Editor’s Note: Recent reports have come out that the Chinese Communist Party intends to step up the “patriotic education” of China’s students, including those abroad. The New York Times recently featured a story about the China’s Ministry of Education directive to double down on nationalist and party loyalty.
This post is first in a series of what it means to be a patriotic Chinese and a Christ-follower, and how the two intersect. In this post, a Chinese international (post-graduate) student (name not identified) shares his personal thoughts, feelings and experiences on what it means to love his country, and his God.
Defining Who I Am
I will never forget the day when Chinese swimmer Sun Yang won the 400 m freestyle at the 2012 London Olympics. It was the first time ever that a Chinese man won an Olympic gold medal in the swimming competition. I was filled with emotion while the red flag from my homeland was lifted high during the medal presentation. I could not help but cry. I had never been so proud of my motherland. Those who live in a foreign country can relate to what I am saying.
Born and raised in Mainland China, I totally identify as a Chinese person. I am a big fan of Chinese Kung Fu novels. I love the Chinese food culture. I embrace the subtle way Chinese people express themselves. These elements partially define who I am.
Yet, having been reborn in Christ and growing in my faith in God. I totally identify as a Christian. In fact, since I have become a follower of Jesus Christ, I feel that I am even more patriotic towards my homeland. I used to think my love for China was because I was born there and received a patriotic education. For sure, that type of love could be weakened if I were to stay abroad and live away from my country for a long time.
For most people in China, Christianity is considered a Western religion. My family and friends attribute my faith in Jesus Christ to the cultural impact of living in the United States. They suppose that my love for Jesus Christ is a sign of my love for Western culture. In their view, my belief in Christianity has weakened my affinity for China. I believe this is a total misunderstanding.
I was introduced to the concept of “true love” when I experienced new life in Christ. This experience liberated me from sin and gave me freedom to live out my love. This new “true love” has changed me in many ways. I have learned to humble myself and sincerely care for my compatriots. I desire to walk alongside them through their pain and difficulty. I now have a new way to love my country, which is through loving the men and women from my country. I sincerely care for my compatriots and desire to walk with them through their struggles. I now know why I love and I know how to live out my love, for my country. I feel that I am qualified – more than ever – to be called a “Chinese patriot”.
Living with the Tension
Of course, it is not easy to live this way. There is a tension that always exists. Christians and non-Christians are sometimes on different pages. For a Chinese student studying in the United States, it is important to go back to China after graduation and contribute to China. Those from my homeland often view Chinese who return as more patriotic than those who stay in America. However, if a Christian were to stay in the United States, they have an opportunity reach so many students and scholars who are here from China.
One must consider the source of their true identity. If my identity is based on people’s acceptance, then the tension may never be eliminated. The Bible tells me that I cannot serve two Masters. Since my identity is based on my acceptance from God, then I have the power to weaken the tension. It no longer has power over me. I am now guided by God’s love to respect those created by God. I can respect those who have different opinions. I can respect those who misunderstand me. God gives me the wisdom to live this way.
Living out my identity as a Christian is much more important than living as a Chinese or with another national identity. I consider myself a Christian who is Chinese. And, the Lord I now know now has called me to love all people from all nations – especially those from my nation. Since there are over one billion from China I have a lot of people to love!
Editor’s Note: This first post is the beginning of the discussion, not the final word. Much more could be said, some of which will be in the next post, which will provide a theological account of where Chinese nationalism is and isn’t in conflict with Christian faith.