Aug 9, 2008

China and Neo-Nationalism

(Updated 8-21-08) So the opening ceremonies went off well for China, everyone rest assured: there wasn't any predicted terrible event. Well, not there, anyway. 1,500 died in Georgia, as Russia beat it down, but whatever, right? This is about the world coming together to play games. Okay, I like the Olympics, normally, but it's just another pageant, enit?

I have been thinking about the zealous nationalism that we came face-to-face with when China was under fire by pro-Tibet protesters. I was kind of bowled over by how strongly nationals at my school pushed back. It was kind of interesting - I have a strong pro-Tibetan independence mindset, but hearing cries of "you're sinophobic!" made me stop and think for a minute: was it true that people were using this moment as an opportunity to beat up on China and Chinese people?

Well, some time has passed from that moment of reflection, and we're getting more reports in the mainstream media about some of the things happening in China. It seems like the government and host committee has done a good job of keeping the big controversies out of view: Taiwan is playing nicely under the "Olympic" flag as Chinese Taipei, and the Tibetan protesters are present, but you have to look for them. Still, anti-Chinese sentiment makes its way into most of the team pictures from Spain (it's all over the Asian American blogs, so I didn't link here but rest assured: I think the Spanish basketball team are a bunch of fucking losers). The "foreignness" of Chinese culture, of course, makes its way into the morning talk shows and most of the commentary, but it's pretty vanilla compared to what it could be. However, there are accusations and insinuations aplenty about the audience, the athletes, you name it.

Makes you wonder if the U.S. ever really got over it's "anti-Communist" rhetoric (it hasn't). And on the other side, the hyper-nationalists are a real turn-off. I get turned off by them in the U.S., but the racial/ethnic pride element in China that I want to agree with as a member of the APA community is still off-putting. Because racial/ethnic chauvinism is problematic in most contexts, but when blended with nationalism, and in coordination (or at least not in opposition) of the central and controlling government, it is a little scary. 

It's not very hard to go from "We're proud" to "We're better." I've seen it with India forever - and especially recently. It's not that the third world project shouldn't claim its rightful place, breaking up the long-standing power monopolies of "Western" nations, but are they going to break up that system, or just replicate it?

Will it go from U.S. v. U.S.S.R. to India v. China? I think India probably has enough of an inferiority complex about the games in general without all this geopolitical stuff going on. When is the cricket world cup again?

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