On Chinese Patriotism

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In last week’s issue of TIME Asia guest writer Jiajia Liu, who was born in China and now lives in London, wrote about her feelings of pride for her homeland.

I left China in 1989, just after Tiananmen, when I was 7. My mother and I traveled to London to join my father, a Ph.D. student sponsored by the Chinese government. I grew up in London, and studied as an undergrad in the U.S. before going to Paris for a master’s degree. My international education was a product of curiosity and restlessness. I am essentially a Westerner. Yet China has a special place in my identity — and in my heart.

When I first came to London, even the most pro-China overseas students denounced the Chinese government. I quickly swapped my faith in Chairman Mao for a conviction that the West would help the Chinese people advance to liberation and happiness. In school, I was taught to critically examine everything I was told. But I became perplexed by the behavior of the supposedly neutral media. No report of China was ever complete without a mention of Tiananmen; no Chinese interviewee ever had anything positive to say about his or her life. It seemed to me that Western media were exclusively highlighting the worst side of China.

The essay has been translated into Chinese and received a fair amount of attention on the Chinese Internet, though this translation differs from the original. It drops mentions of Tibet and Tiananmen. And this line: “The Western press and public opinion are filled with condescension toward China and the attitude that the West alone knows what is best for all peoples,” is changed. In translation it becomes, “The Western press and public opinion are filled with condescension toward China, and this is the only attitude the West knows and the attitude that most fits all (Western) people.”