The Chinese Communist Party has resorted to nationalism to justify its rule over China in recent years. However, the growth of nationalism in China cannot be simply attributed to the Party's propaganda. This is one key argument of Peter Hays Gries' new book, China's New Nationalism: Pride, Politics, and Diplomacy, recently released by the University of California Press.
Gries discussed his findings about China's new nationalism at a March 24 book launch hosted by the Wilson Center's Asia Program. According to Gries, Chinese identity does not exist in isolation. It evolves through the ways Chinese perceive their interactions with other nations, and especially through the ways they perceive their relations with the United States and Japan. The national narrative of the "Century of Humiliation" from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century is central to Chinese nationalism today. Gries observed that during the 1990s the official Maoist "victor narrative" was slowly superseded by a new "victimization narrative" that blames the "West" for China's suffering, even though heroic narratives about the "Century of Humiliation" have not disappeared.
Gries challenged the conventional wisdom that considers Chinese nationalism simply as a "top-down" imposition on the Chinese people by the state, and argued that the formation of Chinese nationalism is as much a "bottom-up" as a "top-down" phenomenon. As he put it, popular nationalists both support and challenge the state's claims to legitimacy, issuing their own rival nationalist claims. In turn, the Party either suppresses or responds to challenges to its nationalist credentials.
Relying on recent Chinese books, magazines, movies, posters, cartoons, television shows, and Internet chats, Gries offered a rare, in-depth analysis of the nature of the new nationalism, as well as its impact on the Chinese regime's legitimacy and foreign policy.

Drafted by Gang Lin, Asia Program Associate
Robert M. Hathaway, Director, Asia Program
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