Transformation of Chinese and Japanese Nationalism

Transformation of Chinese and Japanese Nationalism

The journey to the realization of today’s Chinese and Japanese nationalism has not been smooth. The citizens of the two countries have gone a lot to enjoy the modern nationalism experienced in both countries.[1] Their nationalism has gone through various stages thus resulting in the transformation of traditional nationalism to modern nationalism. To begin with, Chinese nationalism was greatly influenced by western imperialism. This act was not taken lightly by people with the Chinese origin, after learning the transfer of Chinese territory to Japan. This is what was called the Treaty of Versailles’. This angered the Chinese students who later decided to form a protesting movement by the name May 4th  Movement in the year 1919. The fight did not stop there; some of the protesting students went ahead and formed the Chinese Communist Party in the year 1921. This party was built on nationalism grounds, and it exists up to date.

On the other hand, the Japanese nationalism has gone through a series of transformation, being a unified nation; it has not been easy for people to embrace state nationalism.[2] This is because they value their culture more than they appreciate their state affairs. Therefore state nationalism has faced a challenge as it is opposed by cultural nationalism.  Due to the influence and power of western countries, Japan wanted to strengthen its military, and therefore the Meiji leadership was vital in ensuring this. As a result, the Meiji Constitution was established in 1889. It captured the traditional political beliefs of Japan as a country together with leadership philosophies practiced by western countries. The sole purpose of this was to embrace the diversity of Japanese people.


The main aim of this paper is to discuss how the Chinese and Japanese nationalism have evolved. Therefore, the difference between traditional patriotism and modern nationalism will be identified clearly. This is to show all stages people have gone through before the contemporary nationalism.[3] Nationalism in both China and Japan were looked at in different ways. Therefore, by the end of the research, it will be noted whether there exists some similarities or differences as far as nationalism in the two countries is concerned. From the introduction, it can be observed that Chinese nationalism was achieved and perceived differently as compared to the Japanese nationalism. Therefore, the differences in the realization of nationalism develop an interest to know, what was happening before, during and after both traditional and modern nationalism.

Some of the questions to be answered in this research paper include the following; are Chinese and Japanese traditional ways of nationalism the same? What are some of the factors that prompted the two countries to yearn for modern nationalism? Did the two countries have the same way of spearheading the spirit of patriotism among its people? What are some of the challenges experienced during the struggle for nationalism? Did ethnical groups in both countries have any influence over nationalism? What are some of the external forces that prompted nationalism in both China and Japan? How was the economic state in both countries during the nationalism? What was the procedure of solving conflicts during this journey of patriotism? Did nationalism involve fatal cases? What was the general view of people towards nationalism? What is the significance of nationalism to a country using Chinese and Japanese nationalism as a reference?



It was found that the modern Chinese nationalism went through some of the following stages. They include; establishment, engagement and culmination.[4] The establishment stage ensured that all that people wanted was put into consideration, engagement ensured that all people were being involved and the culmination stage provided that the target had been met. The modern nationalism was also subjected to construction in its realization. This was achieved after the settling of the conflict that existed between the revolutionaries and the Constitutionalists.

It was noted that the revolutionaries were headed by Sun Yat-sen who wanted exclusion of Manchu. He wanted a formation of one nation belonging to the Han. This idea was opposed by the Constitutionalists who were for the inclusion of Manchu and structure of a multination country. Liang Qichao is the one who represented the Constitutionalists. After a long period of disagreements, they made a consensus of forming a multinational state exercising democracy. Therefore this consensus cannot go unnoticed as it established a solid ground of nationalism. This is evident as the intellectuals organized protests. This is evident in the March 4th Movement that was held by students. Workers were also involved in protesting to ensure nationalism. These protests were aimed at experiencing personal independence and the unification of anti-imperialist and anti-feudalism. Through these, the spirit of patriotism was flowing all over the country. This was as a result of world war one that left many people unsatisfied with what they were getting in their own country. The incident of Mukden in the year 1931, led to the deadly national crisis of various changes in the spirit of realizing nationalism.

China was subjected to what was called the humiliation period. This was a period when China was involved in wars, and both Japan and the countries defeated it from the west. During this period, China had no name and even a flag.[5] They lost the sense of belonging and felt that they have no value. People of Chinese origin were involved in civil wars; their economic status was demanding; they could not do anything, and therefore. As a result, their glory was a thing of the past. Hence they continued to suffer until when overcame the Sino-Japanese war. This defeat is what made them revive their sense of nationalism. The majority of the elite class felt this spirit of patriotism. This was seen through various protests by both students and members of the working class. 1919 May fourth Movement protests were for the students, and May thirty Movement protests were for the working class members. This was the only language they could communicate for the rest of the people to understand what nationalism means.

This was propelled by the signing of the Versailles’ treaty which advocated for the transfer of the Chinese territory to Japan. This act made people feel worthless, and as a result, they decided to fight for their rights to owning all that is within their country. Many slogans were formed to influence people and motivate them in their effort of realizing nationalism. These acts led to the formation of a nationalist party by Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. This Party was meant to spearhead the spread nationalism spirit among the people of Chinese origin. This was to ensure they get what belongs to them.


After 1949, the spirit of nationhood was developed during the war of liberation. It was aimed at countering the imperialism from the west, feudalism and capitalism. This led to the returning of the lost Chinese glory. It brought back the confidence and trust to people.[6] This was because China became a multinational state and all people within China were considered as Chinese regardless of their nationalities. As a result, China became a world power as it had risen through the ranks up the level of taking over Vietnam in 1979. This act made her people stop being shy, and as a result, they started celebrating the steps taken by their beloved country. This period was marked or characterized by political leaders’ nationalism. This was aimed at staging superiority war among the natives as leaders came up with opposing ideologies.

From 1979 to 1989, all movements that were fighting for democracy were banned by the Chinese government. This was because the government wanted to modernize nationalism in the country. Therefore China had to learn from the west to be at the same level on matters nationalism. President Nixon of the US visited China, and this resulted in the strengthening of the relationship between the two countries. At the same time, the relationship of China with Japan was brought down to normalcy. This made China be part of permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. During this healing period, many western contents were translated into Chinese. The western politics and economical ways of doing things started getting some space in Chinese publications. This was aimed at showing the spirit of goodwill.


An incident by the name Tiananmen Square damaged the relationship between the West and China. This led to what was called patriotic nationalism. This was due to the international sanctions over China, disputes related to Sino-Japanese, a rise of anti-west jingoistic nationalism inside China and bombing of an embassy belonging to China in Belgrade. This was done between 1989 and 2001. All these challenges led to the new blood of leadership in the country. This was evidenced when Jiang Zemin a conservative, traditional leader took power from Zhao Ziyang and Hu Yaobang who were reformers.

After 2001, China developed what came to be known as cyber-nationalism.[7] This is where all those born past 1980s were viewed as the right people to use the internet. They used the internet to express their views on matters nationalism. They could air out their thoughts in an easy with an added advantage of reaching a large group of people. This generation is the one enjoying the spirit of belonging to China. This is because China is multiplying economically. Their economic prowess as gone beyond their borders as their existence is felt even internationally. Fortunately, 2001 is a year that cannot be forgotten by the Chinese people, as Beijing was allowed to hold Olympics in the year 2008. The same year, China was lucky to join the World Trade Organization and its national team, had an opportunity to be among those that could play the World Football Cup. These are some of the things that led to full realization of modern Chinese nationalism that is very different from the old one.


The transformation had been experienced in the realization of the modern Japanese nationalism from the traditional one.[8] It was realized that the modern Japanese nationalism had experienced extreme challenges. This was known after it was found that the Japanese people value their culture more than they value state nationalism. Through the Meiji leadership, it was found to be wise if the Japanese people’s perception was honoured. This was to serve as a uniting tool to bring people together so that they can embrace state nationalism. This strategy led to the establishment of the Meiji constitution in the year 1889 to cater to people’s interests in Japan. The reason behind the establishment of this was to position Japan to be at equal standards with great powers. Another goal was to defend itself from being colonized by the western powers. It wanted to expand its nationalism to other countries like China. It spread its political ideologies by use of its militaries something that contributed to World War II.

The Kanagawa accord signing led to some severe conflicts among people.[9] This was evidenced when two groups emerged; one supporting the return to the past concept and the other supporting the Emperor’s way of authority. This was due to the fear of being ruled by a foreign power. This fear led to the emerging of different political ideologies. This was due to lack of a collective agreement over the signed accord. As a result, the Emperor was to return, and whoever who disobeyed the culture was to be chased away. This was meant to ensure that the Meiji system of leadership is brought back to the people of Japan.


The Japanese nationalism depended more on economic stability and that of the military. Therefore for patriotism to reach all people, a slogan was formed, and it was encouraging people to enrich the county and stabilize the military. Therefore all industries were to be supported for the government to be able to help the military.[10] They believed that a combination of a strong economy and stable modernized military was the only way they could use to negotiate and overturn, opposed treaties like the Kanagawa Accord. The Japanese leadership used militant nationalism to spread its ideology. This method was called the way of the warrior. It was used to seal some doctrines and beliefs that were meant for the thoughts of the warrior. After the collapse of the feudal system, the Japanese military embraced sharpening skills from the European side. They were under the instructors from the West. This reform led to a modern Japanese military whose new tactics were witnessed in the war of Russo- Japanese. This served as an indicator that the army had gone through a further reform that positioned them to be the best.

On education grounds, unlike during the Meiji period where education was tied to cultural beliefs, from 1890 the hierarchical system of education was offered. It emphasized that the emperor was above the nation and no individual was above the country. From 1905 onwards, an education system developed in people an attitude that Japan was as high as any powerful nation. Therefore people were trained on how to help the military while others were prepared as soldiers. The military drills offered to students were to ensure that their country is safe.

The growth of Japanese nationalism from traditional to modern involved every individual. That is why women of young age were given some fast aid skills. This was to ensure that in case of any foreign invasion; they were ready and in a position to help their country. In the 1920s, some nationalist rights societies were formed. They were meant to bring a revolution that could affect all people. An example of such an organization is that of Cherry Blossom Society. Due to the activities of these societies, some coups were witnessed, and Manchuria was invaded.[11] Other formed groups of revolutionists were meant for future leaders. Those leaders belonged to the radical political belief of Japan which was headed, Yoriyasu Arima. Due to the support they got from some personalities, they were able to achieve some of the radical ideas that they were pushing. After completing part of their target, they established a government that was headed by various officials in various departments.

After the formation of the government, a proposal of a dictatorial nationalist single party was made by Colonel Kingoro Hashimoto. He also opined that the state should run the economy. This seemed to be possible as the wealthy men who were industrialists sponsored the military. After that, a Nation Service Society was formed to serve as an umbrella to all trade unions in the country and the Japanese Workers Federation. It was observed that the communication media and the press based their operations under the information department. They used the radio to broadcast official information to the whole world. This was possible as English and other languages were embraced thus reforming the Japanese nationalism.

[1] Unger, Jonathan. Chinese nationalism. Routledge, 2016.


[2] Iggers, Georg G., Q. Edward Wang, and Supriya Mukherjee. A global history of modern historiography. Routledge, 2013.


[3] Hughes, C. 2006. Chinese Nationalism in the Global Era. Oxon: Routledge.


[4] Tang, W. and Barr, B. 2012. ‘Chinese nationalism and its political and social origins,’ Journal of

Contemporary China 21: 77.


[5]         Wallace, J. L. and Weiss, J. C. 2015. ‘The political geography of Nationalist Protest in China:

cities and the 2012 anti-Japanese protests’, The China Quarterly 222: 403–429.


[6] Zheng, Y. 1999. Discovering Chinese Nationalism in China: Modernization, Identity, and

International relations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


[7] Tang, W. and Barr, B. 2012. ‘Chinese nationalism and its political and social origins,’ Journal of

Contemporary China 21: 77.


[8] Tang, W. and Barr, B. 2012. ‘Chinese nationalism and its political and social origin,’ Journal of

Contemporary China 21: 77.


[9] The Advisory Panel on the History of the 20th Century and Japan’s Role and World Order in

the 21st Century. 2015. Report of the Advisory Panel on the History of the 20th Century

and Japan’s Role and the World Order in the 21st Century. 6 August 2015


[10] Iggers, Georg G., Q. Edward Wang, and Supriya Mukherjee. A global history of modern historiography. Routledge, 2013.


[11] Iggers, Georg G., Q. Edward Wang, and Supriya Mukherjee. A global history of modern historiography. Routledge, 2013.