Can there be any talk of China’s greatness without bringing up its past humiliation and bullying? Does every call to inspire the Chinese people need to be larded with references to its past degradation? Xi Jinping makes his pledge to the people of China:
Xi said that socialism with Chinese characteristics, which has made huge progress, has proven to be the right path to realize China’s rejuvenation.
Xi said after the nation’s 170 years of hard struggle since the Opium War, it has become clear that a weak nation would be the target of bullying, and only development can make it stronger.
“It is so difficult to find the correct path, and we’ll resolutely carry on our cause on this road,” he said….
“Everyone is talking about a China Dream. I believe the revival of the Chinese nation is the greatest dream of the nation since modern times,” Xi said.
I do wish China the best as it seeks “national rejuvenation…of its past glories,” and think they’ve done a pretty good job thus far. I just find it odd that in a forward-looking promise to your nation that you’d reference its most painful defeat. Unless you’re using the reference strategically to remind your citizens of China’s perennial victimhood and arouse a greater sense of nationalistic indignation. Why else bring up the Opium War?
Last time I checked, the Opium War was over more than a century and a half ago. Is there a reason to bring it up as if it were yesterday? Sure there is.
I mean, imagine a US president — or the president of any other country — using what is in effect his inauguration speech to unify the nation making reference to its most humiliating episode from more than a hundred years ago. Usually you use these speeches to speak to your nation’s greatest strengths, not its most painful defeats.
Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.