“What is patriotism? What kind of behaviors do you consider to be patriotic?” These are the questions that many Chinese were asked by China Central Television (CCTV) during this past National Day holidays. In the current China where the word “patriotism” has more negative connotation than positive, some of the “unexpected” answers unsurprisingly went viral.
The latest viral response is from a college student in Beijing. When asked about what came to his mind after hearing the word “patriot,” the student in the picture answered: “Patriot reminds me of missiles.”
The response, while completely off the point, perfectly illustrates the absurdity of asking such questions in today’s China, especially among the younger generations. Yes, many Chinese are still hardcore patriots, or even nationalists as described in many western media, when it comes to Japan, islands/rocks in the ocean, Taiwan and Tibet. But most of them, when asked about being a patriot on an abstract level, would give very mixed answers.
“I don’t know what a patriot is, but do know what a patriot is not. A patriot wouldn’t love the Party or its officials, wouldn’t stay indifferent to his/her country being exploited by evil powers, wouldn’t scream “Diaoyu Islands belong to China” and smash Japanese-brand cars…A patriot wouldn’t tolerate smog-filled air and heavily-polluted environments. A patriot wouldn’t drain his/her country’s resources for immigrant funds.” One netizen 高毅316 commented.
Another netizen万马齐喑一惊雷 commented: “Being a patriot doesn’t mean we should stay loyal to the ruling government unconditionally. Who’d love a regime that allows wide-spread pollution, inequality and corruption? To advocate democracy is to be patriotic.”
The Chinese are probably the only people in the current world (besides the North Koreans) who receive systematic patriotism education since day one of formal schooling. But when out of school and faced with polluted air and water, tainted foods and power abuse from corrupt officials on a daily basis, most Chinese find it hard to put patriotism into action.
“Patriotism is when I can afford a Japanese car but bought a JAC, a Chinese brand, in the end.” This is how a guy from Nanjing showed his love for his country. But being a patriot, or simply labeling oneself so, isn’t as easy for most others.
任志强, real estate tycoon in China, thus answered when interviewed by CCTV: “To be a patriot is to criticize the government’s every single mistake so that the country’s people can live better lives. The more unforgiving the criticism, the more patriotic.” But guess what, CCTV didn’t broadcast the response.
At the end of the day, sarcasm is probably the best way to show love for the country in China. Like one netizen 蓝色天空的幸福生活 jokingly said: “To be a patriot is to immigrate to reduce the country’s burden.”