Letter to China Daily: Pride in China

Haven’t been blogging for a while, seems like it’s time to bring a few things online… and the following was written mid-March. Oh my… been a bit busy.

So, first, a little opinion piece I couldn’t resist writing. I need the practice, and I felt like presenting an opinion. And it got published, too… (the original title was simply “Pride in China,” and you may chide me for “going native” – there’s still quite some way to that, though):

Time for a proud China to lead the way

I come from Austria, and have been working as German lecturer at Xiangtan University, Hunan, since September.

Most Chinese are probably familiar with parents’ advice not to be proud of personal achievements, but to strive harder. The pride expressed and encouraged is in the country and the strength and influence it is regaining.

From the foreign perspective, especially when looking at the German media, this pride is nationalism, instilled in the people through government policy. And it is described as somehow fake and exaggerated.

Being in China, listening to people and seeing how things are, the pride is justified, and could be even stronger. In the 30 years since reforms began, China has fully returned to the world stage. Now, it is finally at the point where the outside world does not always, only, see modern China as a youngster who has to be told what to do, but as an equal partner with whom to have a real conversation: to speak, and to respectfully listen.

What one can notice then is that the pride in China is quite different from foreign national pride: there is an element of longing for “the good old days”, but also hard work to find one’s own way towards the future, to become yet better. There is pride to be Chinese, but it is open to foreign influences and people, not trying to shut others out just because they are others.

In this time of economic crisis, in particular, this humble pride may bring about an even stronger, better China. Already, one can see that companies are moving from being the mere workbench of the world to being innovators and creators of new products. It is time for Chinese brands to develop into labels renowned for their innovativeness, style and quality.

China is also in a position, given its strengths and its problems, to take its own economic path further, take the opportunity that environmental protection and alternative energy offer for job creation, and support deeper changes towards an economy oriented toward jobs, on human well-being, and on working as a part of the planet’s ecology.

This is an orientation with deep roots in Chinese philosophy, such as the idea of harmony between heaven, earth, and humans; there is a lot of research into sustainable agriculture, circular industrial economy and the like being done in China, and any strong achievements in putting them into practice in the modern world would set an example for the whole planet.

Gerald Schmidt

Published in print, and online at http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2009-03/17/content_7584718.htm (needs scrolling-down)

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