All You Ever Needed to Know About Nationalism, but Were Afraid to Ask
I’m admittedly a sucker for a period piece. But 2006’s The Painted Veil is fantastically good. It’s mostly a love story about two British ex-pats living in China during the 1920s. But it’s set against a vivid background of Chinese politics, and peppered with gems like this conversation between a British businessman and a British diplomat:
Businessman: What about support from Chiang Kai-shek? Where does he stand on this?
Townsend: He’s a nationalist. He will stand on the side of the Chinese. That’s why they call themselves “nationalists.”
You won’t find a better postcard version of Tolstoy’s “Patriotism, or Peace?” Yes, but what are they talking about? The point is precisely that it doesn’t matter – nationalism is about putting loyalty before morality and reason.