The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has been brainwashing youth for so long that many of them cannot even conceive of their country’s leadership doing any wrong. Whether it be the Tiananmen Massacre, annexation of Tibet, or the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, the average Chinese youngster fed with nationalistic propaganda always claims Beijing to be absolutely right. China has essentially pushed their youth into a prison of hypernationalism devoid of rational analysis.
Youth and nationalism
To be clear, nationalism is a good thing. Nationalism fosters pride in one’s culture and history. It can act as a great source of inspiration to unite the country and fight against oppressors when required. However, the nationalism propounded by the CCP is different. “Chinese nationalism binds the people with the state, not to each other,” Minxin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College, said to The New York Times.
By focusing on making the youth loyal to the state, Beijing essentially destroys the bonds between people. Anyone who voices an opinion different from the state is seen as a potential threat. Anyone who sides with a foreign government’s opinion on an issue, no matter how right or moral it might be, is perceived as a traitor. Rather than judging people based on the reasoning of their opinions, the brainwashed youngsters judge on whether they are pro-state or not. Simple, but extremely ineffective. As a consequence, most become slaves of the ideology espoused by the CCP. And this behavior remains with Chinese youth when they venture outside the country.
“Even when Chinese nationalists go abroad, it is difficult for them to change their minds. Many effectively stay inside the Great Firewall for the comfort and convenience it offers. Others, like me, are shocked and outraged when exposed to ideas that are unspeakable and unthinkable back in mainland China. Encouraged by Chinese authorities and the state media, some take it to the streets in foreign countries, rallying against others’ freedom of speech and undermining democracies,” Vicky Xiuzhong Xu, a researcher at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, writes in Foreign Policy.
Realizing that celebrities have a great influence on youngsters, the CCP always tries to rein in pop stars and movie celebs and get them to toe the Party line in public. One example would be the pop group TFBOYS. In 2015, they attended a conference organized by the Communist Youth League.
Since then, the group has been attending Party events every now and then, supporting state policies and practices. In return, the boy band regularly gets featured in state-run media. “The Communist Youth League has been using idols to appeal to young people and we know that… But for my idols to survive in the market and prosper, this is what they have to do. So we will comment patriotically under their posts,” Linda Li, a fan of TFBOYS, said to The Straits Times.
Another popular celebrity who always supports Party policies in international media has been Jackie Chan. In a talk with CGTN in August, the actor spoke in a way that made Hong Kong look like an inseparable part of China. He went on to argue that the Chinese flag is respected everywhere and that Hong Kong might lose its peace and stability if the citizens continue their conflict with Beijing. Interestingly, Chan was born and raised in Hong Kong and yet has chosen to stand with the Party rather than support the rights of freedom-loving Hongkongers.