Exercise caution on nationalism

Updated: 2013-09-09 07:04

(China Daily)

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On Aug 23, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement in response to an article, "Lee Hsien Loong: China could gain Diaoyu Islands but lose its international standing", in a popular Chinese language tabloid. The Singapore ministry said the article on Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's remark at the 19th Nikkei International Conference on the Future of Asia was "inaccurate" and "misleading".

The tabloid rebutted quickly, saying that it had just re-printed the article from a Hong Kong newspaper. There is no need to cast any more aspersions on anybody, but all parties involved should learn a lesson from the incident.

First, the media should not provoke irrational nationalism. The article's headline was sensational and, as expected, attracted many eyeballs. But it quoted Lee out of context and did not fully convey his idea.

Moreover, the 19th Nikkei International Conference on the Future of Asia was held in May 2013, but the article was reproduced three months later. Therefore, the article's real intention is highly questionable.

Second, politicians should be especially wary of nationalism. After carefully reviewing his full speech, I don't think Lee had any intention of offending China. Territorial and sovereign issues are sensitive to any state, and the Diaoyu Islands dispute between China and Japan is extremely sensitive because of historical factors. So it would be wise to gauge and minimize the potential political risks before commenting on such issues.

And third, the Chinese public should not indulge in blind nationalism. Blind nationalism is not patriotism; it could jeopardize national interests. We should be rational and wise enough to accept external suggestions and even criticism, because "kind advice may be harsh but good for us", as Confucius said.

We should never forget that nationalism is a double-edged sword and manipulated nationalism could harm bilateral relations and affect people-to-people ties.

Sun Xi, via e-mail

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(China Daily 09/09/2013 page9)