Teaching Love Through Hate
(To all who have been harping on how “xenophobic” Singaporeans are – yes I am talking about you – open your eyes and see the Chinese textbook example of xenophobia before you so readily brand us as such).
Destroy Hondas and Toyotas, boycott everything Japanese (except the porn star Aoi Sora who, apparently, “belongs to the world”), assault Japanese on the streets, attack the Japanese envoy’s car, besiege the Japan embassy, loot shops selling Japanese and other goods to your heart’s content . . .
These are just some instances of how anti-Japan furor, or mass hysteria, has been running high in China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands dispute in the past weeks. Tensions between the two countries have escalated now that Japan purchased some of the islands from their private owners, and China retaliated by sending six ships into Japanese waters near the islands (BBC report here and AlJazeera on the island dispute).
The fury of the Chinese knows no bounds. Some unfortunate celebrities had also been sucked into the whirlpool of senseless hatred. For doing something as innocuous as eating sushi, or taking up filming jobs in Japan, poor Fiona Sit, Tony Leung and Bruneian Wu Chun had been hounded by Chinese netizens gone ballistic.
Where do such intense anger and hate emanate from?
Never Forget National Humiliation*
I am sure living in a country where you can’t be certain if you are consuming food or toxics, where school buildings are about as sturdy as a house of cards, and where you are at the mercy of a morally-bankrupt dictatorship that glorifies itself as “progressive, selfless and united” has its frustrations.
Too much pent-up anger is bad, especially if it is directed at the ruling party. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) knows this too well after the 1989 student protests that eventually led to the Tiananmen massacre.
And this is where patriotic education comes in to save the day. Patriotic education that teaches love through hate. Hatred rooted in the memories of past humiliation and suffering at the hands of the Japanese and the Western powers.
Over the last two decades, the CCP has relentlessly and systematically inculcated hate in its people through schools, state-controlled media, and organized visits to memory sites such as the Chinese People’s Memorial Hall of the Anti-Japanese War.
The CCP’s patriotic education campaign has been very successful indeed. Too successful in my opinion. A Chinese, for instance, told me how her primary school son and his classmates clapped and cheered while watching news on an earthquake in Japan. The scariest thing is she apparently did not think there’s anything wrong with her son’s behavior.
With the rise of China, the victim has now turned the tables on its enemy. The tit-for-tat mentality is evident from the way the Chinese mobs wreaked havoc on anything to do with Japan they could get their hands on.
Take this, you bullies who had wronged us! China is strong and prosperous now, and we haven’t forgotten how you had humiliated us!
Shooting Yourself in the Foot
Of course, in China where protests on other domestic issues were quickly clamped down, such large-scale and organized anti-Japan rallies happened only because they were condoned by the government.
By giving free rein to nationalist sentiments to divert attention from domestic issues, the CCP is playing with fire. There is no knowing when mobsters may run amok, as in the case of Shenzhen when protestors tried to force their way through a Communist Party facility.
Who knows, China may well be shooting itself in the foot like this woman who took part in the anti-Japan protest only to find that her own Japanese car was smashed.
And as the controversy over National Education in neighboring Hong Kong continues to unfold, some netizens made this pithy remark: “The Chinese people were out in force to demonstrate to Hong Kongers the noxiousness of patriotic education.”
* This is the title of an academic book by Wang Zheng.