What is special about Chinese patriotism?

Chinese nationalism: Just not too much freedom


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Franka Lu is a Chinese journalist and entrepreneur. She works in China and Germany. In this ZEIT-ONLINE series, she reports critically about life, culture and everyday life in China. In order to protect her professional and private environment, she writes under a pseudonym.

Recently, a young Chinese man said on a bulletin board on the Internet: "My father is no longer my father!"

The young man asked his father, a loyal fan of the US basketball team Houston Rockets, to renounce the team. It was about a tweet from Daryl Morey, the general manager of the club, on October 2nd: "Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong. " The democracy movement in Hong Kong, with which Morey expressed solidarity, is portrayed by the Chinese government as an attempt to divide China. The anger in the Chinese speaking world was great. Many called for a boycott of the US basketball league NBA. But for the young man's father, the manager's tweet had nothing to do with the team. In his anger, the young patriot turned on Oedipus.

In the past few months the angry nationalism of a new generation of Chinese has astonished the world. Their rejection of the Hong Kong democracy movement was not only passionate and patriotic, but also aggressive and global. In Canada, Ferraris decorated with the Chinese flag drove through the streets, the Hong Kongers were insulted as "bankrupt pussies". In Australia overseas Chinese and journalists were threatened for sympathy for the democracy movement, a girl from Hong Kong who "HK stay strong!" called, got in chorus "Fuck your mother" to listen. Journalists and pro-Hong Kong protesters were assaulted in many cities, including Paris.

And this at a time when Chinese students are contributing billions of dollars to the financing of Western universities through tuition fees, especially in English-speaking countries, and have long-term influence on their host countries. For years, large international corporations that have unknowingly questioned Chinese territorial claims or raised human rights issues have had to apologize to the "Chinese people". Most of their "mistakes" and faux pas were discovered and outraged by patriotic young Chinese with a good command of English.

The Chinese official media have greeted this new generation of patriots with joy. CGCN, an official English language television station in China, has spoken of the rise of "Chinese Generation Z". Zak Dychtwald, his book, was quoted Young China: How a new Chinese generation is changing their country and the whole world next April in German: "Basically, you want to modernize without westernizing. You are experiencing a rags-to-riches to millionaire story that is unparalleled in the world. And you are aware of this uniqueness. You are proud of it . "

"Lu explains China": further episodes of our series

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Education in China: The children have to fly to the moon, at least

While the younger generation in the West criticizes politics and takes part in Friday-for-Future protests for the future of mankind, their Chinese counterparts show themselves to be nationalistic and proudly loyal to a one-party system. In a series of video interviews broadcast by a right-wing British website, the reporter asked a group of Chinese students in Australia if they thought the Chinese government was doing something wrong. Everyone replies without hesitation: "No, nothing at all." Many of these mainland Chinese do not know or care about the five demands the Hong Kong democracy movement makes on their government. They are convinced that Hong Kong is demanding independence, even though most democracy activists there want Hong Kong to remain part of China.

Anyone who tries to discover consistency in the thinking of the Chinese Z-Patriots will inevitably be disappointed. Many of them would like to study and work in Western countries, or are already doing so, but believe that Western democracies have no chance against the Chinese one-party system. They respect rulers like Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and Donald Trump, although the latter two are now adversaries. The Z-Patriots claim that there is more freedom in China than in the West, and at the same time say that too much freedom is not good - as you can see in the West. The slightest hint of anti-Chinese racism drives them to a frenzy, but they still believe that blacks are intellectually inferior and that Western political correctness obscures the truth. It is a hotpot of attitudes, values ​​and behavior that must appear strange and confusing to people in the West.

Are China's Z Patriots the Result of Brainwashing? The answer is: yes, too. But not only. Sure, they have been wrapped in a carefully woven web of propaganda and censorship under the eyes of a watchful machine. But cultural and social heritage also play a role. The young Chinese are looking for their place in this network. At some point they will be allowed to join the network themselves.