North Korea and China: Expressed Nationalism Within the Regimes

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Each country has its own way of expressing their patriotic beliefs, some more hostile than others. The countries of North Korea and China both express nationalistic ideals through their citizens. Everyday lives are expressed with patriotism and nationalism under the two regimes. Although they are both very patriotic, they show this patriotism in very different ways. This has to do with the fact that each of the regimes represents a different form of non-democratic regime. North Korea is a communist totalitarian dictatorship, following the Soviet model, while China, which was once considered to be a Communist nation, has become a socialist capitalist state with rising inequalities. These regimes reflect the ideas of their foundation with slight alteration. Both started as communist nations during the rise of communism during the Cold War era but have shifted to meet their own needs after the fall of the Soviet Union and end to the Cold War. This paper compares and contrasts Nationalism in North Korea and China. It first discusses North Korean Patriotism with an analysis, before moving on to Chinese Patriotism and analysis. It finishes with an analysis within the conclusion.

Types of Regimes

To understand the way patriotism and nationalism are expressed in these two countries, one must first understand the types of regimes that are ruling in both North Korea and China. The North Korean government serves as a Totalitarian dictatorship. Defining this type of regime, a totalitarian dictatorship emphasizes on a strong central power that is placed over the state by using a well-defined ideology with a goal to transform political, economic and social institutions (O'Neil 2018). The central power wants to take these institutions and make them conform with the ideologies of the regime by any means necessary. Dictatorships will do this through campaigns of terror and violence. The Chinese government has shifted from a communist nation towards an authoritarian socialist state. This type of regime is said to have a strong central power over the state that it is ruling, much like the Totalitarian Dictatorship. It is typically led by a small group of leaders, while citizens have little to no participation in governance or selecting their leaders (O'Neil 2018). This lack of citizen participation can be seen with the current President of China, Xi Jinping, abolishing term limits on the presidency, effectively guaranteeing that he will serve as the president for the rest of his life.

Nationalism in North Korea

Under the Totalitarian Dictatorship, North Korean leaders have instilled the regime in every household through fear mongering and education. North Korean nationalism revolves around the hatred of the United States of America and its allies according to Jin Woon Kang. The regime has been developing a deep hatred since their national liberation in 1945. They have always recalled the horror of the Korean War with images of bombing attacks and bacteriological warfare (Kang 2011). The use of Korean War propaganda allows for the militant call for control by dictatorship in order to lead them against the enemy. The power of the regime focuses on this anti-American ideology to support their militant post war style of nationalism. They mobilize their people through this ideology in their daily lives through education and media in order to solidify their governmental power.

The North Korean regime uses brainwashing tactics to form a cult-like power over their people. This type of brainwashing occurs as early as kindergarten education. Children are taught songs and practice fighting the American imperialism to validate the regime's power and develop legitimacy in the eyes of their citizens. According to the defected Korean, Lee Hyun-ji In gym class, there was a wooden target of a human figure with pale skin and a huge nose, with cunning American wolf' written on it. Lee and her young schoolmates would practice their throwing with a wooden grenade' (Fifield 2015). As discussed in Fifield's article, children and adults are taught to love their leaders and murder their enemies. They have created a unification of their people under their militant ideology.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been no solid Communist power to lead and influence. As a result, the militaristic regime of North Korea has completely shifted their attention towards nationalism. For the North Korean government, communist ideals have been forgotten in their focus on total nationalistic control. Communist nationalism is actually contradictory to traditionalist communist values. According to Jin Woong Kang, it is an original belief for Communists to be against nationalism because it was a bourgeois ruling ideology. North Koreans have clearly ignored in their pursuit for military and civilian control. Modern power is diffused through the disciplinary control of individual bodies. National identity can be understood as inscribed into the political body of the modern individual. A citizen's beliefs are that of the regime.

Nationalism in China

China although no longer considered to be a communist nation, has a ruling Communist Party. The party acts as the strong central power that pushes out any opposition and has a strong influence over everything within the regime. People are elected within the party leaving the average citizens out. The Communist party attempts to express ideas through pro-party tabloids such as Global Times. These tabloids express nationalistic ideals such as professors proclaiming that love of party and love of country are one and the same in modern China (Lu 2014). These attempts fail as it causes an uproar within average citizens as they question these ideals. Although the party has a sphere of influence, its only within itself because the large country has an extremely diverse group of ideological sources to shape its nationalistic identity. There have been militant attempts in the 1990s to unify these groups (mainly by Hong Kong Democrats) and reclaim the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands that were taken over by Japan during World War II. (Beja 1996, 4-5). This has been largely unsuccessful, but they all do have a unifying trait. Democracy and science are well supported in a large majority of the nationalist groups.

Although there are many nationalist groups, such as Traditionalist Chinese thinkers, Progressive capitalists, and Soviet/Maoist idealists, their similarities revolve on democratic ideals. The failures of the communist party to retain support has created a fantastic inequality (Copper 1996, 416). This inequality comes from the shift towards capitalism as China has become one of the largest manufacturers of the world. By opening themselves to the world, it has allowed for development and trading of new ideas such as more modern approaches towards central power. Modernism has broken the traditional ideas of Communist China. They have also begun to have a Social Darwinist approach to society, with the rich surviving by staying at the top and government leaders being paid high salaries while poorer citizens work in factories for low wages. The national view is to be united and centralized, but the country continues to be divided based on their ideologies. The main unification of the smaller parties has been development of democracy and modern ideals coming from the sciences and arts. The regime however is quick to snuff out any opposition to the Communist Party nationalistic ideologies. The most well-known example of this being the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. When students mourning a Party leader who wanted to make china a more democratic state protested by marching through the capital to Tiananmen Square, calling for a more democratic government Chinese troops were sent in by the government and fired on the civilians, killing thousands. (CNN 2018). The clash of ideologies and political violence of the state have divided the country and caused an inequality among its people.


Both regimes express nationalist ideologies but under very different circumstances. There are fundamental differences in the regime styles that reflect on the ideologies and unification of each of the countries. North Korea is a more unified regime, with a focus on one ideology of militant, radical unification. China has many sub groups, expressing their own nationalist ideals. They are united by common ideologies, but they are no where near the level of unification showed by North Korea. China has become more unequal in terms of economic and societal standings while North Korea strives for equality, even though they are poor and have to strive for unification through brainwashing and fear mongering tactics. The people of China are overshadowed by the central authority of the Communist party, but still express their own ideologies. North Koreans are not allowed to express any thoughts, their minds are expected to all think alike under the regime they serve. These differences reflect the two different routes that each nation took after the fall of the Soviet Union and major Communist influence around the world.

Works Cited

  1. B©ja, Jean-Philippe. 1996. Chinese Patriotism: Caught Between Rocks and a Hard Place. China Perspectives, no. 7: 45. No doi.
  2. CNN Library, ed. 2018. Tiananmen Square Fast Facts. CNN. Cable News Network. May 27.
  3. Cooper, John F. 1996. National Identity and Democratic Prospects in Socialist China (Review). Project Muse3 (2): 41517. doi:
  4. Doubek, James. 2018. China Removes Presidential Term Limits, Enabling Xi Jinping To Rule Indefinitely. NPR. NPR. March 11.
  5. Fifield, Anna. 2015. North Korea Begins Brainwashing Children in Cult of the Kims as Early as Kindergarten. The Washington Post. WP Company. January 16.
  6. Kang, Jin Woong. 2011. North Koreas Militant Nationalism and Peoples Everyday Lives: Past and Present. Journal of Historical Sociology25 (1): 130. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6443.2011.01408.x.
  7. Lu, Rachel. 2014. A New Definition of Chinese Patriotism. Foreign Policy. Foreign Policy. September 12.
  8. ONeil, Patrick H. 2018. Essentials of Comparative Politics. Sixth edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
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North Korea and China: Expressed Nationalism Within the Regimes. (2019, Jul 17). Retrieved May 20, 2024 , from

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