Patriotism in the Expansion Section

September 02, 2009, 09:06 AM posted in General Discussion

Has anybody noticed an certain amount of "爱国热情" (patriotic passion/fervour) in the expansion sections of certain upper-intermediate lessons?

I've just been studying "History" in the Saved by the Gong series (which is great by the way), and came across the following examples:

(A united motherland is the wish of every citizen.)

(The people of the entire country together conquered this rare winter storm disaster.)

(The ruling party has done a lot to stabilize it's ruling position.)

(In the early days of the establishment of the new China, a stable regime was of utmost importance.)


I'm commenting since this isn't the first time I've come across this sort of thing in the expansion section. In the past there have been sentences extolling the sacredness of the Olympic torch etc etc...

Now, this doesn't necessarily bother me, in fact I find it quite interesting.

I guess I'd like to know, who writes these sentences?

Has anyone else noticed a little bit of, dare I say it - propaganda - being squeezed into their studies?


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September 02, 2009, 09:57 AM

Hi dahouxiaohou

The expansion sentences are written by a Glorious Team of Boldly United Workers, raising high the flag of anti-imperialism and unification and Learning on Your Terms.

The whole native-Chinese CPod staff contributes to them, and so it would be difficult to attribute any particular sentence to a particular nationalist ;-)

Anyone who knows me knows my feelings about nationalism. I like it less than a trip to the dentist, and more than a sharp stick in the eye.

I'd argue that the propaganda content of these sentences is very valuable for anyone interested in getting to know something about many modern Chinese people's world view.  And these sentences are actually quite a bit tamer than much of the content of school children's textbooks, or newspapers you get at any newstand.

I'm glad to see that you take them as cultural insight, rather than our endorsing of the CCP world view.


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September 02, 2009, 10:41 AM

Good answer Pete!

I completely agree that these (admitedly tame) sentences are quite representative of a large swathe of popular opinion in modern China, a point of view that I've only really come to be aware of in the post-2008 info wars. I  get a kick out of reading them, and they are certainly useful for when my Chinese friends go off on a rant! 

While I have you Pete, would it be possible to do a history lesson on some of the big events of 20th Century Chinese history, perhaps in conjunction with the release of 建国大典。

What would be really interesting would be a dialouge between two contrasting views of 60 years of the PRC... or would this be a little too sensitive?

Here's hoping!

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September 02, 2009, 01:47 PM

pete, given that China is a country where conforming with commonly-held views is regarded as normal and virtuous, and where if you don't endorse or share in simplistic nationalism you're considered to be abnormal and/or something of a scoundrel, I wonder if you feel out of step with or alienated from the culture to which you've clearly devoted your life and soul.

Personally speaking, I've come to feel that it's almost impossible for (most) educated westerners to ever feel like they truly belong here. I think we grow up with individualism and cynicism towards government(s) so much a part of who we are. In my experience of life in (an admittedly backward and provincial part of) China, this worldview seems weird and incomprehensible to 99% of Chinese, the other 1% feel guilty about understanding it!

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September 02, 2009, 11:58 PM

Hi dahouxiaohou,

Thanks for a thoughtful reply. I'm afraid the lessons are all plotted out through the immediate future. More importantly, CPod prefers to err on the side of caution when it comes to politically sensitive stuff. This is just how things work when the government censorship machine is so powerful.

We have done a lesson or two on 1949, and I agree that a lot of poddies might enjoy something on Reform and Opening (or even, the nerdy Sinophile in me hopes, the fall of the Qing dynasty...?) We could make things more interesting by setting it as a conversation among armchair (or barstool) historians, not a straight-up history lesson.

Hi tal,

There was a time when I'd have agreed that Chinese was my life's work. But I've come to see it, like English, as a tool for doing my real life's work, which is re-introducing sustainable farming. I have no doubt that it will be useful.

Conformity and propaganda are becoming the rule around the world. In my opinion, the belief that "more stuff equals more happiness/don't get in the way of progress" is a death-cult as harmful as any of them. But I agree that irony is the best weapon against ignorance and oppression, which are inextricably linked. Here's to a more ironic society that asks tough questions.

As for feeling out of step with society: I think of myself as someone who will always have a close circle of friends, but may never feel completely at home anywhere.  I try to appreaciate each place for the beauty it offers, and at the same time never stop working to make it better.

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September 03, 2009, 12:29 AM

Good luck with then pete! I'd say you'll need a lot of it to effect the kind of change you seem to be talking about. Humans gave up on 'sustainable' living 10,000 years ago when they got into agriculture in the first place! Like any animal, once they figured out how to 'cheat the bank' and produce surpluses, they'll just keep on doing it until Mother Nature herself decides it's no longer possible.

Irony can be a consolation, but it's pretty ineffective and/or superfluous when used against people who not only lack a sense of humour, but don't care about the joke anyway - lol.

Changing the world? Hmm... how well do you know Alice Through the Looking Glass? Here's a favorite quote:

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
"If this were only cleared away,"
They said, "it would be grand!"