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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

China's new nationalists

April 22, 2008

The Boston Globe - GLOBE EDITORIAL
April 21, 2008

AS THE Summer Olympics approach, some disturbing aspects of contemporary
China are coming into view. A worldwide audience has learned what human
rights activists have long known about Beijing's complicity with
dictatorships in Sudan and Burma. The Chinese communists' harsh
repression in Tibet sparked protests along the route of the Olympic
torch relay and on college campuses. And as China spreads blatant lies
that the Dalai Lama is inciting violence in Tibet, the government's
campaign to keep the Olympics free from politics looks like an excuse
for imposing on the rest of the world the sort of censorship that
prevails inside China.

But there has also been a less obvious revelation: an increasingly
zealous nationalism among Chinese youth. This mood of patriotic passion
can be seen in counter-demonstrations organized by Chinese student
associations in the United States against supporters of a free Tibet. It
is no less striking in Internet imprecations fired off not only against
Tibetan "splittists" but also against the rare Chinese student who dares
to call for mutual understanding between Chinese and Tibetans.

This kind of witch-hunting occurred at Duke University last week, when a
20-year-old freshman from mainland China tried to encourage dialogue
between a large group of Chinese student demonstrators and a smaller
group of Tibetans and their supporters holding a vigil for human rights.
She was vilified as a traitor. Her personal information was released
into cyberspace. Hundreds of thousands of angry and threatening posts
appeared on Chinese websites. Her parents back in China were threatened
and had to go into hiding for their own safety.

It is not easy to determine how much of this nationalistic frenzy may
have been fostered and organized by Chinese communist officials and how
much is attributable to the sort of high-spirited group pride common to
the youth of other nations. The Beijing authorities eased up on their
restriction of online forums as they observed the patriotic tenor of
reactions to foreign criticism.

There is a crucial distinction between a healthy, constructive
nationalism and the pathological variety that Adolf Hitler sought to
inject into the Berlin Olympics of 1936. Nevertheless, the nationalistic
vehemence that has come into view this spring among China's best and
brightest is a troubling phenomenon. It suggests that nationalism has
replaced Maoism or Marxism as the legitimating credo of China rulers -
and that the critical spirit defining the Tiananmen protests of 1989 has
given way in some quarters to an emotional identification with the
ancient idols of blood and soil.
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