Saturday 13 December 2008

Fenqing, defined.

Anyone who's been following the recent feeling-hurting spat between China and France in the Sino-blogosphere will have seen the article "Sorry, I will not boycott French goods" by blogger Liao Baoping (click here for the full ESWN translation, and here for the discussion thread on Fool's Mountain). Liao Baoping (who I haven't been able to find out that much about - any help?) received much in the way of approbrium for his article, here's what he had to say about it (translation by ESWN):

The classical patriots are rarely nationalistic angry young people [i.e., Fenqing]. Among the angry young people, nationalism is inside the core while patriotism is the outside packaging. When the inner core explodes, the outside packaging expands as well. The two frequently evolve together in a highly visible manner. Sometimes, it is fascinating to watch the process.

The extreme narcissism of nationalism can become a kind of mental disease. In the 1980's, Erich Fromm wrote in The Fear of Freedom:

Nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity. "Patriotism" is its cult. It should hardly be necessary to say, that by „patriotism“ I mean that attitude which puts the own nation above humanity, above the principles of truth and justice; not the loving interest in one‘s own nation, which is the concern with the nation‘s spiritual as much as with its material welfare-never with its power over other nations. Just as love for one individual which excludes the love for others is not love, love for one‘s country which is not part of one‘s love for humanity is not love, but idolatrous worship.

In this heated debate over whether to boycott French goods or not, the various flaws of the angry young people manifested themselves in accordance with this quotation. If the angry young people tried to love their country in this way, the result is hurt and not love.

Some people both love and hate the angry young people. Therefore, they elevate them and then denigrate them afterwards; or they denigrate them and then elevate them afterwards. They keep alternating their attitudes (fortunately for them, the angry young people are usually forgetful). While nationalism does have the passionate force of idolatry, it tries to override humanity, truth and justice, and it can therefore become a force of destruction. Nationalism is a twin-bladed sword, and therefore it must be handled with extreme care. Otherwise, the angry young people can hurt the country tremendously.


Anonymous said...

Young Chinese can learn from the generation before them that was used in the cultural revolution. If you want to sing a mantra make sure it is your own unique one, not just echoing nationalist dribble. Besides since when does Carrefour has any say in the actions of the French President? Plain silly behavior and destructive too. I thought the freedom fries thing in the US was ridiculous but this Carrefour bashing is even more of an empty statement. Countries have a ministry of foreign affairs for this. Not a bunch of street fighters. As a country it is embarrassing for the Chinese government and makes China looks like a failed state.

Gilman Grundy said...

I don't know about China being a "failed state", but a troubled one - yes it most certainly makes it look like that. Essentially I buy the line that the anti-French tone of the moment is entirely artificial and much more to do with 1) taking people's minds off bad news, and 2) giving an excuse to avoid an EU meeting which would have seen fireworks over imports.