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Han nationalism
Traditional Chinese大漢族主義
Simplified Chinese大汉族主义
Literal meaningGreat Han-ism

Han Chinese nationalism is a political ideology and a form of ethnic nationalism, which is used to glorify the ethnic Han Chinese people and their uniqueness throughout history. It is often intermingled and mixed with Chinese nationalism. Ethnic Han Chinese people are in the dominant ethnic group in China (Republic of China and People's Republic of China); the Han Chinese are also a large minority ethnic group in some countries and the largest ethnic group in Singapore. Han nationalism is opposed by some like Liang Qichao, but dominates China nevertheless.

Sun Yat-sen and other members of the Government of the Republic of China visited the mausoleum of Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty, February 15, 1912
Sun Yat-sen and other members of the Government of the Republic of China visited the mausoleum of Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty, February 15, 1912

History

See also: History of China and Ethnic groups in Chinese history

The Hongwu Emperor
The President Sun Yat-sen
The President Sun Yat-sen

Unlike Chinese nationalism, the Han Chinese nationalism has a historical root of being strongly stressed on the Han Chinese people, the dominant ethnic group of China that originates from Huaxia or Sinitic people. Han Chinese nationalism had often been used as a rallying force stemming from the historical pride of the Han Chinese people and their pride of the way in which they developed one of the world's earliest civilizations.[1][2]

Since the Han dynasty, ideas of Han Chinese superiority had been frequently used in its attempt to expand China's territory. This is best exemplified by the invasions of Korea and Vietnam and the conquests of Central Asia, Tibet, Xinjiang and Mongolia.[3][4][5] This was later inherited by later dynasties of China, notably the Tang dynasty and the Ming dynasty; the Tang dynasty had exerted control beyond the border of old Huaxia, while the Ming dynasty managed to become the major naval power and one of the great empires in medieval history. Han Chinese ideas of superiority were complex, with contrasting Confucian narratives of Han superiority and ones of diversity in the army and the Empire.[6][7][8][9]

Along with territorial ambitions, rallying against non-Han forces which took over China needed Han Chinese nationalist sentiment. The Han Chinese nationalist movement led by Ming dynasty's Hongwu Emperor played an instrumental role in the overthrow of the Mongol Yuan dynasty.[10] Han Chinese nationalism was also an integral part on the rebellion against the Manchu Qing dynasty and became increasingly institutionalized following the Century of Humiliation, which was often led by Han Chinese nationalists including Sun Yat-sen who considered the Manchu Qing dynasty corrupt and immoral and were hostile to Western imperialism.[11][12][13] The Boxer Rebellion in late 19th century had been seen as another specific part of Han Chinese nationalism juxtaposed against Western imperialism in China, where Han Chinese nationalists were against Western and modern ideas and sought to revive old Chinese traditions.[14][15]

Following the fall of the Qing dynasty, Sun Yat-sen attempted to build a more multi-ethnic form of Chinese nationalism and he had notable successes, such as the rise of Nationalist China and the five-colored flag. Despite this, Han Chinese nationalism is predominant in China today, China's leaders have stressed Han nationalist sentiment, the ongoing Han domination of China, and China promote its nationalism, as witnessed in the current People's Republic's domestic and foreign relations.[16]

Han chauvinism

Main article: Han chauvinism

Two Hanfu promoters at the Chinese Cultural Festival in Guangzhou
Two Hanfu promoters at the Chinese Cultural Festival in Guangzhou

Han chauvinism is an updated version of Han nationalism, a term which Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chairman Mao Zedong coined in order to describe the chauvinism of the Han Chinese, first on 16 March 1953, in order to criticize the ethnocentrism which existed among the dominant Han people of China. In a party directive which was drafted for the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party titled "Criticize Han Chauvinism", Mao said, "In some places, the relations between nationalities are far from normal. For Communists, this is an intolerable situation. We must go to the root and criticize the Han chauvinist ideas which exist to a serious degree among many Party members and cadres ..."[17]

It appeared again in a 1956 speech, titled Ten Major Relations, Mao stated that "on the relationship between the Han ethnicity and minority ethnicities ... we put the emphasis on opposing Han chauvinism".[18] This anti-chauvinistic idea is part of the People's Republic of China's zhonghua minzu conception of China as a multi-ethnic nation, both historically and in the present, which includes not only the Han but also 55 ethnic minorities. This is expressed in the constitution of the People's Republic of China, which states that China is a "unitary [multiethnic] state created jointly by the people of all its ethnicities" and "it is necessary to combat big [ethnic group] chauvinism, mainly Han chauvinism, and combat local [ethnic] national[ist] chauvinism".[19]

The PRC's notions of Han chauvinism and China as a multicultural state have been subjected to criticism, mainly by the western media. One critical view is that the Han Chinese "are less homogeneous than official policy recognizes".[19] Zhonghua minzu has been criticized as an invention of the 20th century, and was adopted by the Communist Party only to criticize the failures of the rival Kuomintang (KMT), which officially promoted zhonghua minzu as part of its nationalist ideology. Many policies have been made to give privilege to minority ethnicities, leading to grudges from some of the Han Chinese.[20] Despite this, authorities in China have also denied the existence of racism or racial discrimination in China.[21]

In post-Mao China, Han chauvinism has been recognized as a threat by successive generations of its leadership, including the administration of CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping. However, Xi Jinping's concept of a Chinese Dream is believed to have distinctly Han dimensions and it is also believed to support Han chauvinism even if it is unwittingly doing so.[22] The fusion of traditional Han chauvinism with Chinese nationalism as practiced by the modern Chinese state has been described as Han-centrism.[23]

Relations with Chinese nationalism

See also: Chinese nationalism

Yuan Shikai, a Beiyang nationalist
Yuan Shikai, a Beiyang nationalist
Chiang Kai-shek, a Kuomintang nationalist
Chiang Kai-shek, a Kuomintang nationalist
Xi Jinping, a communist nationalist
Xi Jinping, a communist nationalist

Although Han Chinese nationalism and Chinese nationalism are different in terms of ideology, with the latter often emphasizing a more multi-ethnic form of nationalism, both forms of nationalism have frequently been connected and espoused together, due to historical and current control of China by the ethnic Han Chinese majority. The concept was first debated in the early 20th century; one of those who debated it was Zhang Taiyan, who strongly opposed the development of a multi-ethnic form of nationalism which was proposed by Yang Du and Liang Qichao, stressed the existence of the Han ethnic bloodline as evidence of the greatness of China and rejected the notion of a multiethnic China, being skeptical of non-Han ethnic groups like Manchus, Mongols, Tibetans and Turkic Muslims.[24] Zhang Taiyan strongly criticized non-Han ethnic groups, notably the Manchus, he considered the Manchus and other non-Han peoples oppressors and believed that they could not be assimilated because they had no understanding of Han Chinese culture and customs.[24] There were, however, significant proponents of a multi-ethnic form of Chinese nationalism as well, and Tibet remained independent during the rule of the Republic of China.[25][26]

The multifaceted image of Han Chinese nationalism continued to develop during the formation of the modern Chinese state. Han Chinese nationalists had a low opinion of ethnic Uyghurs and Tibetans, viewing them as threats to the Chinese state due to their different cultures and their lack of sympathy for ethnic Han Chinese — resulting in several conflicts during the 1930s and 1940s.[27][28][29][30] Han Chinese nationalism also played a role during World War II, a war which was waged in conjunction with the Second Sino-Japanese War as a part of World War II, a war in which the Han Chinese people frequently suffered, and fought, against the Japanese.[31][32]

In ethnic relations

See also: Ethnic minorities in China

Qing dynasty illustration of Yue Fei, who led Southern Song armies against the Jurchen Jin dynasty
Qing dynasty illustration of Yue Fei, who led Southern Song armies against the Jurchen Jin dynasty
The Great Wall, a national symbol of China
The Great Wall, a national symbol of China
A drawing of Hong Xiuquan, leader of Taiping Rebellion against Qing dynasty
A drawing of Hong Xiuquan, leader of Taiping Rebellion against Qing dynasty

Although the current Chinese government has largely attempted to promote the idea of a multiethnic nationalism with Han Chinese is the main people instead of a singular ethnic nationalism, scholars and analysts have pointed about the lack of an agreed-upon definition of Chinese nationalism may have impacted on China's political decision with regard to other non-Han people and non-Chinese nations.[33][16][34][35]

Tibetans

See also: Sinicization of Tibet

Since the annexation of Tibet by the People's Republic of China in 1950, Han Chinese nationalists, with support from the PRC government, have been distributing historical documents which portray Tibetan culture as barbaric in order to justify Chinese control of the territory of Tibet; as such, many members of Chinese society have a negative view of Tibet. Han Chinese continue to maintain the view that Tibet was historically a feudal society which practiced serfdom/slavery and that this only changed due to Chinese influence in the region in order to liberate the Tibetans from its own backwardness and China's duty is to bring civilization to Tibetans.[36][37][38] Furthermore, Han nationalists openly endorse Princess Wencheng, an ancient Chinese princess who purportedly married king Songsten Gampo of Tibet and introduced Buddhism to Tibet.[39] Further, Han Chinese extremists believe that Tibetans [and Mongols, Uyghurs] are actually part of the wider Han Chinese family with different genetics.[36][40]

Uyghurs

See also: Migration to Xinjiang, Xinjiang conflict, and Uyghur genocide

Since being conquered in 1758, Uyghurs from Xinjiang have had issues with the Chinese government. Han migration dating back to the Qing dynasty led to the increasing sinicization of the region which the policy further extended to ethnic relations.[41] Han and Hui people often live closer to Uighurs and many developed a negative stereotype of them.[42]

A genocide against the Uyghur people is perpetrated by the Chinese government as part of the ongoing Xinjiang conflict.

Mongols

Inner Mongolia has been largely pacified since the 20th century, thanks to massive Han migration and intermarriage; Mongols have been perceived to be better integrated into the society than that of Uyghurs and Tibetans.[43] However, this is also where the infamous Inner Mongolia incident happened, leading to deaths of 16,000 to 27,000 Mongols.[44] Further policies deemed to be anti-Mongol by the Han Chinese government had led to 2011 Inner Mongolia unrest and was followed by another wave of unrest in 2015 against the exploitation and misuse of Mongol lands, as well as perceived bias in favor of ethnic Han Chinese.[45]

Africans

Further information: Racism in China

Scholars have noted that the People's Republic of China largely portrays racism as a Western phenomenon which has led to a lack of acknowledgement of racism in its own society.[46][47][48] The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination reported in August 2018 that Chinese law does not define "racial discrimination" and lacks an anti-racial discrimination law in line with the Paris Principles.[49] In modern times, publicized incidents of discrimination against Africans have been the Nanjing anti-African protests in 1988 and a 1989 student-led protest in Beijing in response to an African dating a Chinese person.[50][51] Police action against Africans in Guangzhou has also been reported as discriminatory.[52][53][54][26] Reports of racism against Africans in China grew during the COVID-19 pandemic in mainland China.[55][56][57] In response to criticism over COVID-19 related racism and discrimination against Africans living in China, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian claimed that the country has "zero tolerance" for discrimination.[26] Black foreigners of African descent have also faced racism and discrimination in China.[58][59]

Han Chinese ethnocentrism

Like Han chauvinism, Han ethnocentrism is only an updated version of Han Chinese nationalism, so many Chinese believe that the current influence of the West downgraded the development of China's "return" to domination, and as such, become instrumental in leading the increasing nationalist movement of China, which began in 2001. Participants come together both online and in person in cities across China to revitalize their utopian vision of the authentic “Great Han” and corresponding “real China” through pseudotraditional and traditional ethnic dress, Confucian ritual, historical events, racism, imperialism, and anti-foreign sentiment, and so on.[34][60] This is often followed with the strong idea of the Han Chinese people being always the center of mankind and reignited the idea of cultural and ethnic chauvinism, this phenomenon has been called Han-Centrism by the two sinologists Thayer and Friend.[23]

See also

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