Ming China, Precursor to European Dictatorship: Part 4, Nationalism, Patriotism, Xenophobia and Racism


In the first post of this series, I defined fascism as:

a political system distinguished by an emphasis on patriarchal, rural values; corporatist economic policy; extreme nationalism and patriotism, often involving extreme xenophobia and/or racism; and militant authoritarianism in both domestic and foreign affairs.

This post will be dedicated to the roles of patriotism, nationalism, xenophobia, and racism in Ming China and the fascist states of twentieth century Europe.

Perhaps the most obvious examples of patriotism and nationalism that these societies had in common was the extreme glorification of their leaders. In such fascist European countries as Italy, Germany, and Spain, finding grandiose images of Mussolini, Hitler, or Franco in public places was an easy feat, and schoolchildren were required to praise them at the beginning of every school day.u

For the Ming, the imperial palace known as the Forbidden City served as a prime example of the glorification of their emperors. The Forbidden City, which was completed by the Yongle Emperor in 1420,  would feature an immense portrait of the reigning emperor in the front exterior. Every succeeding Chinese emperor until the Qing’s overthrow by the Guomindang in 1911 would have such a portrait featured there. Under communist rule, this practice has been adjusted, with a portrait of Mao Zedong taking the place of those of Ming and Qing emperors.

Racism in fascist societies, especially Nazi Germany, is well-known and well-documented, though views of racism differed from state-to-state. Under Hitler, Germany’s racial politics were rooted in the idea that some peoples were genetically and biologically inferior than others, with Northern European (Aryans) considered the “master race.” While Mussolini was also a racist, he believed that one’s race was not a product of genetics, but rather their culture. In other words, a person’s ethnicity did not matter in fascist Italy as long as they embraced Italian culture and asserted that it was superior to all other cultures.

Xenophobia in Ming China much more closely parallels Mussolini’s cultural racism than it does Hitler’s biological racism. Prior to the rise of the Ming, China was governed by the Mongol Yuan Dynasty, which was deeply cosmopolitan and failed to consider that the Chinese had traditionally considered their culture superior to all others, fostering resentment from their subjects. Ming governance partially served to reinforce the traditional idea of the global supremacy of Chinese, and particularly Han Chinese, culture. However, upon overthrowing the Mongols, the Han supremacist Ming inherited a China that was more cosmopolitan than ever before. In order to address this problem, such emperors as Hongwu and Yongle applied traditional Confucian philosophy to these structural changes in order to make them compatible with their vision of a supreme Chinese culture in which one’s Chinese identity stemmed not from their ethnicity, but from their adoption of Han linguistic and cultural norms.



About mlrock2012

I'm a Jewish, twentysomething Aspie living in New York City. I'm a huge politics and history buff interested in both domestic and international affairs.
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