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What Businesses Need To Know About Chinese Nationalism

Posted in China Business

Excellent post on The ACF China Co – Millstone Trading blog. This blog describes itself as “a blog for Asian furniture industry professionals offering invaluable insights, comments and ramblings about importing home furnishings from China,” but this post is highly relevant for any business involved with China.
The post is entitled, “Rising nationalism – Will it affect the business climate in China?” The post starts out explaining why the post is being written at all, when the blog normally focuses on Chinese furniture:

If I were worried about one single element of doing business in China today, it wouldn’t be inflation. Nor would it be the rising costs of exports due to the rapid appreciation of the Yuan. Or rising fuel costs for that matter. Air pollution? Nope. The cost of labor going up would not be my main concern either. No, all of these issues seem unpleasant yet manageable, in one way or another, even if difficult. So what then pray tell would it be? Definitely it would be rising Chinese nationalism. Normally I bypass politics altogether, to focus on the furniture industry and china business – two things I think are interesting enough to keep me busy. But in many ways, I find today’s topic quite relevant since one will effect the other.

It then explains how the new nationalism he is feeling “in the air” in China is different from anything he has felt in China since having moved there in 1997. He then details the specific anti-foreign sentiment he is hearing in his conversations (in Mandarin) with the Chinese:
Pollution in China is the fault of foreigners. We foreigners have come here to manufacture our cheap garbage at the lowest price possible and consequently, the environment is polluted as a result. If we foreigners didn’t come here to make so much money, there would be no environmental problems in China.
● If there are quality problems with Chinese made products, it’s our fault. If we didn’t come here to buy low-prices trash they not have made it, so stop complaining.
● Foreigners are only here in China for the fantastic money making opportunities that are everywhere here. Money is the driving force here, not the culture, the adventure or anything else. (This one seems to hurt the most since I have spent the last few years in a culturally rewarding but fiscally less rewarding industry specifically because I like Chinese culture. Actually most of the foreigners I know here have made very little money in China and the few that have paid dearly for it).
● Yes, China’s new labor law is a pain but a good thing since as it will help to prevent the foreign business here from continuing to exploit Chinese workers (still not sure how this will prevent this sort of thing from happening: slave labor in the Shanxi brick kilns)
● If you have a complaint or problem with something, it’s probably because you just don’t like the way we do things here (and are just looking to exploit us anyways). Now there is some merit to this, but this one has shown up in some surprising situations like during quality control inspections on furniture. If it’s the wrong size, it’s the wrong size. What does that have to do with being a foreigner?
● China is rising. If you have an issue with this, live with it or get out. It’s probably because you are unhappy with the fact that even though the West is working furiously to contain China, it’s just not working. We like our government as they have made us more prosperous.
For more on rising Chinese nationalism, check out the following:
– “Foreigners Not Welcome,” at the Silk Road International Blog
– “Chinese Nationalism,” at ChrisClanton Blog
– “Kev’s Thoughts On… the Carrefour boycotts,” at genYchina [You have to read the comments on this one]
– “Fun at the Carrefour Protest,” at Stupid Pig’s China Blog
– “Jeffrey Wasserstrom on the History of Chinese Boycotts,” at Transpacifica
– “Mao meets Web 2.0: China’s User Generated Propaganda,” at ThomasCrampton.com [very interesting post/talk on how new media influences all this]
– “The Facets Of Chinese Nationalism,” By Yang Jianli, at the Washington Post
– “China’s competing nationalisms,” by David Shambaugh at the International Herald Tribune (h/t to The China Game)
– “Conversations about China and nationalism,” at Heart of Beijing
– “The Creationist Myth of Chinese Nationalism,” at Blogging for China.
– “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” at the In the Mouth of Mao-ness blog
– “You Know, Maybe Government Suits Should Read the Expat Blogs…,” at the “Scribblings of the Metropolitician” [post is mostly about Korea, but it does a great job dealing with the potential fallout from rampant nationalism]
I apologize for so many links, but the diversity of viewpoints and the plethora of excellent analysis necessitated it.
What are you hearing/seeing/feeling out there?

  • Steven Blayney

    Many years ago in the 1970s when I was a child in the “Deep South” of the United States, I went with my father on a hunting trip. That evening as we were leaving the forest, we happened upon a Ku Klux Klan meeting, a gathering of about 30 men in white robes and white hoods (dressed like ghosts) beneath a huge flaming crucifix next to a pond. I can still see the image of the flaming cross reflected off the pond. It was terrifying.

  • Thomas Chow

    I recognize the sentiments here quite well, but its almost like sawing the limb they are sitting on. China would not be what it is today without the west investing in the gov’t. China would not be aware of its pollution issues and would not care but for western infuence. Etc etc.
    I am not China bashing but pointing out that it is irrationality that can end hurting Chinese business in the future. (I can hardly wait for Africa to start blaming China or the Chinese to target their own gov’t once they rid themselves of westerners). I find this sort of sentiment to be intellectually untenable and hope that people will learn to think through things. Mistrust for foreigners is nothing new, but rising mistrust to the point where it will mess with the global economy will end up hurting their country in the long run.
    I can only hope that someone turns their brain on before this sentiment destroys int’l trade relations.

  • ecodelta

    Is there any change in the nationalist environment in China after the earthquake?
    I mean, the foreign community has poured help and condolences to China.
    The government has also allowed for the first time foreign help teams in rescue operations.

  • WtHng

    I wonder if there are this much nationalism before March 14 and subsequent media incidents.

  • http://www.foarp.blogspot.com FOARP

    Funny, I heard every single one of complaints plus half a dozen others about the foreign prescence in China in the first few months of living in Nanjing back in 2003. Granted, Nanjing is for various historical and socio-economic reasons a rather more conservative place compared to say, Shanghai, but to be frank the current anti-foreigners sentiment is nothing new. We saw pretty much the same kind of hate campaign concentrated on the Japanese back in 2005. Hell, the sentiments he describes in his article are far less intense than those which were around in the 80′s. I don’t know one foreigner in China who hasn’t been subjected to some kind of racially motivated abuse – but this is an old, old topic.
    Is Chinese nationalism a problem for the foreign prescence in China? Certainly, especially as we all know the kind of ugly behaviour it can cause amongst certain elements of the populace, but it is not more of a problem now than it has been in the last five years. Is it a problem for business? Not really, in fact it can easily be exploited even by foreign companies through advertising gimmiks and promotions – see KFC’s ‘changing for China’ campaign for an example.
    Nationalism will only really become a problem if the government uses it as a way of creating scape-goats for their current difficulties. If, like me, you find it hard to imagine how the blame for increased food prices could believably be pinned on the foreigners – remember that a good portion of Chinese believed the rumour about SARS being started by the CIA, that the majority think of AIDS as ‘foreign’ disease, that many think of homosexuality as being a foreign invention which was not found in China before the arrival of foreigners, that even today Chinese university students are taught using textbooks in which they are told that bestiality is common in the west and that old people are so poorly looked after in western countries that many have to eat pet food to survive, that a good proportion of Chinese people believe that America still has the draft – I think you can see where I’m going with this. Once such a rumour is even tacitly given credence by the government I would expect violence to follow fairly quickly.
    However, from the point of view of business, just remember that even during WWII the Japanese and German subsidiaries of companies based in Allied countries continued to operate throughout the war – some of them even made substantial profits producing material for the Axis war effort.

  • http://www.foarp.blogspot.com FOARP

    Meantime something that would otherwise have been big news is happening in Taiwan, Chen Shuibian is stepping down and Ma Yingjiu – a politician who is actually fairly popular on the mainland – is taking up the reins. A democratic transfer of power happening on ‘Chinese’ soil – sounds like a good idea doesn’t it?

  • http://www.korealawblog.com/ Brendon Carr (Korea Law Blog)

    That post at the Scribblings of the Metropolitician blog references a post of mine (the chart is mine) on Korea Law Blog — foreign investment in Korea is down, way down, after years of nationalist-driven harassment and doubletalk. In its best days, Korea has only drawn 5-10% of the foreign direct investment China gets. Now interest in Korea has all but evaporated — could it happen for China, and what would be the consequences of $100 billion a year in foreign investment suddenly dropping to, say, $30 billion (or zero)?

  • Elliott Ng

    “Actually most of the foreigners I know here have made very little money in China and the few that have paid dearly for it”. Go for it CLB !!!!

  • Law Office of Todd L. Platek

    Many of these “Chinese nationalism” comments are a realistic reflection of a society arising from feudalism and being pulled into the West’s so-called post-industrial age by the lapels by a combination of Party politics and convenient Western economic demand fulfilling the Party’s need to jump-start a nation which, by the late 1970′s, was economically moribund, due to the prior 30 years of politically-motivated direction allegedly intended to do the same thing. Pulling China out of feudalism has been the goal pre- and post-1979. What the Party could not do without the West and Japan, it is accomplishing now, and we in the West and Japan are paying the xenophobic price.
    Western and Japanese businesses need cheap labor. Period. China needs businesses to submit orders and purchase production. Period. Western and Japanese businesses need more markets, such as the Chinese market, to buy products. Period. The West and Japan are not in China to discover the meaning of life.
    Until something amazing happens, such as ET coming back to Earth and transforming everyone into sweetness and light, or a giant comet slamming into the Earth and wiping all of us out, both China and we need to learn to respect each other, and answer the question so eloquently voiced by Rodney King, who got the you-know-what kicked out of him, courtesy of the LAPD:
    “People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along? Can we get along? Can we stop making it, making it horrible for the older people and the kids?…It’s just not right. It’s not right. It’s not, it’s not going to change anything. We’ll, we’ll get our justice….Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to beat it. Let’s try to work it out.”

  • Jeremy

    Thank you for this bunch of links Dan ; the multifaceted review they provide is truly fascinating. Oh and thank you for having ruined half my day of work, too.
    The question of Chinese people’s relationship to / with foreigners (or “aliens”) is a huge one, and I think every laowai who has spent more than 6 months in the country could basically write a whole book about his personal experience on the topic — provided that he has set a foot out of his western-style-four-stars-your-home-away-from-home residence, that is.
    As for me I have the chance of working for a western company located in a small city, so I get to meet the whole spectrum of opinions on the question : from the elderly fruit seller on my corner to my US/Europe-educated colleagues. But it doesn’t take long to notice that there actually is no spectrum and that the opinions on the matter all get to the very same bottom line : you are welcome in China, and you are welcome to make comments, but don’t fool yourself into thinking you can negatively comment on anything but the weather, the crowdedness of the streets or the smell of doufu.
    After all it isn’t so surprizing : I don’t know much people who take critics against their country lightly (being French I know what I’m talking about ;) ) and I don’t see why the Chinese should be any different.
    What really astonishes me, however, is how instinctive this reaction is. Bring into question the sincerity of China’s policy toward Africa, the management of the situation in the west or the true forces feeding the anti-Japanese sentiment (or any other issue more or less linked to the place of China in the world), and your interlocutor immediately becomes aggressive or sulky. And I mean immediately. Furthermore this severe touchiness to criticism often comes from people who themselves are very much aware of their country’s flaws, and who are the first ones to criticize them. Like this colleague who complained about how unreliable the press was on a particular matter, but then stared at me with a dark eye when I suggested that maybe the depiction of the situation in the western region was equally biased. This kind of situations always remind me of Cyrano’s reply, when mocked for his nose : “I take them [the pleasantries] from myself all in good part, –But not from any other man that breathes”.
    In conclusion my (two cents) opinion is that Chinese people suffer from an acute superiority/inferiority complex. They know how great a people they are and how extraordinary their civilization is, but (so?) they feel somehow humiliated by the leading role Europe and America have taken in the world — a role they believe should have been taken by China. I see this resent as akin to that of an unsure teenager (that’s the last pathetic image, I swear) and I wonder what it would take for this bitterness to change into scary political or military decisions. In that I understand the concerns of the blogger you quote (BTW his blog does not seem to be available from China, even through a proxy) and I strongly believe these hard feelings will have to be overcome in the years coming for the sake of China’s stability and development. Accepting criticism and stop behaving as a permanent victim will be a tough step, but a necessary one if we don’t want to see the seeds planted for an oriental fascism.

  • Wei

    I believe you are complete generalizing the situration, you cannot expect everyone in the entire country to response to forigner in very friendly matter, I think that these things are isolated issue that not believe by everyone in China. Also, there is nothing in relationship with nationlism and anti-forign feeling. You are mixing things that have no relationship with each other.

  • http://foundinchina.com/ stuart

    From timesonline, concerning the reaction in Tiananmen Square after today’s three-minute silence:
    “But as huge speakers announced the period of silence over, the throng erupted into chants of “Come on, Sichuan! Long live China!” They crushed in towards the flagpole and pumped their fists in the air, screaming the words until their voices cracked.”
    http://tinyurl.com/4b4wsp
    There is, as the original blogger indicates, a very different feeling to the nationalist sentiment sweeping China in recent weeks. I also observe that Chinese people are particularly sensitive to emotional stimuli.

  • http://www.foarp.blogspot.com FOARP

    @Wei: “I believe you are complete generalizing the situration, you cannot expect everyone in the entire country to response to forigner in very friendly matter, I think that these things are isolated issue that not believe by everyone in China. Also, there is nothing in relationship with nationlism and anti-forign feeling. You are mixing things that have no relationship with each other.”
    Do you have any evidence to back up any of this? I’m afraid what little statistical and anecdotal evidence there is rather points the other way – but it is only a very small amount of evidence.
    @Stuart: “There is, as the original blogger indicates, a very different feeling to the nationalist sentiment sweeping China in recent weeks. I also observe that Chinese people are particularly sensitive to emotional stimuli.”
    The kind of crush and chanting of slogans you describe is the kind that can be found in most post-group stage world-cup matches. What I would say is strange is that people might respond to what should be a sombre occasion in such a jingoistic fashion, but I would put this down to cultural differences.

  • Pffefer

    Chinese nationalism and its impacts are overrated. I just don’t see how it has and will affect foreign businesses in a serious way. Boycott of Japanese products in 2005? I don’t know anybody who is boycotting Japanese-made stuff today. The French and Carrefour? It’s a joke.
    By the way, who put together that list? I think one should have no illusion about why foreign businessmen came to China: Making money. Hence you see some of them fleeing China and flocking to Vietnam and India.

  • Wei

    To FOARP:
    Do I need evidence to back this up, it is simple and base understanding that there is this great generalizing this guy has on all of China. I think you need to realize that.

  • Aiguo jiu huiguo

    @Wei
    you cannot expect everyone in the entire country to response to forigner in very friendly matter
    I don’t think anyone expects that every single Chinese should be extremely friendly to foreigners because they are foreigners, what people has noted is a surge in nationalist and anti-foreign feelings in China. You may not be the target of racism in China, but many foreigners experience this on a daily basis and you better respect their experience in the same way as you expect Westerners to listen to complaints of racism in the West. Tolerance is a two way street.

  • NB

    @Wei: “Also, there is nothing in relationship with nationlism and anti-forign feeling.”
    Oh,really?! I would say the relationship is as evident in China as it is in all other countries where nationalism appears or has appeared.

  • Stew

    This is a huge growing problem. If you read Chinese youth sites (as I have), you see the younger generations have strongly negative feelings about the US and foreigners. If you do business in China you already know the take-it-or-leave-it attitude has become pervasive.

  • greg

    Modern Chinese are nationalistic (or more precisely patriotic). There is no question about it. But I feel the original blogger is hardly objective and, like many western people or media, is attributing too many things to nationalism.
    Let’s face it. Chinese economy grows rapidly and as such the business environment changes quickly. China used to welcome foreign investments with open arms, with all the preferential treatments. Now, you have to pay the same tax rate as the domestic firms, will not get royal treatment if your investment does not bring better technology. Land is hard to get and labor cost is rising. And if your suppliers are having their hands full, your business may not be as attractive as before.
    These are business, not nationalism.
    And please don’t think you’re discriminated because you’re foreigners. The low-tech, labor-intensive businesses by Taiwanese and Hong Kong owners in Pearl River Delta are having a hard time right now. Also, please don’t think you’re mistreated because you’re not PRC citizens; the overseas Chinese returnees, once welcomed with red carpet, are now finding many of them are getting cold shoulders in the job market.
    The Chinese nationalism, if it indeed shows itself, is largely defensive and reactive. Blaming foreigners for pollution and product quality problems may be extreme cases, but is hardly unimaginable reactions to all the accusations and bashing about Chinese pollution and product quality problems (CLB had a lot of good discussions in this area) in recent years. If we find all the hysteria and sensationalism in the West around Chinese product quality and pollution understandable though less informed, can we at least ignore some of the more extreme views from Chinese?
    With more Chinese educated and lived in the West, become wealthy and traveled aboard, and with China increasingly prosperous, more Chinese, especially the younger generations, feel good about themselves and more confident about their country and their development model, there is less patience for Western preaching. Is this necessarily a negative development?
    There will always be a large portion of Chinese population who are ignorant (maybe even arrogant) about the outside world – after all, why do they care if US still has draft or not? Just like in the US, you have so many incredibly nice people who are incredulously ignorant about the outside world. This is probably a downside living in a large country, which tends to be more insular and inward-looking.
    Therefore, if there is a rising Chinese nationalism, it’s not offensive and not about imposing its model or view on other nations or people. It’s about refusing to be pushed around and preached on and it’s about being treated as equal and being respected and understood. That is why China is so reluctant to interfere with other countries’ internal affairs knowing from its painful experiences and from how it wants to be treated. That is also why the West gets more cooperations from China by respecting her but not bashing her.

  • greg

    I noticed Taiwan was mentioned on CLB by multiple people as an example of successful democracy for mainland China.
    That’s just showed how big a chasm between what’s going in Chinese society and the perceptions among even relatively knowledgeable CLB readers.
    Taiwan’s democracy is considered a complete failure and joke among mainland Chinese. The first so-called “peaceful transition of power on a Chinese soil” occurred in 1996 when Lee Tenghui was elected Taiwan president; Lee was expelled from Kuomintang after stepping down in 2000. The eight years that Chen Shuibian was in office, plus LTH’s years, are considered largely a “lost decade” for Taiwan by many Taiwanese. Chen Shuibian took office in 2000 with an approval rate of 70+% and now it stands at 13%. He will face prosecution for corruption after stepping down.
    The incoming president, Ma Yingjiu, is preferred by mainland government and Chinese not because his democracy credential but his pledge not to seek independence. His main campaign platform, ironically, is a better cross-strait relationship to salvage Taiwan’s economy. I guess the once strident “Taiwanese nationalism” is no substitute for shrunken pocketbooks.
    More than a decade ago, Taiwan’s experience in transitioning from an authoritative society to a democratic one held a lot appeal to many Chinese intellectuals; that appeal, like the former USSR’s transition model, all has lost their attractions.
    Like it or not, China has to find its own development model to modernization for a country of its size and scale. It’ll be based on gradualism and trial-and-error, a very successful formula so far.

  • Aiguo jiu huiguo

    @Greg
    The Chinese nationalism, if it indeed shows itself, is largely defensive and reactive.
    All nationalists claim to be reactive and defensive. That doesn’t mean that they really are.

  • http://www.foarp.blogspot.com FOARP

    @Greg – The usual tropes vis-a-vis the Taiwanese economic and political situation. Let’s have some simple facts:
    - At an average of 5.7% year-on-year GDP growth for the last five years, Taiwanese economic growth has out performed that of Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong.
    - Taiwan is generally considered to be the biggest source of investment for the Chinese mainland when the money sent through back channels is taken into account. Chen didn’t actually do that much to stop investment, Ma can not actually do much to liberalise things, and his election certainly does not bring detente in realtions any closer.
    - Taiwanese unemployment is less than that of either Japan or South Korea.
    Mainlanders may consider Taiwanese democracy to be “a complete failure and joke”, but Taiwanese think much worse of the mainland political system. Measured on any scale – economic or social, Taiwan has made much greater progress since the end of the martial law period than China has made in the same amount of time.
    “The first so-called “peaceful transition of power on a Chinese soil” occurred in 1996 when Lee Tenghui was elected Taiwan president”
    Can I ask, in what way was this not a peaceful transition of power and why do you feel it necessary to use the term ‘so-called’?
    “I guess the once strident “Taiwanese nationalism” is no substitute for shrunken pocketbooks.”
    In what way has Taiwan become poorer over the last eight years? As far as I can seen, economic growth there has been reasonable for a economy at its stage of development. Likewise, Ma’s win is hardly a victory for re-unification. His campaign has been marked by an unwillingness to be seen as pro-mainland in the way that Lian Zhan was.
    “The incoming president, Ma Yingjiu, is preferred by mainland government and Chinese not because his democracy credential but his pledge not to seek independence.”
    Ma doesn’t need ‘democracy credentials’ to be popular, he is a handsome and charismatic personality, quite different to the geriatrics who formerly led the KMT or who are currently in charge on the mainland. This is the contrast which will be seen between Ma and Hu – the contrast between democracy and totalitarianism.
    “Modern Chinese are nationalistic (or more precisely patriotic)”
    People everywhere love their country, but few feel the need to engage in the rapantly nationalistic xenophobia that has marked much Chinese discourse over the last few months. Nationalism is the correct term for this phenomenon, as I and most other people familiar with the situation feel.
    “With more Chinese educated and lived in the West, become wealthy and traveled aboard, and with China increasingly prosperous, more Chinese, especially the younger generations, feel good about themselves and more confident about their country and their development model, there is less patience for Western preaching. Is this necessarily a negative development?”
    Any situation which leads an elite (and despite protest to the contrary, that is what they are) to believe they can ignore human rights is a negative development. It should also been recognised that this situation (a foreign educated urban elite ruling over a vast mass of rural poor) has been seen in China before. Once economic problems set in the result was disasterous.
    “if there is a rising Chinese nationalism, it’s not offensive and not about imposing its model or view on other nations or people”
    Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (Matthew 7:16)
    @Wei – “Do I need evidence to back this up”
    I think you do, since the experiences that the man describes are reflected in those of almost every foreigner who lives or has lived in China including me. Simply saying that he is ‘generalising’ is not an argument. You might have said that people in the countryside are quite different, you might have said that the people who do this constitute only a small minority – you might have said anything. What you told us was your opinion, but not what you ground your opinion on.
    At any rate, it has to be said that foreign direct investment can be a fragile thing. The fall-off in investment in China during the SARS period being an example – although it did manage to end the year with total FDI above the previous one. Impressions can be everything, but I doubt that the actual facts will change that much, except maybe for more difficulty in gaining the co-operation of the government and in getting visas etc.

  • Pffefer

    I think people are comparing apples and oranges here. There is no denying that nationalism in China is surging, but the question is, how has it and how will it affect foreign businesses? Show me how foreign investment, trade etc. have been impacted or hurt by Chinese nationalism. Recent poll revealed that China is considered the No.2 enemy (after Iran) by most Americans, which explains why Chinese companies have had such a hard time investing in the US. This is a true example of nationalism at work, yet nobody talks about it. The same with how India has been denying access to Chinese companies.
    FOARP (“as I and most other people familiar with the situation feel”? Exactly how “familiar” are you with the situation in China these days?), I for one don’t think being nationalistic and being xenophobic are the same thing. I think it is fair to say the Chinese are quite nationalistic (who isn’t? The Brits?), but xenophobic? How? By boycotting Carrefour?

  • Tian

    I am trying to understand the point of the original post. Is there nationalist or patriotic sentiment in China these days? My observation is yes. Does nationalism make the Chinese people an ungrateful bunch? Well, you have to look at the issue a little deeper. Did ALL Chinese deny that FDI played an important role in China’s development? Did ALL Chinese pin China’s problem squarely on foreigners? Was FDI aid or capital (business) investment? While one can argue that without FDI, China probably won’t have today’s economic achievement, but that does not make FDI charity. The fact that many foreign companies did not make money in China is not a proof that they did not come to China to make money. In extreme cases even if you send aid to some people they may still not so grateful for various reasons (think T1bet’s example). So I will take the original post as a vent of frustration, not an insightful discussion of Chinese nationalism.
    Let me make clear that in most cases I view nationalism, Chinese or American, as ridiculous. However, we have to realize that it is a somewhat effective tool for groups to promote their interest (They may choose the tool subconsciously). Politicians in the US constantly courting support from Unions and working class by sensationalize “shipping jobs overseas”. I have yet to see one politician stand up to the misperception that “China has taken away America’s jobs”. Chinese nationalism has the underline theme to promote certain Chinese interest (in doing so perhaps against certain “foreign” interest), that is for sure. Like or not, nationalism is going to be a fact in life.
    To make yourself a little tolerant towards nationalism (so you can feel less alienated in the host country), one may want to understand the origin of nationalism. Like Greg pointed out, nationalism usually comes out as reactions – reactions towards outside pressure. When the pundits and officials, on the world’s most popular TV channels, blame China for U.S.’s economic problems, when all kinds of (foreign) people, trying to humiliate (I understand that most of them want to create awareness to certain issues, but nonetheless) China when she is poised, for the first time in her long history, to host a big party for the world, when you consume Chinese goods by the ships but make it sound like the Chinese forced these “cheap and shady” good down your throat, would you expect Chinese nationalism to go up or down? The more accurate your prediction on the national psyche is, the less stressful you will be.
    Therefore, my suggestion is that you embrace the psyche of your host country, trust the wisdom of the people (in that reasoning will prevail somehow). If your company is savvy enough, you might even be able to tap into nationalism by creating the perception that your company is “different” from all the others in that you stand on the “Chinese side” and stand to profit from it.

  • JXie

    - At an average of 5.7% year-on-year GDP growth for the last five years, Taiwanese economic growth has out performed that of Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong.
    Don’t know where you got that from, FOARP. Between 2003 and 2007, Taiwan’s average real GDP growth was 4.5%, not 5.7%. That was worse than Hong Kong (6.3%), Singapore (5.1%), and slightly better than South Korea (4.3%).
    Probably more important than the GDP growth figures, in the last 5 years, out of all 4 original Asian Tigers, the Taiwanese stock market has severely underperformed to all its counterparts. Its currency has been weaker than Singapore Dollar, South Korean Won and RMB for that matter. HKD was pegged to USD and the peg (or rather a peg but that’s a pretty lengthy discussion) is mandated by the HK SAR Basic Law.
    That’s why comparably speaking, the last 5, or 8 years, Taiwanese have been getting relatively poorer. Taiwanese aren’t no dummies — they voted for their wallets in 03/08.
    The biggest problem of Taiwan in the last 5, or 8 years? The biggest economic draw after the dot-com bubble in the world is China, by far. Yet Taiwan had been trying to move away from that. I don’t care much for the rhetorics of independence or reunification, but for a better economic future of Taiwan, it has to economically integrate into China.

  • http://www.foarp.blogspot.com FOARP

    @Pfeffer – When I use the term ‘nationalism’ I use it in the same way that George Orwell did in his famous essay “Notes On Nationalism”:
    By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’.* But secondly—and this is much more important—I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests. Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power.
    It must be said that there is much of the first vice that Orwell describes in the writings of those critical of the Chinese government – I myself have probably been guilty of classifying people in such a way. You might even say that in supporting democracy in China I am also guilty of ‘nationalism’ in the sense that Orwell uses it – but I would counter that all I favour is giving China’s people a say in their own lives is hardly “identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognising no other duty than that of advancing its interests”. But the clear distinction that Orwell makes between a patriotism that is defensive of a place and a way of life and nationalism which is simply believing that one’s own coutry is incapable of doing wrong and in which all evil comes from outside is the one I fell to be active in the minds of many commentators on the Chinese side.
    Take for example this recent commentry from the the blog of Song Qiang (宋强)
    争你自己的自由就是争国家的自由,争你自己的权利就是争国家的权利。因为自由平等的国家不是一群奴才建造得起来的!
    胡适说的,应没问题,道理是对的,但使用者的逻辑有错,胡适说“因为自由平等的国家不是一群奴才建造得起来的!”,呵呵,胡本身就是一个奴才(博主:自由主义者现在把他吹得比什么都高,比杨贵妃还美),另外,眼前这些“恨爱国”在我看来不仅是奴才,还是洋奴,所以,再套用胡适的话说,就是:因为自由平等的国家不是一群洋奴建造得起来的!

  • anders

    There seems to be a consensus among some here that there is raise in Chinese nationalism. If there is a raise, (something that can only be felt not proven by any of the usual quantative facts such as statistics, because good data is lacking – as it is in many other countries)then it most be said to understood in a short 10-15 years spand.
    In a historical perspective (starting with the events leading up to the Boxer Protocol in 1901 to the May 4th Movement 1919 and the anti Japanese movements in the 1930ies ending with the seclution in the 50ies and 60ies and the total seclution in the late 60ies and 70ies) there is very little direct anti foreign nationalism in todays China.
    This, of course, does not help our friend who has issuses with his suppliers, and who feels he is being blamed for every things that wrong in China. His conversations (in Mandarin) with Chinese seem very far from what is in the Chinese media (who runs 97 % local media stuff and 3 % foreign stuff, don´t forget all the local media that work in every shi,xian,zhan,cun). They don´t seem to point out foreign influence as the main source of their local problems. Students may target foreign influence as the source of all their problems, but I bet they would still take a well paid job at a foreign company after graduation. As I would work in a Chinese company if the pay is good and the people are nice, even if I don´t agree with every thing in China.
    Nationalism as a political movement has to be more organised then what I have seen so far in China to be real threat (Students with flags and MSN hearts don´t real scare me that much) if it will develop into something more organised depends on the CCP (who have littel to win by this), and seen in a historical perspective CCP has had a pretty good grip on things.

  • greg

    Given most CLB readers are from US, Europe and China, we probably should have a more nuanced view about country and nationalism.
    I guess most people would agree that the US and China are the more nationalistic countries. Europeans consider themselves to be post-modern states while the US and China are modern states. There are, of course, pre-modern or failed states in the world, such as Afghanistan, according to this view.
    I found this article below interesting. It is written by an American living in the heart of China, Chengdu, a city far from the coastal area and is quite different from Beijing or Shanghai. This was written before the Sichuan earthquake hit Chengdu but after the Tlbet riot.
    The writer also lived in Europe for quite some time and he speaks Mandarin. His observation on nationalism:
    “The Sword is Blunted” (http://antiwar.com/matuszak/?articleid=12757)

  • baltar

    RE: Patriotism and Nationalism
    Adlai Stevenson makes another important distinction between the two:
    “What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility … a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.”
    I have seen patriotic responsibility in response to the Sichuan quake. I didn’t see this in March and April. I just saw pure nationalism.
    I think people often confuse the two.

  • http://twofish.wordpress.com/ Twofish

    I don’t think that there has been a rise in Chinese nationalism recently. For there to have been a rise in Chinese nationalism would imply that sometime in the last 170 years, Chinese were less nationalistic than they are now, and if someone can point to a period of history in which there was less nationalism than there is today, I’d like to see it.

  • http://news.imagethief.com/blogs/china/archive/2008/05/21/5-12-9-11-and-tian-anmen-at-2-28pm.aspx Imagethief

    5/12, 9/11 and three minutes on Monday afternoon

    On Monday, May 12th, Imagethief was on the 27th floor of the Kerry Center for a meeting at 2:28PM. We

  • http://www.foarp.blogspot.com FOARP

    @Twofish – However, the last 170 years has not been a particularly peaceful time, with violence both being inflicted on China and latter being inflicted by China. One more thing, I think it would be quite reasonable to say that up until the 1920′s at least, there were still parts of China in which there were whole villages where people lived who had never even heard that the country existed – I have heard this said of modern-day India. It would therefore seem reasonable to say that Chinese nationalism is not an ancient but a modern force, one born mainly out of reaction to foreign threats – both perceived and real – in the period after 1840. It is only really since the rise of the KMT that nationalism became widespread in China, and only since 1949 that it can be found universally.
    @Jxie – Ooops! Sorry, it seems I mis-remembered something I had read in the Taipei Times, here’s the actual stats they gave:
    “Taiwan’s economic growth averaged 4.1 percent between 2000 and 2007, and reached 5.23 percent in the last four years, outperforming South Korea’s 4.7 percent. The CPI had an average growth rate of only 0.89 percent between 2000 and 2007,”
    I do not take these statistics as a sign of failure in the economy, but even if you do there are many who would blame this not on the distancing of Taiwan from China, but from the fact that Taiwan is perhaps the place with the most to lose from the growth of China. Many Taiwanese businesses have relocated their manufacturing plant to the mainland, more than 1 in 20 Taiwanese citizens now resides permanently in mainland China – even the Chen government has done little or nothing to stop this. Economies like HK and Singapore have been able to switch to more service-oriented industries, Taiwan has not been able to follow suit, and this is partly due to its isolation from world bodies like the WHO, but it is hard to see how anything short of full reunification could end this isolation – and this is not on the cards.

  • Aiguo jiu huiguo

    @Tian
    Like Greg pointed out, nationalism usually comes out as reactions – reactions towards outside pressure. When the pundits and officials, on the world’s most popular TV channels, blame China for U.S.’s economic problems…
    Chinese in China don’t watch US news, except in a very filtered version, so I am not sure that this explanation really explains the surge of nationalism in China. But I guess that your suggestion that one should “embrace the psyche of your host country” is better applied to all those fenqing that demonstrate all over the world. Understanding is a two-way street.

  • http://www.newviewit.com Derek

    How is this affecting business?
    Well the new visa changes for one are hurting many of my friends and their businesses in Beijing. One who owns schools has half his foreign teachers leaving. Look at the recent stats of the Canton fair…number of visitors dropped dramatically. Recent travel stats…dropped 10+% year over year, Hong Kong traffic dropped around 30%.
    As for me I have lived in Beijing for over 4 years and these new visa changes make it extremely difficult to stay in China because foreigners on L/F visas now have to leave China every month. You can argue either way if these visa changes are defined through ‘nationalism’.
    Nationalism around here is felt more on a personal basis. I went shopping at Carrefore the other day and got a bunch of dirty stares and negative comments from Chinese outside the store. Walking down the street with my Chinese girlfriend we are getting way more negative comments from the local guys about how she’s a sellout and not Chinese anymore because she’s with a foreigner. Sanlitun has had numerous and brutal crackdowns targeting Africans (even a diplomatics kid got beat). Many bars are getting shut down before the Olympics here in Beijing. My friends that throw parties are getting shut down. Midi festival got canceled…Many more examples but don’t want to bore you… Beijing is just not fun anymore.
    The past changes in addition to higher costs, inflation, pollution, and a host of others has lead me to decide to leave China after 4 years. China has gotten the technology and money from the foreigners and now they seem to be flipping the outside world off trying to do everything on their own. So let them… half my long term friends in Beijing are also leaving this summer because of the changes.

  • http://www.foarp.blogspot.com FOARP

    Chinese travel agents have apparently been instructed to remove France from their list of destinations as of next week:
    http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2008/05/31/2003413426

  • Chinese diaspora

    The original blogger certainly hit a few extreme cases, if everything he says are true. Chinese people just stopped treating foreigners like first class citizens, that’s all. It has NOTHING to do with race. There is a lot of discrimation and contempt towards rural migrant workers, for example. It’s not about race, it’s about class and wealth. But that’s a problem the society is aware of and is trying to fix.
    Finally, compared to the “thugs and goons” comment from CNN, compared to the “brain-washed commies”, compared to the rampage you see on western media and youtube… I say the Chinese people are sooooo slow to complain compared to whites.