The Asian Tigers of Nationalism

Today, East Asia – especially China – is awash in a sea of nationalism, featuring national narratives based on a supposed record of victimization by others. Whether this outbreak of nationalism will end soon depends on the willingness of governments in the region to take a stand and appeal to their citizens to cease and desist.

DENVER – Among the many arguments that former Serbian President Slobodan Milošević used to make to his interlocutors was that he never incited nationalism among his people. Indeed, his public statements and speeches during those turbulent times were carefully calibrated to avoid any outright exhortation to nationalism.

But it was not so much the words that he used as it was the music. With his crafty use of code words and body language to encourage a sense of victimhood among Serbs, Milošević was one of the most demagogic nationalists Europe had seen in generations.

Today, East Asia – especially China – is awash in a sea of nationalism. The patterns of this age-old scourge are familiar, featuring national narratives based on a supposed record of victimization. In China’s case, the narrative revolves around “the century of shame,” when China was too weak to defend itself against encroachments on its sovereignty, and the idea that it should never have to succumb again.

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