Date of this Version
2011 in The China Beat http://www.thechinabeat.org/
Will virulent nationalism make China a threat to the international order? This is the question that Neil J. Diamant sets out to address in Embattled Glory. A number of academics as well as the mass media have argued that after 1989 the Chinese Communist Party purposely fostered a wide-spread and strongly-felt popular nationalism, and that this sense of nationalism pushes Chinese foreign policy toward more hard-line positions that could lead to diplomatic or even military conflict between China, its neighbors, and even the United States. Diamant points specifically to Peter Gries’ China’s New Nationalism: Pride, Politics and Diplomacy as an example of this approach. But where, asks Diamant, is the evidence for deep, broadly-held feelings of “patriotism” or “nationalism” (Diamant uses these terms interchangeably) on a truly popular level, beyond the “relatively small cohort” of extremely vocal “urban writers and elites” that Gries focuses on? (p. 19) Diamant’s study of the treatment of veterans and military families from 1949 to 2007 suggests that popular nationalism is in fact very weak: that in China “nationalism and patriotism are rather cheap sentiments of the bumper sticker and American flag lapel variety, and, notwithstanding all the hoopla surrounding this topic, the world should not have to worry too much about the threat it poses to the rest of the world” (p. 415). Diamant’s book, although painstakingly researched, engaging, thought-provoking and even moving, falls somewhat short of proving his point.