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Home  /  Inside China  /  Lixing Aiguo – 'Rational Patriotism'; an approach that allows the Chinese leadership to maintain social order without alleviating ethnic hostility
Lixing Aiguo – 'Rational Patriotism'; an approach that allows the Chinese leadership to maintain social order without alleviating ethnic hostility print version
.jpg_705Chinese media and politicians are promoting a new term, 'lixing aiguo' - 'rational patriotism', in response to violence in protests against Japan. However, this terminology does not attempt to challenge anger or racism towards Japan but rather shows how local violence could damage China in its battle against the Japanese 'enemy'.

Lixing Aiguo 理性爱国 is new expression that has been diffusing into the Chinese media and consensus in recent weeks. Lixing Aiguo, meaning 'reasonable' or 'rational' patriotism, has achieved prominence in a responce several cases of violence during protests against Japan.

Following the nationalization of the Diaoyu Island (钓鱼岛) by the Japanese government, public rage in China escalated and materialized in the form of protests in front of the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, vandalism of Japanese stores and merchandise nationwide (including Japanese cars own by Chinese) and even some violent incidents targeted at Japanese who reside in China. While the strong opposition to the Japanese political act, which Chinese media describe is 'illegal' (非法行径), remains hegemonic in the Chinese public discourses, protestors' violence is a problematic issue for the Chinese government.

How to maintain social order, preserve a positive image in front of the international community yet not lower the valence of the Chinese public anger at Japan? Following several statements that condemn any violent expression (particularly the verbs da (打), za (砸) and qiang (抢) that respectively mean 'hit', 'smash', 'rob')and emphasize China's commitment to law-maintaining (fazhi shehui 法治社会) a new term began to circulate through statement of politicians, media articles and even in the education system. Utilizing lixing aiguo is far better for Chinese politicians than just condemning violence, as it preserves the world 'patriotic' and structures it in a new context. The Henan based internet portal dahe wang (大河网) has even stated in its editorial that 'rational patriotism is the true authentic patriotism' (理性爱国才是真正的爱国). In other words, politicians and journalists announce 'we object the violence but this does not make us less patriotic; hey, it makes us even more patriotic!'.

When a new concept is circulated throughout Chinese public discourses it is not always a top-bottom process initiated by politicians, but in the case of lixing aiguo the leadership, the police and CCP-affiliated press are its most obvious promoters. Lixing aiguo enables the leadership to maintain legitimization as the protector of Chinese interests in the eyes of the public. It also allows the leadership to convince the public that violence is unpatriotic and by this make life easier on the Ministry of Public Security. The 'patriotic card' does not only reflect a genuine sentiment but is also a source of legitimizing that allows the leadership the maintain control. A demonstration in front of the Japanese embassy in Beijing last week has even received the flattering title of 'a role model to rational patriotism' by the Chinese media and the police 'thanked' the demonstrators for their civilized behavior.

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Top right: an add that calls to boycott Japanese products (抵制日货);
top left: a demonstration of 'rational patriotism' in Changchun;
bottom left: a comics published by the Xinhua News Agency that portrays violent protestors as traitors whowish to damage China. This comics also implicitly criticizes the act of uploading images of violent incidents on the internet.

One of the media articles that emphasized the importance of remaining 'civilized' has even went a step further and suggested that Japanese media is enjoying  the fact that Chinese citizens are becoming violent and that social order is at risk (the article uses the term 幸灾乐祸 xìng zāi lè huò which means 'to gloat at another's misfortune'). This author regards social unrest in China as a fuel to those who wish to destroy China's reputation. Therefore this rhetoric implicitly refers to the violent Chinese protestors as unpatriotic and unaware traitors. A comics published by Xinhua News Agency (see above) even goes a step further by depicting the violent protestors as evil creatures who wish to harm Chinese society.

It is clear that Chinese media articles do not attempt to reduce society's rage towards Japan. By promoting 'lixing aiguo' they manifest a strong awareness to China's diplomatic image and complete adherence to the rule of the Chinese leadership. Unlike numerous blog posts by Chinese netizens in recent days that object a negative generalization of Japanese people, the rhetoric of lixing aiguo does not attempt to eliminate hate nor does it wish to reduce racism. Certainly it does not want to stop the Chinese public from protesting passionately.

Knowing that this 'battle' with Japan is far from being over, the Chinese leadership wants to rely on these negative public sentiments towards Japan in case the conflict escalates furthermore. China is thus doing what many leaders worldwide do best: trying to maintain order on the surface but at the same time feeding ethnic hostility. By this they keep residents' submissive loyalty to the state at maximum level and the state in turn is able to maintain maximum control with minimum efforts.  


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