The Chinese regime, arguably the biggest threat to the United States, is busy molding young minds and unyielding levels of loyalty—China’s “Generation N.”
A few months ago, in an op-ed for the South China Morning Post, Jun Mai and Amber Wang described China’s Generation N as a politically-engaged group who are “more vocal and more nationalist than those a decade ago.” The ‘N,’ which represents nationalism, couldn’t be more appropriate, as these youngsters really love their country. Inspired by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), this new generation stand in solidarity with the leaders in Beijing.
The authors described China’s young nationalists as politically engaged and aggressively patriotic. Instead of taking to the streets “to vent their anger against foreign governments and businesses,” Gen N, according to the authors, police the virtual streets, chastising any netizens who dare to utter the words “sovereign” and “Taiwan” in the same sentence.
What is fueling such nationalistic fervor in mainland China? As the authors’ noted, Gen N disciples are motivated by “a shifting expectation” of the country’s “international status as its power grows.” Unlike previous generations who were accustomed to widespread poverty and violence, younger Chinese citizens have become accustomed to the good life (well, as good as life can be living under a despotic regime). According to the authors, Gen N are proud of the country’s high-speed railways and roads, not to mention the “pace of urbanization.”
Now, before I continue, this pride appears to be wholly misplaced. Indoctrinated from an early age, millions of China’s youngsters are raised on a destructive diet heavy on propaganda, which promotes socialist and communist values. Nevertheless, the pride they feel is real.
Why should any of this matter to readers in the United States? Who really cares about a bunch of teens and twenty-somethings in China?
There are plenty of reasons to care. The teens and twenty-somethings of today are the adults of tomorrow. A more united communist China is a more dangerous authoritarian regime. As someone who has lived in the country for an extensive period of time, I know what Chinese pride looks like. Heavy on anti-American sentiments, much of this pride is fueled by a desire to see the enemy in the West suffer. China’s youngsters are being raised to view the United States through a one-dimensional lens. If their country is the hero, then the United States, by default, is the enemy. Absolutism and Chinese nationalism go hand in hand. This is the reason why so many patriotic bloggers now spread lies about the United States. For many, these lies have become the truth.
As national pride gets remodeled under Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Americans’ pride for their country continues to nosedive—last year saw national pride fall to a 20-year low.
Can anything be done to rectify the situation?
First, the type of nationalism required must be defined. For millions of people outside of China, nationalism has become a dirty word.
In 2019, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the president of Germany, no doubt aware of his country’s rather checkered history, called nationalism an “ideological poison.” Of course, Steinmeier was wrong—and two years on, he’s still wrong.
After all, what is nationalism but the ability to identify with one’s own nation, celebrating its successes and lamenting its losses? As obvious as it sounds, one can declare love for their country without declaring love for the politicians in charge. By its very definition, nationalism involves loyalty and devotion to one’s nation, rather than any particular group. Nationalism transcends ideological and political boundaries.
What I am calling for here is civic nationalism, rather than ethnic nationalism. The former, sometimes referred to as liberal nationalism, is wholly inclusive. Colorblind in the extreme, civic nationalism doesn’t divide by race and ethnicity; instead, it promotes values all Americans hold dear—like freedom, tolerance, and a deep, unyielding respect for everyone’s rights. Ethnonationalism, on the other hand, has no place in American society.
As the scholar Gustavo de la Casas has noted, in its purest form, nationalism is simply (emphasis mine) an appreciation for others “beyond one’s immediate family and friends.” In an age of race-based graduations and fact-free claims of white privilege, nationalism doesn’t sound so bad now, does it? As de la Casas correctly highlighted, nationalism’s bad reputation is based “on cherry-picked exceptions,” totally separated from historical and socio economic evidence.
Contrary to popular belief, nationalistic citizens tend to be more caring than their less nationalistic counterparts. According to de la Casa, “they are less likely to break the law and violate the rights of others.” In recent times, across the United States, cities like New York and Minneapolis have been ravaged by violence; the perpetrators of such brutal crimes couldn’t care less about the law or the rights of others. Again, as de la Casas has shown, countries with higher levels of nationalism “tend to have a stronger rule of law.” In other words, nationalism promotes a sort of civic conscience. This is exactly what the United States requires.
Nationalism only gets a bad name because too many people in positions of authority fail to appreciate what it really stands for. From their pedestals, they preach a biased, wholly erroneous gospel. The evidence clearly shows that nationalism is associated with stronger economies, stronger political establishments, and, most importantly, stronger, more cohesive communities.
Show me a sound-minded American who is against these three things and I’ll show you a person of unsound mind. Snide remarks aside, as U.S. pride continues on an Icarus-like descent, Chinese pride continues to skyrocket. Pressing questions need to be asked, including the following: How can we restore national pride? To deter communist China’s threat, this is a question that must be answered swiftly and with certainty.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.