The recent Hague ruling on the South China Sea dispute has provoked a very strong reactionby Yuan Ren / July 15, 2016 / Leave a comment
Patriotic fever comes and goes in China like a sudden tidal wave that sweeps up over the nation and quickly goes away too. This week, after a case brought by the Philippines, the Hague ruled that China’s expansive claim to sovereignty over the South China Sea does not have a legal basis. Different countries have wrangled over territory in the region for centuries—but tensions have escalated recently.
While foreign criticism of China regularly hits its patriotic nerve, a legal ruling rejecting China’s sovereignty sends that nerve into sensory overdrive.
People have not forgotten China’s “Centuary of Humiliation,” a period of the 19th and 20th century that saw China persistently bullied by foreign forces, including the Anglo-French Allied forces, as well as during the Japanese occupation. Now that China’s presence on the world stage is growing, it isn’t afraid to be heard. “China Rises,” or zhongguo jueqi, is the slogan that State media uses to describe the country’s global ascent. It’s also what Chinese people use to emphasise that, despite faults with our system, we hope we will never again be belittled again by foreign powers.
In late 2012, protests against the Japanese occupation on its anniversary saw mobs of young men set Japanese cars on fire. Tensions ran high, with the State doing little to quell the anger, even helping to stir it up in many cases.
The roaring patriotism in response to The Hague ruling on social media is therefore to be expected. Chinese media, all state-controlled to some extent, made bold rejections of the ruling on its front pages. The headline “Don’t accept, don’t agree” has become the official slogan, and a top ranking hashtag on Weibo, China’s Twitter. Other popular hashtags include: “China won’t take anything less,” referring to its rightful share in territory.
While some are genuinely outraged and are rallying for military action, others are simply helping fan the patriotic flame. Many of the latter probably couldn’t tell you where the South…