Multipolar World

Main reasons for national pride in China and the US

Jorge Costa Oliveira

Many surveys show that the majority of citizens take pride in their countries, but few have examined the main reasons why people are proud of their countries. Using parallel surveys in China and the United States, a recent study (by Ni, Wang & Quek) investigates these reasons, the foundations for national pride in the two most powerful nation-states in the world. The study’s findings are interesting as they reveal clear differences between the citizens of the two countries.

Although a high level of national pride is common to both countries, the data collected for the study highlights the heterogeneity in the main reasons underpinning national pride among American and Chinese citizens.

The main reasons for American national pride tend to be founded on ideals (with a special emphasis on various freedoms), while the main reasons for Chinese national pride are largely based on material factors (economic growth, scientific and technological advances).

Of course, in this study by Ni, Wang & Quek, many respondents in both countries also considered economic and scientific-technological advances and national arts and culture important, although to a different extent. One of the main differences found is the low relevance attributed to “moral values” in China.

This analysis reaches very similar conclusions to the latest wave (2017-2022) of surveys launched by the World Values Survey (WVS), in which it was found that nearly half of the Chinese respondents (49%) have materialist values, while only 4% have post-materialist values. This assertion aligns with a general pattern, drawn (by R. Inglehart and colleagues) from WVS surveys, that socioeconomic development tends to shift societies from materialist to post-materialist values.

This conclusion seems to align well with Deng Xiaoping’s theory of the “two civilizations” – distinguishing between “material civilization” (wuzhi wenming) and [socialist] “spiritual civilization” (jingshen wenming) – and the priority [in public policies] of “material civilization”, perceived as economic growth based on the policy of reforms opening-up, with the inherent development of production capacity and the domestic market.

In parallel, but functionalized and articulated with the development of “material civilization,” is the “spiritual civilization,” which has nothing to do with the ideals of freedoms and democracy (as in the West), but rather understood as the “civilization of minds,” consisting of a set of moral norms and practices to be inculcated in the masses, such as hard work, self-denial, patriotism, and trust in the Party.

With this densification of jingshen wenming, the answers of the majority of Chinese respondents on the abovementioned surveys become more understandable. Despite there being several other aspects of “socialist spiritual civilization” that deserve careful analysis, an evident aspect of it consists in the implicit social pact: while seeking wealth, Chinese citizens should avoid corruption and selfishness and obey the Party. It’s not far from the morality of the Old Testament, but with a different god!

Categories Multipolar World Opinion