Illustrations: Peter C. Espina/GT
The past shame can never be forgotten. But what's the best way to remember it?
On Sunday, the Chinese commemorated the 85th anniversary of the September 18 Incident, which was staged in 1931 by Japanese troops as a pretext for its invasion of Northeast China.
To remember the special day, Guo Bin, husband of Chinese table tennis star Wang Nan, a former world champion, posted on his Sina Weibo account that he was sad that China had been bullied by a much smaller country such as Japan. "When I went to Japan, I didn't use any of its products including electrical equipment and even despicably keep the tap running all the time in hotels. Yet I found this was to no avail. What we should do is to make more efforts in all aspects," Guo wrote. The post was liked by Wang.
Guo may have never expected that his post could set off waves of fierce discussion among China's Internet users. After the parts of not using Japanese products and keeping the taps running were highlighted in headlines by some Chinese media outlets, Guo was confronted with violent ridicule and rebukes.
Ironically, a picture going with his post showed him wearing a G-Shock watch from the Japanese brand Casio. In the Internet era, everything you say and do can be traced, and some Net users soon discovered that in her 2008 wedding, Wang's bridesmaid was Japanese table tennis player Ai Fukuhara.
China's hatred toward Japan peaked in 2012, when a young man beat a middle-aged Chinese owner of a Japanese car in head in Xi'an during anti-Japanese demonstrations. The tragedy startled the whole country and prompted reflection on how love for our country should be expressed in a reasonable manner.
Yet despite less violence ever since, has the lesson from this senseless beating been well learned by the public?
There has indeed been some improvement. In response to Guo's post, many commentators disagreed that wasting water in Japan can make any sense as a way of expressing patriotism or remembering history.
However, a survey by ifeng.com showed that as of Wednesday afternoon, about 50 percent of over 100,000 respondents thought that Guo's post showed that he never forgets our national shame. Some 38.79 percent supported Guo's behavior, with 48 percent against. Yet what sense can such tricks eventually make?
It's true that Chinese tourists have flooded Japan in recent years and crazily bought quality Japanese products ranging from toothbrushes to rice cookers. But underneath these personal contacts between the two countries, there still seems to be long-held resentment and anger against Japan buried deep inside Chinese people, with few opportunities for release.
Meanwhile, although Chinese consumers have become a big boost for the Japanese economy, the latest survey by the Japanese cabinet showed that over 80 percent of Japanese respondents don't have a favorable impression of China. Under the circumstance, the best way to show patriotism is to strive to make your country stronger and respected by all, not unreasonable behaviors that benefit no one.
Finding Net users' verbal attacks unbearable, Wang clarified later Monday that her husband did what was posted over a decade ago, which therefore doesn't deserve so much fuss.
However, no matter when Guo did it, the discussions again reminded the Chinese public that patriotism doesn't mean simply hating your enemy. In today's world when peace and development are prioritized above anything else, we need to learn from others including previous enemies and prosper in every field so that everyone can benefit. To love the country, please work to make it greater.
The author is a reporter with the Global Times. firstname.lastname@example.org