Hong Zhenkuai: Patriotism Doesn’t Mean Love of Government

China Elections and Governance has translated an op-ed first published in the Southern Metropolis Weekly. THe editr in charge of publishing it was later removed from his post. The piece, by historian and newspaper columnist Hong Zhenkuai, looks at the meaning of patriotism:

The most obvious consequence of this confusion between the nation and the imperial court is that love of country turns into love of government, or even into love of that government’s leader—the sovereign. Throughout history, this confusion has led people to kill others to increase the exploits of one name, bartering their marrow in exchange for fame and wealth. Originally, this exchange had nothing to do with patriotism, but was worked into the framework of patriotism established by each dynasty. However, because citizens cannot correctly distinguish between love of country and love of government, they will praise one while praising the other. This is truly a sad state of affairs.

A little later than Liang Qichao, Chen Duxiu (a leading figure in the anti-imperial Xinhai Revolution and the May Fourth Movement and a co-founder of the Chinese Communist Party)wrote an essay titled “Should We Be Patriotic or Not?” Liang stated in the essay that, “When we ask whether we should love our nation, we first have to ask what “nation” means. It used to be that the nation consisted merely of organizations of people coming together to resist foreign oppression and resolve internal disputes. Good men could use the nation to resist oppression and resolve problems; bad men could use the nation to oppress other nations or tyrannize their people.” Thus, if people ask, “Should we love our nation?” we must loudly respond: “What we love are nations that work for their people’s well-being, and not nations that force their people to make sacrifices.”


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