The dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s left one superpower standing: The United States. The Cold War was over but the Communist Party in China was ready to fuel a new nationalist movement. In his book China’s New Nationalism, Peter Gries provides his study of New Nationalism from the 1990s to present time. In his book he examines that with the slow death of communist ideology, the Communist Party Foments nationalism to legitimize its rule The Cold War painted a picture of Communists being a bad thing to Americans and it is something that they have not been able to brush off their shoulder. Gries writes about the young chinese he refers to as the fourth generation throughout his book and how they shaped what China would look like from another countries point of view. This essay will evaluate Gries’ arguments made throughout the book, some of his sources, and make connections to content we have discussed in class.
Who is Peter Gries and is he qualified to inform his intended audience of foreign policymakers and students alike? In the acknowledgement section of the book he briefly writes about how he grew up and went to school in China. He went to Ohio State University where he worked on most of the research while pursuing a post doctoral degree. Throughout many of the other books he has written he displays his interest in the psychology behind Chinese politics in particular with the United States.
There are two major events that have occured in the last decade between China and the United States that Gries refers to in his book. The first being the Hainan Island incident in 2001, something we discussed in class and can connect us the the book, this was where a United States spy plane collided with a Chinese fighter jet resulting in the death of that Chinese pilot. This caused a great conflict between China and the United States because the crew was detained and the two countries needed to sort it out. This is where Gries introduces us to the concept of saving face He uses it in an analogy similar to what we would see as prestige or honor
The next conflict is the highlight of the book and it was something we went over in class as well. This is the bombing of the Chinese Embassy in 1999. We discussed much controversy over this issue because there were two countries not talking to each other at the end of the century. Again both were saving face and needed to let go of that ego to develop good relations with one another. It is because that both of these countries want to save face that Gries makes the argument on this is why neither of them will ever get along with one another because they both believe themselves to be more prestigious than the other. The United States issued an apology to the Chinese government and we learned in class that the Chinese delayed releasing this information to the public. They were critical on whether to believe the Americans or not because of their rough history with foreigners. China has had a history for thousands of years so how come this young country can just bomb and kill two of their citizens and not be held accountable?
Gries seeks to present a balanced view of China’s new nationalism-one that both acknowledges its legitimate grievances and recognizes its potential dangers He contradicts himself here because of the choice of a majority of his sources making the actual context view very narrow. What I mean by that is that most of the publications he cites were written within hours or even days of the tragic events that led to conflict with the United States as stated above as well as the famous book China Can Say No. In other words he is using the rhetoric sources that were put in place by Chinese Elites to fuel this New Nationalism in China. This would be the equivalent of someone foreign to the United States only reading the rhetoric in the aftermath of tragic events in order to get an understanding of the American identity that happen today a particular domestic issue would have to be school shootings. More famous examples throughout our young nation’s history would have to be the times we have been attacked on our soil which include Pearl Harbor and 9/11.
Gries defines national identity as that aspect of individuals’ self image that is tied to their nation, together with the value and emotional significance they attatch to membership in the national community. Nationalism’ will refer to any behavior designed to restore, maintain, or advance public images of that national community. Here he makes that connection with the concept of face again. He writes about it being a part of the new nationalism. The contradiction I draw here is that this sense of identity and face has been around China for centuries. We see this through in early Imperial China with the Civil Service examinations we learned about in a previous course with Doctor Wong. These were designed to be the hardest tests for the smartest people and you brought honor to your family if you passed the tests. This impacted the society in the Qing Dynasty China. This is my own interpretation of one of the many examples China has displayed nationalism. There is nothing that is new here. Chinese even today are all about the honor or as Gries refers to it as face. He actually overuses the term throughout his book that does not seem to have a particular chronological order.
He is not only critical of Chinese losing face but also on the Americans that they too do not want to lose face.
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