Goosestepping in Beijing by mattsteinglass
August 8, 2008, 10:48 pm
Filed under: China

Unbelievable. I know that goosestepping does not conjure the same set of associations in East Asia as in Europe and the US. The color guards at Ho Chi Minh’s tomb goosestep; the guards at Lenin’s tomb used to, and maybe still do.

But for crying out loud. Do they simply not care what kind of impression they’re making on Westerners? If you are trying to avoid confirming Westerners’ sense that your regime is basically quasi-fascist, having a color guard goosestepping at the Olympics opening ceremony is just really not a smart move.


3 Comments so far
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I agree with you that goosestepping conjures up some very bad memories among Westerners. But I don’t agree with your attitude: “…But for crying out loud. Do they simply not care what kind of impression they’re making on Westerners?”
I think the Chinese are bending over backwards to make a good impression – so much so that they are denying their own culture (banning restaurants from serving dog meat during the Games, banning spitting in public etc). Granted: as Westerners, we welcome all of these measures because they make our stay in China more pleasant. But heck: it’s the Chinese way to spit out in public, to blow your nose in the street without a handkerchief or to storm the bus when it arrives instead of standing in line. So if they are now trying to accomodate the Westerners, they are also negating part of their own culture. And goosestepping may just be part of that.
I mean: we wouldn’t expect the Hindus to eradicate all swastikas just because they represent the darkest period of OUR history…

Comment by Thorsten

No, that’s fair. In fact you’re right, it’s completely absurd to speculate they don’t care – the whole Games are a testament to how much they care. But I think there are specific ways in which authoritarian political cultures are blind to the effects they produce on outsiders. I know this is true in Vietnam, and it’s true in the US at moments of intensely boorish flag-wavery. I think goosestepping really is one of those blind spots, and it’s very different from swastikas, for obvious reasons of antiquity. The goosestep is an artifact of the fascist cultural moment, and I remain baffled by places that still use it.

Comment by mattsteinglass

Just because goosestepping has been associated with one of the darkest periods of history doesn’t mean that the practice should be banned outright.

China’s military (and even Taiwan’s) are used to goosestepping marches.

Their goosestepping marches are in compliance with the traditions of the People’s Liberation Army of China, and the Taiwanese Army in Taiwan, and in no way intended to remind people of the Nazi era.

Instead of focusing on swastikas, the Roman Salute (seen by Westerners as the Heil Hitler salute) and the goosestepping, why don’t you focus instead on preventing the hatred, the genocides and the fascist ideals that was the real reminder of the darkest period of mankind’s history.

Comment by Edison

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