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Minqi Li a chinese political economist believes that “as far as China’s ruling elites are concerned and concerning China’s capitalists, I would say, nationalism is not so much their own ideology. And their own ideology, if there is anything at all, is primarily neo-liberal globalization, and they’re very much identified with hegemony.

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ZAA NKWETA: Beijing Olympics mark China’s debut onto the international stage, illustrating the dramatic change that China has undergone since the 1980s. In a series of interviews, The Real News senior editor Paul Jay spoke to professor, former political prisoner, and political economist Minqi Li.

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Welcome back to the next segment of our interview with Minqi Li on the current situation in China. Welcome, Minqi. The Olympics, if they were anything, were a great source of pride for China. We haven’t seen a overt kind of dark-looking sides of Chinese nationalism. It looked quite benign. The opening ceremonies were very global in outlook and seemed very inclusive, not the sort of thing that looks at a kind of virulent nationalism. But what is the state of Chinese nationalism today?

MINQI LI, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL ECONOMY: Well, that’s a very complicated issue. You have the different political tendencies, different intellectual tendencies, that may to different degrees be associated with Chinese nationalism. You may have left-wing nationalism and who are, you know, kind of critical of neoliberal globalization, critical of American imperialism. And so their nationalist sentiments are likely to be directed towards the US. And you also have the right-wing nationalism, who are in favor of neoliberal globalization, in favor of Westernization, but for some reason their sentiments tend to be directed towards targets like Japan. And sometimes you have people who are not necessarily identified with either the left or right and are also associated with nationalist sentiments and also have strong sentiments towards either the US or Japan. So, first of all, it’s a complicated issue.

JAY: Well, why don’t we focus on one area? To what extent is there a development of a big-power nationalism, perhaps in the armed forces, in the Chinese Communist Party itself?

LI: My own view is that, as far as China’s ruling elites are concerned, concerning China’s big capitalists, and I would say, you know, nationalism is not so much their own ideology. Their own ideology, if there is anything at all, is primarily neoliberal globalization, and they’re very much identified with hegemony. And that’s reflected by the official slogans such as China’s Peaceful Rise, which is to send a message to the American elites that China’s rise is not going to challenge the American hegemony. That’s about China’s ruling elites. And I don’t think nationalist sentiments affect the ordinary workers and peasants a lot either. It really affects China’s urban middle class a lot, what used to be known as the intellectuals but now play a crucial role in China’s capitalist development, in term of people like the managers, technicians, university professors, other professionals, as well as college students. And most of the overseas Chinese belong to this category.

JAY: And does this nationalism express itself against the US, or more against Japan and some of these other kinds of questions that have emerged?

LI: That’s, as I said earlier, varied and depending the particular person’s political stand is upon the view, could it be directed towards the US, towards Japan? And Japan for some reason seems to be a common target. But depending on whether you tend to be left- or right-nationalist, you will either be against the US or in favor of the US.

JAY: In the next segment of our interview, let’s discuss what is the nature of the struggle inside the Chinese Communist Party. Please join us for the next part of our interview with Minqi Li.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Minqi Li is an associate professor of economics at the University of Utah. He is the author of The Rise of China and The Demise of the Capitalist World Economy (Pluto Press, 2009) and is the editor of Red China Website (a leading Chinese leftist website).  Minqi Li has published many articles in the field of political economy, the Chinese economy, global capitalist crisis, peak oil, and climate change.