Anthem law shows deep insecurity of Chinese government

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 4:33pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 November, 2017, 9:31pm

A country that needs to legislate in order for its people to respect the national anthem clearly has an image problem.

China has made huge progress in recent years but there are still a lot of attitudes that seem a bit outdated.

Any teacher will tell you that you cannot expect respect because of your position, respect has to be earned. But China seems to think that respect comes from fear.

I watched this year’s four nations rugby competition featuring Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. At the start of each match, the respective anthems were sung. Not just some characterless pre-recording, but performed live. They were part of the entertainment.

For those unfamiliar with it, the Argentinian national anthem is like a scene from an opera, with a lengthy orchestral introduction followed by singing with words and a melody that challenges many spectators.

At the match played in Buenos Aires, the anthem was sung a cappella (unaccompanied) by six opera singers who even provided the orchestral introduction, before the Argentinian crowd joined in with the singing, each in their own key and time.

A bit chaotic but huge fun, lots of smiles and respected by everyone, even leaving a tear or two in the players’ eyes.

The Australians and New Zealanders sing their own anthems with equal enthusiasm, and the South African anthem, a multilingual tribute to South Africa’s future without apartheid, must be one of the most inspiring.

Maybe not everyone stands up, and maybe not everyone sings. Quite often players are so focused on the game to come that they do not join in.

Under China’s new law, will players be locked up for not singing? These days spectators turn up to watch matches in a variety of outfits. Will they be accused of a lack of solemnity if they sing the March of the Volunteers wearing rabbit costumes?

It’s time China realised that carrots can be more effective than sticks. The national anthem law makes China look silly and underlines the government’s deep insecurity.

Instead of enacting law, perhaps it should engage a PR company to improve its image.

Andy Statham, Happy Valley