Mon, Aug 16, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Ugly Chinese nationalism exposed

By Chen Ching-chih陳清池

China's national soccer team lost by a score of 3 to 1 to the Japanese team in the Asian Cup final in Beijing on Aug. 7. For the increasing number of ultra-nationalistic Chinese, losing the championship at home to the hated Japanese was simply unbearable.

During the game, Chinese fans shouted -- among other insulting chants -- "Kill! Kill! Kill!" After the game, they burned Japanese flags, pelted the Japanese team bus with bottles, and pounded a limousine carrying a Japanese embassy official.

The bitter collective memory of Japan's invasion of China and the brutality of its soldiers during the war certainly has contributed to a prolonged anti-Japanese sentiment over the years. The unwillingness of the Japanese government to "sincerely apologize" for the wrong the Japanese did to China has not helped either.

For its own political purposes, Beijing has also helped to encourage anti-foreign sentiment in recent years. Now that China is rising as a major military and economic power, the nationalistic Chinese appear to feel justified in expressing a high level of pride and emotion. They have come to denigrate their major Asian rival as "little Japan."

Chinese ultra-nationalists show no sign of ending their anti-foreign sentiment. In addition to venting their anger against Team Japan, the Chinese fans showed their lack of sportsmanship by jeering other teams that Team China faced throughout the Asian Cup tournament. If not managed properly, the situation will get worse when time comes for the 2008 summer Olympics to open in Beijing.

For China, the stakes will be high indeed. The Chinese government will without doubt continue to prepare Chinese athletes to win as many medals as possible. According to a newspaper report, there are about 4,000 state-sponsored sports schools training young Chinese to compete for the 2008 games and 17,000 are currently in this Chinese elite athlete training system. Beijing is clearly determined to make China a sports superpower rivaling the US and Russia.

The Chinese sports fans' expectations for medals will be sky-high. It is therefore not difficult to predict how the nationalistic Chinese will behave in Beijing in the summer of 2008 when their athletes come up against those of other countries, particularly those that the Chinese believe have wronged their country in the past.

They do not forget their so-called "century of humiliation," when China suffered at the hands of the intruding foreign powers from the mid-19th to the mid-20th centuries.

Molded by their government's nationalist education and propaganda, the Chinese firmly believe that Russia stole much of Siberia from Manchu China in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, that England cheated Manchu China economically and wrested Hong Kong from it after defeating the declining Manchu dynasty in the "Opium War" of late 1830s, and that France joined England in attacking North China in late 1850s.

Japan forced the Manchu dynasty to cede Taiwan after dealing Manchu China a humiliating military defeat in 1895 and that the US joined seven other countries, including those named above as well as Germany, Italy and Austria-Hungary in invading Beijing in 1900 during the so-called "Boxer Rebellion."

To the ultra-nationalistic Chinese who blame their country's ills and weaknesses on others, the list of offending nations is long. And the time will come for China to get even with each and every culprit. However, the US will doubtlessly be the biggest target of irrational Chinese sports fans' ire in the 2008 Olympic Summer Game in Beijing -- for its role in the Korean War, its failure to recognize China until 1979, its arms sales to Taiwan and alleged support for Taiwan's "creeping independence" and its continuing efforts to "contain" China.

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