ANALYSIS: Why Is Communist China Winning In Nationalist Pride?

(TEH ENG KOON/AFP via Getty Images)

Bradley Devlin General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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China seems to be experiencing a resurgence in nationalism, while the U.S. continues to experience a decline in national pride.

Surveys of Chinese nationals have found high levels of satisfaction with the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) rule over the past few years. Despite COVID-19 breaking out in Wuhan in late 2019, the country has responded favorably to the nation’s COVID-19 response. Maintaining this level of approval and trust has become one of the CCP’s primary missions, as laid out in a recent speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping. While national pride has rebounded slightly in the U.S. in 2021, a decades-long downward trajectory in national pride continues.

China’s government maintains a high satisfaction rating with its people. An April 2020 survey conducted by Canada’s York University sociology professor Cary Wu found that more than half of respondents said they had become more trusting of the CCP since the outbreak of COVID-19, while only 3.3% said they had lost trust, according to NPR. In all, more than 90% of respondents said they were satisfied with the Chinese government’s response, NPR reported.

This seems to concur with survey data found over the past few years. For example, The Harvard Kennedy School’s Ash Center found in 2016 that 95.5% of Chinese nationals surveyed were either “relatively satisfied” or “highly satisfied” with the CCP. (RELATED: Here’s Why So Many Celebrities And Business Leaders Are Praising The CCP)

The aforementioned data is significant on its own, but even more so with the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party as a backdrop, where Xi discussed at length the importance of Chinese nationalism. Xi’s speech, which lasted about an hour-long, touted the historical and contemporary successes of the CCP, and how those successes can lead the Chinese nation forward into the next 100 years of CCP rule.

“The Chinese people will absolutely not allow any foreign force to bully, oppress or enslave us and anyone who attempts to do so will face broken heads and bloodshed in front of the iron Great Wall of the 1.4 billion Chinese people,” Xi proclaimed during the speech. It came in response to tensions with Western countries due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, which Xi perceives as a threat to the nation’s sovereignty.

Beyond criticizing China for the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the West has condemned the CCP’s repression of ethnic and religious minorities, particularly the Uyghur Muslims who have been placed in concentration camps in the Xinjiang province. The U.S. and its allies have also gone after China for its crackdown on political rights in Hong Kong.

Xi’s plan to maintain a powerful presence abroad starts with strengthening China’s national identity at home. This version of Chinese nationalism, which is centered around the supremacy of the CCP and its history, is necessary for the country to experience a “great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” and the realization of the “China Dream,” as the CCP states on one of its websites.

Aside from acts of devotion to the CCP, Xi’s chosen brand of Chinese nationalism promises to crack down on “historical nihilism,” which are expressions that subvert the CCP’s historical narrative, according to the South China Morning Post.

The ultimate goal is to maintain a secure and strong homeland that is prepared to make sacrifices for the CCP if tensions ratchet up with the West as China asserts itself on the world stage.

The U.S. seems to have fallen into the trap of “historical nihilism,” as dissatisfaction for the country grows. America’s national pride has rebounded in 2021 from Pew Research’s lowest level ever recorded in 2020, that uptick seems to have been driven by Democrats who had incredibly low levels of national pride during the Trump administration. In 2021, 69% of Americans said they are extremely or very proud to be Americans, marking the first time national pride increased since 2013, but still remains nearly 25% lower from Pew Research’s recorded high in 2003.

Younger Americans seem to be playing a large part in the general declining trend of national pride, as 49% of Americans 18-34 are “moderately,” “only a little,” or “not at all proud” to be Americans, according to Pew Research. The contrast is stark when compared to Americans over 55 years old, 80% of whom say they are extremely or very proud to be Americans and 20% who said they are moderately proud or less.

To no surprise, given the rise of young, progressive politicians who deride the U.S. and the proliferation of critical race theory, which has been taught for decades on American college campuses but is now seeping into K-12 classrooms.

Critical race theory holds that the current world order is fundamentally racist, yet implores people to view every social interaction and person in terms of race. Its adherents pursue “antiracism” through the end of merit, objective truth and the adoption of race-based policies. It condemns the U.S. as an evil country developed predominantly by white men that enshrined racial power structures into law — and believes those power structures that are still in place today despite all progress that has been made.

China seems poised to use the American left’s own arguments against America for its own gain. Prior to a recent meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Xie Feng said the U.S. is in “no position to lecture China on democracy and human rights,” due to the country’s historic treatment of Native Americans, among other things, in a statement, according to CNN.

The question of the 21st century, it seems, will be whether or not a country can last if a larger and larger portion of its populace question the justness of its existence.