Nationalism has been a convenient tool for the CCP. However, despite its claim to speak on behalf of all 1.3 billion Chinese, the Party, along with the passions it has unleashed, are often the object of ridicule in Chinese social media.
As China hyperventilates over the deployment by the U.S. of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea with a campaign targeting South Korean firms, tourism and its effervescent entertainment industry, a poem has been making the rounds in Chinese social media that laments the use of “hatred” against any country that dares to oppose China’s ambitions.
Over the years, the enforcement of a purely communist and Marxist ideology has been replaced by nationalism as the rallying cause for the Chinese. Drilled in by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) through early education and strict controls of the narrative, “Han” nationalism has become a double-edged sword — convenient as a tool to prop up the CCP and justify its authoritarian grip on the country, but sometimes coming close to spinning out of control when the forces unleashed by such passions can no longer be contained by the state apparatus. Such excesses were observed following NATO’s accidental bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, and more recently during protests in 2012 against Japan over the contested Senkaku/Diaoyutai islets in the East China Sea. Taiwan, which Beijing claims is part of its territory, has also been in the crosshairs of such sentiments, leading to boycotts of artists suspected of supporting independence or, in more excessive instances, language calling for the use of force to occupy the island-nation.
In some instances, the rhetoric and actions of Chinese nationalists are probably not the result of promptings by CCP officials, but rather self-initiated expressions by ideological groups (e.g., the Communist Youth League) or entrepreneurial officials at embassies and consulates who feel compelled to be more ideological than President Xi himself, in the hopes of scoring points with their political masters and thereby ensure a quick rise in the Party ranks.
And now it appears that South Korea is the latest frenemy of China to be subjugated to such treatment. But while we can expect many Chinese to take punitive measures against South Korea, the Chinese are by no means united in their indignation. Notwithstanding the claims by Chinese officials on such occasions that the feelings of 1.3 billion Chinese have been hurt by some external adversary, the reality is that a substantial segment of Chinese society sees through the official narrative and often resorts to humor to ridicule Beijing. A clear example of this is a poem that has been circulating in social media across China in response to Beijing’s quickly escalating campaign against South Korea.
Titled “Busy Hating,” the poem goes as follows (translated by our friends over at China Change):
In the morning I hate America
After lunchtime I hate Korea
In the evening, I hate the Japanese
I have to squeeze in hate for Singapore and the Taiwanese
Then at night when I dream
I hate on Vietnam and the Philippines
On Monday I oppose Korea
On Tuesday, Japan
On Wednesday, it’s the Americans
On Thursday I oppose the independence of Taiwan
Friday, that of Hong Kong
Come Saturday, against independence in Tibet is what I am
On the Sabbath, it’s that of Uyghurs in Xinjiang
My life is so wonderful and rich
Of everything else, I have no time to think or bitch