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This attitude has led a number of writers to put forward the concept of “pragmatic nationalism”1.
Moreover 9/11 and the worldwide war against terrorism have contributed to creating solidarities between Chinese and Western governments, solidarities which have attenuated, at least up to the spring of 2005, the most spectacular and extreme manifestations of Chinese nationalism.
The opening up of the Chinese economy and society to the outside world, the establishment of diplomatic and trade links with those powers who had once “humiliated” China (the United States, Japan, Great Britain, Germany, France, etc.), Peking's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the acceptance (provisional, it is true) of a form of status quo in the Taiwan Strait, are evidence of a certain “bringing under control” of nationalist emotions which can affect government circles and the intellectual elite.
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Similarly, within Chinese society, the pursuit of individual success, the desire—and perhaps even more the possibility—to become rich and to improve one's standard of living, the increasing power of provincialism and localism, the fascination with an America which is both powerful and prosperous, the attraction of a modernity which is often synonymous with the “American way of life”, as well as a general curiosity about a long forbidden outside world — as shown by the growth of Chinese tourism abroad — and the emigration of millions of Chinese towards the developed world, are all evidence, if not of an absence, at least of a relative weakness of nationalism.Finally, the last ten years have brought to light a spectrum, wider than one might previously have expected, of international behaviour on the part of both Chinese government and society, putting into perspective the nature and extent of Chinese nationalism and making it possible to distinguish more clearly between ordinary times and the brief—but intense and emotional—moments of more or less spontaneous manifestations of nationalism.While, for historical reasons, Chinese nationalism is in many ways specific, because it is based on what is perceived as past humiliation (xiuru), it has shown since the beginning of the modern era, which is to say since the Opium War of 1840, a profound feeling of insecurity.Symbolised by the concept, favoured by Hu Jintao, of China's “peaceful rise”, can this nationalism eventually give birth to a democratic nationalism, at once measured, open, and concerned with defending not only the interests of the Chinese nation but also those of the men and women who belong to it?Is not this nationalism the only one capable of expressing a real ideological consensus in society, far from the manipulations of political and intellectual elites driven above all by ambition and the struggle for power?However, behind this feeling of insecurity, several forms of nationalism co-exist: an official nationalism inspired by communist ideology and the Communist Party's preoccupation with maintaining its monopoly of politics, which is similar to the modernising but authoritarian nationalism of many Chinese revolutionaries at the beginning of the twentieth century; a “primitive” and revanchist nationalism with racist tendencies, which is disseminated in society by the most xenophobic elements among the Chinese elite; and a “pragmatic nationalism” which derives its legitimacy from the economic and social realities of China, without however rejecting foreign influence out of hand.Can this latter nationalism eventually give birth to a democratic nationalism, at once measured, open, and concerned with defending not only the interests of the Chinese nation, but also those of the men and women who belong to it?To give you a better overall experience, we want to provide relevant ads that are more useful to you.For example, when you search for a film, we use your search information and location to show the most relevant cinemas near you.This is why several sinologists have contrasted the old “culturalism” with the nationalism of the Chinese after 18402.In fact, despite earlier contacts with the outside world, in particular with Russia, it is this emblematic event which truly transformed the Chinese Empire into a modern State, and China into a Nation, thus confirming the theses of Ernest Gellner and Eric Hobsbawm on the decisive role played by the state in the construction of the nation and consequently on the formation of nationalism3.