CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
Nos. 30/31, June/September 2012


What We Believe | China Heritage Quarterly

The China Critic: 1931

What We Believe

The editors of The China Critic reiterated their stance in the 1 January 1931 issue of the magazine (vol.4, no.1) under the title 'What We Believe'.—The Editor

The Critic has been in existence over two and a half years. As was our aim at the very beginning, we have always strived to promote a better understanding between China and all other nations. We have tried to represent China as she really is, neither what our ultra-patriotic people would like to make out for her, not what the anti-Chinese foreign propagandists would have the outside world believe. We believe in presenting facts only—untainted, unbiased facts—and in order to be able to do so, we have always strived to maintain an impartial attitude toward all important questions. Truthfulness and impartiality, therefore, are our guiding principles in promoting mutual understanding between China and other nations.

As truthful and impartial statements and opinions are often not complimentary to either party, we sometimes incur the displeasure of both. We have been charged by our compatriots as being sometimes too critical of our own institutions and our own people, while at the same time some foreign friends think we are anti-foreign. The latter misunderstanding is most likely due to our frequent controversies with the die-hards. We regret that we cannot leave die-hardism out entirely in all our discussion, much as we would like to, because we would not be doing our duty if we adopt such an indifferent attitude toward what we consider as the greatest obstacle to mutual understanding between China and the powers. As the word indicates, die-hardism does not take into account the changes of the times, and its superiority complex, its persistent faith in the gunboat policy and its persevering efforts to convert others to their view-point, is certainly more responsible for misunderstanding than any other factor in our international relations. It is a regrettable situation, but we have to face it and overcome the obstacle in order to attain our end.

Although our publication is in a foreign language, and it would be most natural for us to devote our efforts to making China better understood by the outside world, we nevertheless consider our important mission not fulfilled without also making the outside world better known to our own people. This is particularly desirable as we have a large circulation among our intellectual class, including a large number of college undergraduates. Being better acquainted with foreign institutions and foreign ideals, we feel it our duty to make them better understood by our own compatriots, and at the same time re-evaluate our own institutions and ideas from the western point of view. Hence our criticism of our own civilization and culture. Conversely, we also attempt to examine critically western civilization and culture from the Chinese point of view, and point out where our ideals have advantages over theirs. Mutual understanding would not be deep-rooted if we were to confine our discussion to current problems, and leave out of consideration the fundamental factors of culture and civilization.

'The East is East, the West is West, and never the twain will meet.' The sentiment with which this was written still holds true to a large extent at the present time. Yet there is no reason why it would always hold true in the future. In other words, we do not think the 'twain will never meet'. If the situation persists forever, there will always be misunderstanding and constant friction, and these will in time lead to war, which is a very poor solution of such fundamental problems. Civilization is a nation's contribution to humanity, and as such should be made the best use of by all nations. It is only through mutual understanding, and appreciation of each other's culture and civilization that the 'twain' will be finally brought together. To this end we have therefore devoted much of our energy, and will continue to do so in the future.

On account of her extensive boundary and peculiar historical background, China did not rise as the birthplace of nationalism. In fact, not until recent years has a national consciousness been awakened among the people. But it is necessary to a real unification of the country, the long delay of which has been regretted by Chinese and foreigners alike. Yet, paradoxical though it may seem, there are people both at home and abroad who see in the growing nationalism a menace to the peace of the Far East. The Critic has also been characterized by a well-known yearbook as nationalistic. Is nationalism, then, entirely incompatible with international understanding and cooperation? Must we sacrifice either the one or the other?

Our efforts toward international understanding have already been explained; we shall now explain our attitude towards nationalism. On account of the prevalence of militant and narrow-minded nationalism in Europe, which has more than once led to war, pacifists and liberal-minded people are inclined to view nationalism with suspicion and distaste. Nor do we hold any brief for the militant type. But it would be a serious mistake to think that nationalism in China is necessarily destined to reach that stage. In fact Chinese nationalism is not incompatible with international understanding and goodwill. It should be so in any country if it were not pushed to the extreme by misguided public opinion. With the peace-loving Chinese and especially with their experience of prolonged civil warfare, it is even less likely to become jingoistic. On the other hand, it is necessary to national unification, because political unification without national sentiment is like a body without a soul.

Just as the East and West should meet in the future, nationalism and internationalism should also be harmonized. The Chinese people should cherish a national sentiment while promoting international understanding and goodwill. They should even cherish a national pride. But the pride should not be in military strength or economic power, but in intellectual achievements and contributions to the world civilization and culture. As the scholar stands highest in the esteem of our nation, so as a nation we should gain the esteem of the world by our intellectual attainments. This is the direction in which we should develop our nationalism, and this is the key to our efforts in harmonizing it with internationalism. The Critic may therefore be regarded as either nationalistic or internationalistic, because we strive to be both.