“The Patriotic Road for Students Abroad: From Protest to Dialog”

Xinmin Evening NewsHuaren website republished an article from Xinhua’s International Herald (国际先驱导报) today. The author is Qi Fei (漆菲), and the apparently educational article is spread all over the Chinese online publications.

Translated by JR. Corrections are welcome.

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Protest isn’t the only Patriotic Way

From protest to dialog – students studying abroad have become more mature

From the heat of last year’s Olympic Games in August to now, it was a year of ups and downs, many Chinese students studying abroad feel. From defending the Beijing Olympic Torch to the Yuanmingyuan auction in France, the Cambridge University shoe-throwing incident, and the international incidents related to the 7-5 incident, one particular group frequently appeared: Chinese students studying abroad, compelled by their patriotism, went public, their path into foreign relations built up incessantly, and matured increasingly. After one year’s experience their ideas and actions concerning patriotism are also gradually changing.

Using Silence to show Resistance against Rebiya Kadeer

“The more you get to do with Rebiya Kadeer, the higher she will soar.”  Chinese Students Association chairman Xie Qingfeng (谢清风) at the University of Canberra feels some disdain1) for Rebiya Kadeer’s presence at the Melbourne International Film Festival. After learning that Kadeer had obtained an Australian visa, the students agreed to remain collectively inactive.

On the evening of August 8, Kadeer appeared at the site where the documentary “The Ten Conditions of Love” were screened. According to AFP, a few mainly Chinese anti-secessionist overseas students waved banners outside the venue, and one protester clashed with a “Xinjiang independence” element. However, that probably wasn’t the scale of protest Kadeer had hoped for.

Opposing Kadeer’s performance in Australia, Chinese overseas students in Australia generally believe that Kadeer used the mentality of those Australians who don’t understand China […]. Therefore the students agreed to refrain from action and to avoid becoming laughing stock, which would only increase her momentum and bluster.

Patriotism isn’t “A Deal or No Deal”

By comparison, more than a year ago, Xie Qingfeng and the other students were brimming with passion.

Representing a major organization at the protection of the Canberra torch relay of last year, Xie Qingfeng is very proud when the topic arises. The location on the shore of Griffin Lake surrounded by forest, the young and elegant city was full of passion on April 24, 2008. Xie was responsible for the final point of the torch relay. The area wasn’t big, but packed with 25,000 to 30,000 people. “We filled an overland bus of a Canberra bus company, and swept into a McDonald’s at a rest stop”, remembers Xie Qingfeng.

The Sacred Torch Relay incident of April last year to some extent also led Chinese overseas students in France to unprecedented unity. They organized protest demonstrations against the forces and behavior interfering with the torch relay. A student studying for a Communications master degree (传播学) and secretary-general of the April Friends Association, Cai Yintong (蔡印同), remembers clearly that there were some hot-tempered youngsters who couldn’t help but charge “Tibet independence” elements….

“But violent acts are only needed in unusual situations”, analyzes Cai Yintong. “After all, this isn’t the style of Chinese people, and it also plays into the hands of the opposing forces. When thinking about how to show patriotism, Cai Yintong believes that the most important thing is to find ways to influence local people in the long run, rather than holding “deal-or-no-deal” protest marches (‘抗议游行这类短暂的“一锤子买卖’). “We don’t hope to convince others all of a sudden, but through dialog and communication, we want to offer them a perspective, to tell them what the real China looks like”, he says.

Early in 2009, when State Council Premier Wen Jiabao encountered the unpleasant “shoe-throwing event”, governance and international studies researcher and overseas student Chang Feifan (常非凡)  was among the eyewitnesses at Cambridge University. The incident first infuriated him and other Chinese students in England, but after the German student had admitted his fault and apologized, Chinese students withdrew a petition they had originally planned for the days in court. The students’ calmness avoided an escalation of the situation, and those who stayed clear stayed clear, and left the filthy to besmirch themselves (让清者自清,浊者自浊).

Replacing Protest by Dialog

“How can one be nostalgic without being abroad?”, some students interviewed said. After their experiences, patriotic feelings are still surging in their blood. The difference now is the adjustment in their coping strategies.

On an evening in July, in a cafe not far from a bus stop in Montparnasse, a heated discussion is in full swing. The topic is “Xinjiang unrest and China’s policies on national minorities”, organized by Sino-French Youth Exchange Organization (中法民间青年交流组织) and the April Friends Association. French people from all walks of life and media have been invited. Participants believe that the activity is helpful in deepening the understanding of issues related to the incident [this refers to “7-5”], and mutual understanding between Chinese and French people.

The Association’s secretary-general Cai Yintong tells Xinhua International Herald: “People in China or France who really understand the other side are very rare.” In his opinion, conflicts (矛盾, contradictions) between China and France don’t stem from fundamental conflicts of interest, but from a lack of communication and trust. On April 19 last year, when alienation between China and the West was deepest, Li Huan (李洹) delivered his speech “I can’t accept to see my country misrepresented” on the Place de la Concorde in fluent French. Just as now, as chairman of the April Friends Association, he said after the formation of the organization that “constant dripping wears the stone”, i.e. reduces Sino-Western alienation (滴水穿石地消融中西方民间隔阂).

Their actions also attracted attention in France. Cai Yintong and another member got invitations. In their personal capacity, they went to the French National Assembly and provided reports about Chinese foreign relations and Sino-French relations to experts and scholars at the French defense ministry, the Asia Center and other organizations. “I think the French think tanks are glad to hear voices directly from Chinese civil society, and we also hope to be able to influence the influential “opinion leaders”.

Just as Xie Qingfeng and Chang Feifan do similar things in their organizations, several “high-end Cambridge Forums” will be held in the near future, and on the occasion of the 60th national day, related shows and debates will also be held. In Chang Feifan’s view, the process of taking shape and the  instability of the international situation and environment will lead to more inevitable challenges for China. “The times demand that we will always be patriotic overseas students, and do more work to improve communication and understanding between China and the West”, says Chang Feifan.

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1) 不屑 (bu xie) – to feel it beneath one’s dignity to do something

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Related: NPC Tibetan Delegates visit to U.S., March 20, 2009

4 Responses to ““The Patriotic Road for Students Abroad: From Protest to Dialog””

  1. Dialogue??? – I thought that was what a Chinese overseas student at Duke University had attempted to do last year. Do you remember what had happened to her?

    I’m also appealing to CCP spies in Australia to stop monitoring academics who are researching and teaching about China. In Australian universities, students are free to express their opinion and to criticise other people’s point of view. They don’t need any guidance from CCP spies. This is not called “dialogue”. It’s called interferring with people’s right to freedom of expresson. At where I work, our senior management has advised staff to report such intrusion to security guards.

    Like

  2. Oh come on, C.A.! I’m sure the student at Duke University was very kind-hearted, but she forgot to take the correct stance before beginning the dialog! Besides, she’s a traitor.

    Like

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