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"For a happier, more stable and civilized future, each of us must develop a sincere, warm-hearted feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood."

'I love China' shirts symbolise pride and anger

August 20, 2008

By correspondent Karen Meirik*
Radio Netherlands
August 19, 2008

Wherever you look in Beijing you see foreign Olympic supporters
wearing the colours and symbols of their country. But the tens of
thousands of Chinese, wearing T-shirts with the text "I love China",
are not primarily wearing them to support their sporting idols such
as Yao Ming and Liu Xiang.

Chen Lei, a young IT specialist, drinks a caffé latte at Starbucks.
Printed on his T-shirt is an abstract Olympic torch, with the English
text "Tibet in China - Torch in heart". Why is he wearing it?

"Because I work for an internet company, I quickly realised that a
lot of the Western media misunderstood the protests in Tibet. I have
travelled in Tibet, and day-to-day life there is peaceful and calm.
When there were 'Free Tibet' demonstrations during the Olympic torch
relay in Paris and London, I was terribly angry about it. Especially
when I read how the Western media were reporting it. But I did not
know how to express my anger. We Chinese learn at a young age not to
show our emotions. So we wear these clothes to express our feelings."

Patriotic feelings

Next to Chen Lei is another young professional holding a large cup of
coffee. At the office, estate agent Yang Chenguang wears smart
clothes, but in his free time he wears a "I love China" T-shirt.
Since the torch relay protests earlier this year, millions of these
T-shirts with the Chinese flag in the shape of a heart have been
sold. "It's simple," says Mr Yang. "The red heart symbolises love and
red stands for our country. We wear it to show our patriotic feelings."

Strong nationalistic feelings are not uncommon in China, but the
arrival of the internet has certainly reinforced them. In 2005, the
first demonstration, largely organised via the internet, was held in
China. Tens of thousands of Chinese took to the streets in protest
against a Japanese school book, which in their eyes played down the
war crimes committed by the Japanese in China.

Angry youth

This year, there is more nationalist activism in chatrooms and on
YouTube than ever before. The group calling itself "fen qing" (angry
youth) is the most wound up about the situation and makes patriotic
films which are popular on YouTube in their free time.

"At the moment nationalism is fairly strong, because of a number of
things that have happened," says media specialist Jeroen de Kloet,
who is in Beijing to research nationalism and globalisation. "The
riots in Tibet, as well as the earthquake in Sichuan and of course
the Olympic Games. But what has really fanned the flames of
nationalism is the Western media's reporting on Tibet."

Peace

Chen and Yang are doing their best to emphasise how peaceful the
Chinese culture is. At the opening ceremony of the Games, the
emphasis was on China's ancient culture and not on the current
leaders. They know they cannot rely on unanimous support from the
"fen qing", the angry youth.

Sometimes the nationalistic blogs are very critical about the
government. But that does not apply to Mr Yang and Mr Chen. "I am a
big fan of President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao," says
Mr Yang. "We are currently heading in the right direction since the
1978 reforms began. In day-to-day life, you can see we are better
off. We have no reason to complain."

You often hear that young people do not know any better because of
the state-controlled media. But well-educated internet buffs know
exactly how to get around the censure using a proxy server.

They also know what happened in 1989, however they think the movement
was brave but naive. They are convinced that if the students had got
their way, they would not be as well off now. In other words: what
can you buy with democracy, if you can't lead a nice life?

*RNW Translation (nc)
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