Post-Tiananmen Patriotism

There have been a lot of articles about the trend of rising patriotism among the younger generation in China. These discussions are nothing new especially in light of the situation in
T!bet, the torch relay, and now the earthquake, all events that have raised the national fervor in China. I’ve read a number of similar articles and for the most part, they’ve bored me, except for one in particular which raised some interesting points.

The statement that struck me the most was:
Many middle-aged Chinese intellectuals are astounded by the differences between
them and their younger peers. Academics I know, members of the Tiananmen generation, are shocked by some students' disdain for foreigners and, often, disinterest in liberal concepts such as democratization.

I started thinking about this even more and there is definitely a point there. The “1989 generation” was liberal and very much open to western ideas. They were, and still are, very open to westerners and the concepts that they believed in during the leadup to what happened that year. After the events of that year, many of them went abroad and studied, came back, made a lot of money, and are generally happy.

After 1989, the country was basically on lockdown and the focus was inward until after the reforms and Deng’s 1992 Southern tour. The new generation grew up in a less chaotic, more powerful China than any previous generation had witnessed. They also grew up in a far more polarized situation, the outside world still strictly condemning China for ’89, but yet still interested in trading with them.

The pre-89 generation was wayward, not sure what they were living for, the post-89 generation was sold on the need for national pride. This situation planted the seeds and every condemnation, every attack or “attack” (like the Belgrade bombing and spy plane incident), and every slight (real or imagined) caused nationalist sentiment to grow and strengthen to the point its at today, where even students at top universities and white collar employees are under its influence.

The scary thing is, as the article’s author stated, "Beijing's leadership, for all its problems, might be less hard-line than China's youth, the country's future." If China ever were to become a truly free political system, it might actually become more, not less, aggressive. The government got its wish, a youthful populace that is “under control” and exceedingly loyal, unfortunately, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for. The test now will be how the government can control this new problem.

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