New York Times.] It is a depiction markedly different from the usual imagery of Chinese soldiers as menacing and thuggish (an imagery similar to the depiction of the uniformed, sunglass-wearing security guards who accompanied the torch on its run). Whether this has lasting impact on American views of the Chinese military—a perspective yet tainted by the most famous images of the Chinese military in the US, those of PLA tanks on the streets outside Tiananmen in 1989—remains to be seen.

4. Another figure humanized by the disaster, both inside and outside China, is Premier Wen Jiabao, who now even has his own Facebook page. (That links to an article at the Wall Street Journal; for Facebookers who want to become a Wen fan directly, you can view his page here, where you can also enjoy fan accolades like “You’re the hottest thing since penicillin.”) The enthusiasm for Wen is notable both for its youthful base (not seen to this degree for an official figure since the late 1980s) as well as for ways praise of Wen resonate historically (for instance, Danwei reported on efforts to preserve Wen’s chalkboard calligraphy—preserving, replicating, and distributing Chinese leaders' calligraphy has a long history).

5. All this praise for and reconsideration of China in the earthquake’s wake is perhaps balanced by the increasing expressions of nationalism it has also engendered. China Law Blog draws attention to a slew of recent writings by bloggers doing business in China about what they see as a new and unprecendented Chinese nationalism.


Anonymous said...

When should we call it patriotism, and when should we call it nationalism?

Trixie The Hottie said...

Patriotism has ethical connotations: it implies that the 'fatherland' (however defined) is a moral standard or moral value in itself.
Nationalisms are extremely diverse since many types, forms, and origins exist. The theory of nationalism has always been complicated by this background, and by the intrusion of nationalist ideology into the theory. There are also national differences in the theory of nationalism, since people define nationalism on the basis of their local experience. Theory (and media coverage)may overemphasize conflicting nationalist movements, and war - diverting attention from many general theoretical issues; for instance, the characteristics of nation-states. (www.wikipedia.org)

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