Cherish patriotism in a “rational” way

From  Red Setter’s China Musings ( 21/04/08)

Background: The Olympic Torch Run in Paris and the attack on Jin Jin the wheel-chaired torch bearer by, what the Chinese media calls, a Tibetan separatist has led to calls to boycott France and the biggest symbol of France in China, Carrefour the French retail conglomerate. There were pro-China / pro-Olympics protests outisde many of Carrefour’s stores, with graffiti sprayed on the walls of the one in Hangzhou. Blogs and chat rooms were soon seeething with anti-French, anti-foreign triades, while expressions of Chinese hegemony took on a new air of invincibility. Today the Speaker of French Senate Christian Poncelet arrived in Shanghai to make an apology on behalf of all French people, or at least that is how the State media portrayed it.

Red Setter: "The front-page Sunday editorial in today’s  People’s Daily called on Chinese people to cherish patriotism "while expressing it in a rational way". What do you think "rational" in this context means? Surely the word rational means balanced, or objectively.

However, everything we have read and heard about from China’s state media organs is bias towards what the government spin, in other words very subjective. So the People’s Daily is now urging the masses to think objectively, without bias? A bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted."

The Protocol Officer**: "The editorial of the People’s Daily calling for rational patriotism was a premeditated, well-timed move. The plan saved face, mostly to the advantage of the Chinese government and people".


Red Setter: "Lads, am I missing like a couple of million brain cells or does the above kind of tell us that the mobilising of the masses to shout anti-French, croissant, foie gras,and Louis Vuitton slogans and spray graffiti was officially sanctioned by the highest levels of the powers that be in up north?


Nah, doesn’t make sense.. I mean aren’t they also the guys expounding one world, one dream and mutual harmony?

Sweet Mother Of God, I feel like a Lemming for believing otherwise"


The Protocol Officer: "RS, I think you read me wrong. I think the government needed such an official apology to convince my people that they should give the boycott thing a second thought.  

How many times do I have to tell you? The boycott is basically grassroot and not sanctioned by the government. You can say all the government-controlled media here played a part in whipping up the popular wrath. But what could they have done differently? Kept us in the dark, telling us instead that the French run was a success? Was it also the lie you own media liked for the world to know?  

The government can stop the rallies outside each Carrefour store here. But they can’t stop the people from not going to it.

Red Setter: "Protocol Officer

I doff my hat to you for your truly eye opening insights into the way the cogs that drive this wonderful country work.Our Forum is truly graced by your presence. Seriously.


However, being a Red Setter, I have another bone in my mouth: The way this apology is being portrayed by the Media…. Ah for jasus sake!… look your media’s kind of telling the masses in Guizhou, Ganzu, Ningxia and beyond that the French have come to kou tou 叩头 (the deepest of bows).. And given that kou tou’ing also infers a high degree of humiliation everyone in China is happy (the Italians, Brits and Freedom Fry lovers also have a bit of a chuckle at the expense of the French, although it won’t be long before they too have to fly emissaries to over here to do the kou tou).


But this sort of stuff has been going on for centuries, hasn’t it?… Which has me thinking that about the future: When any country upsets the great China will the chain of events that unfolds be as predictable as:


Anti-country protests = country in question sends emissary to apologise and give the big kou tou for CCTV (State Television) = the masses will see the world continuing to genuflect = good for the ego = increase in jingoism, to the point where one day this great country will feel invincible.


That’s a little scary isn’t it?


I think the French apology to the athlete is genuine enough, but the way it is being portrayed is a tad like saying "lads we won, we got one over the French", which is not really in the spirit of Entente Cordiale (to borrow an Anglo/French phrase), and all that, is it?"


**Note: The Protocol Officer, who shall remain nameless. is senior government official her, and also a good friend.

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