Han Deqiang and Patriotism
Radical Maoist professor Han Deqiang has become the face of Diaoyu Islands extremists after he slapped an 80-year-old man at a protest in September. At a protest against Japan’s plan to nationalize the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, an elderly man took offense with some of the protesters’ pro-Mao slogans, and Han, a professor at Beijing Aeronautical Institute, slapped him on the face twice and accused him of being an anti-Chinese traitor.
The mainstream press, including Global Times, Xinhua, a number of CCTV commentators, and People’s Daily have condemned Han, but some radical leftists have rallied behind Han, with the leftwing website Multiple Text calling him a “national hero.” Han, who was a contributor to the Maoist website Utopia, has been criticized by some for his radical nationalism, including his having hosted a lecture titled, “Save China by resisting the US: start preparing for war.”
Blog Weekly, which published an op-ed in September taking issue with the radicalism" target=_blank>radicalism of some Diaoyu protesters, published an op-ed on the Han incident arguing that Han is representative of the hardline nationalism on display from some of the protesters.
Bao Limin’s op-ed, which originated in China Youth News on September 25, was republished in the October 5 edition of Blog Weekly. Here is it as it was published in the October 5 edition of Blog Weekly:
Guard Against the Specter of “Traitor” Slogans
At protests opposing Japan’s purchase of the Diaoyu Islands, Beijing Aeronautical Institute professor Han Deqiang thought one of his elderly comrades were selling out the country, so he slapped him on the face twice. Since then, he has forcefully proclaimed his just logic for hitting him: The old man was a traitor to China (“han jian”), so he was slapping some sense into him.
As the Diaoyu controversy gets progressively more heated, there are some examples of speech that should cause concern. “Unpatriotic,” “selling the country out,” “traitor,” and similar slogans, are being used irresponsibly by some people whenever they want to attack those who disagree with them, regardless of whether the targets of abuse are or are not actually taking action to hurt the country.
In the past few years, the language of internet debate has been turned into slogans, for example “brain-dead” (“nao can”), “50 Cent Party” (“wu mao dang,” a pro-government lackey), “Lead the Way Party [traitor]” (“dai lu dang,” a traitor who would help lead foreign armies into China). Included among these nasty words are “sellout thief” and “anti-Chinese traitor.” This kind of language doesn’t just vilify, belittle and unjustly attack people, moreover, it accuses them of wrongdoing, for no reason at all. With this logic, it is easy to for actions to evolve to the next step, and people can imagine that they are “acting as agents of heaven” (“ti tian xing dao,” a chengyu)–Han Deqiang thought the “sellout” old man deserved to be slapped. And on Weibo, some popular Weibo users have posted, “It doesn’t matter whether it is a female traitor or a male traitor, all traitors should be eliminated.”
Of course, these expressing these “rallying cries” and actually putting them into action are fundamentally different things, but with this kind of thinking building, citizens must constantly be on guard, because similar logic and ideology has already cause our countrymen to pay a great price, and we can see in front of our eyes that this kind of poison continues to accumulate.
Everyone is entitled to express their patriotism in different ways. You can aggressively oppose Japan, boycott Japanese goods, take to the streets and protest, and that is patriotism; those who don’t advocate for fighting Japan, those who oppose boycotting Japan, those who don’t protest on the streets, and even those who criticize the pro-Diaoyu protesters’ actions, are they “unpatriotic,” and “sellouts,” and “traitors”?
“Patriotism” isn’t a word or concept that anyone can use to monopolize and dominate. People who don’t take part in the protests can still be patriots; those who help support the countrymen, even if they don’t support the actions of the anti-Japan movement, can still be patriots; even those who do not sacrifice anything, but who work hard and pay their taxes, they too can be patriots… … [ellipses in article]
No one can stand on the high ground of “patriotism” and look down upon others, accusing them of being low down and “unpatriotic.” If it’s not black, it’s white. If it’s not this, it’s that. If he’s not a friend, he’s an enemy. This way of thinking not only uses “patriotism,” the two characters (“ai guo”), in the most narrow-minded sense, it furthermore uses the word to cause alienation among people.
In recent days, in some places, there have been violent incidences involving smashed cars. That is simply taking this logic to it’s extreme end: If you drive a Japanese car or buy Japanese products, not only are you a “sellout” and a “traitor,” don’t you also deserve to have your possessions destroyed? But isn’t the point of patriotism is to make your country better? To make the citizens lives happier? In today’s global economy, to buy a foreign product, and then to see that product smashed, obviously isn’t a better, happier life. Protecting territory and national sovereignty is serving the country’s interests; protecting your fellow citizens’ rights is also serving the country’s sacred and irreproachable national interests.
A few people issue “eliminate traitors” slogans, viewing it as a non-mainstream ideology, and believe that it can’t cause large scale harm to society, but behind the narrow-minded and extremist specter, we must constantly raise our guard and be vigilant and rethink these kind of words.