San Mei: “I Loathe the Five-Star Red Flag”
As protesters in Hong Kong passed China’s 65th National Day on the streets, Chinese state media reported that tens of thousands in Beijing ushered in the PRC’s founding anniversary by watching the five-star national flag raise in Tiananmen Square. As National Day comes to a close in China, CDT has translated an essay by writer San Mei (三妹), originally published in Huang Hua Gang magazine in August of 2005:
I know this title alone will invoke a great deal of wrath. But I want to go one step further and let my readers know that I’ve hated this disgusting Five-Star Red Flag for more than just a couple days. Ever since I was awakened by the sound of the Communist Party of China’s gunfire in 1989—since after I started thinking independently—I’ve hated this so-called national flag. I loathe it. I’ve done away with it for 16 years now.
I also want to make it clear here that I loathe it not only because of the CCP crack down on the 6/4 democracy movement, opening fire on students; I loathe it not only because the CCP implemented a one-party dictatorship, which brutally represses press freedom and freedom of speech. No, I loathe it more because of the visual reaction I get from the flag’s design. My hatred of this flag comes out of the reaction I get from it visually.
The way I see it, by its design, this flag is unable to represent a nation. It simply does not work as a flag of a country. At most it’s the flag of a political party. What’s the real meaning of the Five-Star Red Flag? I believe that we one or two generations who “grew up under the Red Flag” should be very clear on that.
When I was young, my teachers frequently taught us that “the national flag is dyed with the fresh blood of the martyrs of the revolution. Red represents the revolution. The large star represents the Communist Party of China. The four smaller stars represent the working class, the peasantry, the urban petite bourgeoisie and the national bourgeoisie. All the classes are united around the CCP, and under the leadership of the CCP.”
It took me over thirty years to grow my own brain and think about this for a moment–what does this explanation of the national flag imply? And what does its design symbolize?
First of all, the overwhelming red all over the Five-Star Red Flag does not portray peace or stability to the people. It emanates violence, bloodshed and revolution. That big lofty star signals to the people that the representation of violence comes above all else. The four small stars visually reflect servility, capitulation. Who’s the master and who’s the slave? The face of this flag could not make this any clearer.
To me, as someone who has pondered my hatred of it for 16 years, this flag can only symbolize one-party above all and one-party dictatorship. Not a shred of the universal values of equality and freedom can be found within it. Nor a shred of thought of being people-oriented in any way.
I once told my father about my dislike of the national flag. He said, “The original design was even worse! The original design called for a few golden beams coming out of the big star. But someone disagreed with the design, saying the golden beams were aesthetically displeasing. So they ultimately took out the beams, and now we have this design.” My father jokingly added, “But no matter what, it took a lot of courage for whoever made that comment to bring it up. What guts you’d have to have to take away the radiance of the CCP!”
When I brought this up to my husband, he said, “Is there any other political party as shameless as the CCP?! They place themselves on their nation’s flag, above the nation and the people. How extremely shameless they are! But that’s fine—let the whole world see how the Five-Star Red Flag really symbolizes how the CCP conquered the land, sits on the land, consumes all in the land with their peasant rebellion mentality and imperialist mindset.
My friend Bill, a restaurant owner, told me his own story.
One day, a group of people holding little Chinese flags came into his restaurant to eat. He asked them, “Does this flag represent you? This flag tells you that you are a slave, do you know that? Point out to me where you are represented on this flag. If you thought about it closely for a moment, took one good look at it, it’s easy to see that this flag only represents the CCP. It does not represent our China, and it doesn’t represent us Chinese people.” Bill then pointed to an American flag hanging in his restaurant, saying, “Take a look at this American flag. Does she represent the entirety of her nation and its people? Look here, these stripes–they not only represent us, they also tell us how the U.S. became independent, how it became a nation made up of 50 states as it is today. She not only represents the whole nation and its people, she also symbolizes our American freedom and independence and the glorious history of the nation’s democratic founding. So she is a symbol of democracy, peace and freedom.” When Bill finished saying this, his customers were speechless. No one uttered a word in reply. A Chinese girl off to the side who was eating there at the time wrote the following in the customer feedback book: “Bill loves China.”
After listening to Bill’s story, I was deeply moved. I said to him, “Bill, it’s only true patriots like you who feel the anger and sorrow that comes with independent thought.”
The Five-Star Red Flag evokes within me not a cliché emotional upsurge. It evokes the anger and sorrow that Bill and I both feel. How could I possibly not hate it? You tell me. [Chinese source]
Translation by Little Bluegill.