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Is China Resisting the West? (Asia Carousel Live Event)

Where will the rise of China take the country in the 21st century? Will China confirm to the Western world order, or will it create a new world order? What is the ‘China dream’ (中国梦)? These questions will be addressed at today’s Asia Carousel at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Manya Koetse

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Where will the rise of China lead to in the 21st century? Will China confirm to the Western world order, or will it create a new world order? What is the ‘China dream’ (中国梦)? These questions will be addressed at today’s Asia Carousel at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (To see more events live-blogged by What’s on Weibo, see our live events list.)

Event: Asia Carousel, “China Resisting the Western World Order?”
Date: June 9, 2016
Place: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague

During this edition of the ‘Asia Carousel’, an initiative launched by the Dutch government to enhance knowledge and understanding of Asia, all focus will be on China and its role in international society today.

Today’s speakers are sinologist and author Henk Schulte Nordholt, Leiden Asia Centre director Frank Pieke, and Arjen van Dijkhuizen, Senior Economist Emerging Markets at ABN AMRO. The discussion will be led by Arjen Schutten (China Expertise Centre).

An Economic Perspective (Van Dijkhuizen, 11.05 CET)

Today’s first speaker, Arjen van Dijkhuizen, starts his talk by addressing the audience to ask people whether or not they think the rise of China and its influence on the world economy is a cause for concern. Although the majority of people in the room raise their hand for being ‘not too worried’, Van Dijkhuizen says that there might actually be more cause for concern than today’s attendants might think.

 

“Improving communication is one of the biggest challenges that China is facing in its transition to the world economy.”

 

China is often at the focus of attention in today’s global financial markets. This, on the one hand, has to do with the rising importance of China’s economy, and, on the other hand, also relates to the country’s lack of transparency and communication. According to Van Dijkhuizen, opening up this communication is one of the biggest challenges that China is facing in its transition to the world economy.

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But there are also other various issues that play a big role. Debts are one of China’s bigger problems- “although this might be more of a domestic problem than an international one”, Van Dijkhuizen says.

He continues: “The World Bank might be too bureaucratic for China – it is not fast enough, and too focused on the USA. It is therefore not surprising that the PRC is now setting up its own initiatives like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which we will hear much more about.”

“All in all, there are many hurdles to come”, Van Dijkhuizen says. The rising debts are one major point of concern. But China won’t try to turn around the global financial market: “The country is reforming, but stabilization will be the number one priority – which is something that the whole world will profit from.”

Looking at China’s Nationalism (Schulte Nordholt, 11.25 CET)

Speaker Henk Schulte Nordholt is all too familiar with today’s topic, as he is the author of the China and the Barbarians: The Opposition Against the Western World Order (2015) that is also focused on the theme of the rise of China.

“Maintaining the single-party state is a central aspect of nationalism in today’s China,” Schulte Nordholt says. One way to preserve this system is focusing on territorial issues – the Party suggests that without China’s single-party system, the country’s “territorial integrity” will not be maintained or reached. Where the borders of this “complete China” exactly are, Schulte Nordholt says, is not really clear.

 

“The main problem in China-US relations is a lack of trust.”

 

So except for the economic perspective, it is important to focus on military aspects when talking about the rise of China and its attitude towards the Western world order, according to Schulte Nordholt. The question “Who will dominate the Pacific Ocean – China or the US?” is an important one in this matter.

Could China and the US clash? “The main problem is a lack of trust,” Schulte Nordholt says. There are consistent strategic talks between the two nations, but the tensions continue. For China, economic development, sovereignty, and social safety/stability are three major issues – and they do not necessarily benefit from closer ties with the US.

These are exciting times, according to Schulte Nordholt. In the long run, he is optimistic – no one will be able to stop China’s rise to the world order and its integration in the world economy, it has already passed the “point of no return” in 2001. Continuing dialogues, Schulte Nordholt says, is crucial.

China’s Neo-Socialism (Frank Pieke, 11:45 CET)

“China is a country where nothing is allowed, but everything is possible,” says Frank Pieke. A country like the Netherlands might very well be the other way around, Pieke smilingly points out – and it is not necessarily better that way. For Chinese people, and foreigners alike, there are many possibilities for individual development in today’s China.

“Neosocialism”, is what Pieke calls China’s current political system. It is a continuing process. The Party is getting increasingly powerful – and its demonstration of power changes from year to year, from month to month, and from day to day. It also varies per theme, where some things might become more free, whereas others are more limited, like the recent restrictions on religion.

“The single-party state and China’s sovereignty is now emphasized more than ever,” Pieke says. We now first see that the Party and the government has a plan that they are creating. This was different in Hu Jintao’s era; now it is clear that the Party leaders have a clear vision of where they are going and how they will reach this. It is almost like a grocery list that they are completing.

 

“It is not a renewed ‘maoism’; you could compare it to nazism.”

 

There is also a sense of completing this within the coming 6-7 years, Pieke says, so there is a new sense of power and urgency that is making Xi Jinping’s reign different from that of his predecessors. “The Party and its leaders will become more dominant,” according to Pieke. The role of the Premier Li Keqiang is seemingly becoming less important, as all eyes are on President Xi Jinping.

This growing importance of the President will not lead to a renewed ‘maoism’, according to Pieke: “China is not going back in time. This is much more managed and the plans are different from Mao’s era. If you want to compare it to anything”, Pieke says, “then you could compare it to nazism” – cultivating not only the Party, but also the leader: “Its background is aggressive, nationalistic and based on a history where China was victimized.”

“What worries me most is not a revival of state-socialism”, Pieke argues: “but that the Party dictatorship will become more like a fascist regime.” Pieke sees this as a potential danger within the rise of China and its attitude to the West, as he also speaks of China’s route of ‘Lebensraum‘.

Dialogue is therefore crucial, Pieke says – reiterating the views of the previous speakers. The dialogue has to be constructed and maintained with several layers in Chinese society; keeping communication alive with the various institutions and government bodies. “We cannot close the door to China,” Pieke says: “But we also cannot accept a Chinese hyper-nationalistic agenda to grow.”

Discussion & Questions (12.25 CET)

“It is a worrisome trend that China’s image in the west is not getting more positive, while the country is growing,” Schulte-Nordholt says: “If China is indeed continuing with a neosocialist system that has some fascist features [as suggested by Pieke], then this doesn’t do much good for its future international image.”

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“We shouldn’t see ‘China’ as one entity,” Frank Pieke comments: “When I was talking about the fascist regime, I am talking about something that finds its roots in an aggressive form of nationalism that is alive at multiple layers in society – from top to bottom – but it is not that this nationalism applies to the entire society. This growing, and potentially dangerous, group is not representative for all of China.”

Pieke does not see a strict division between Party and society, as there are movements in the Party that can be traced back to what is happening at grassroots movements. But Schulte Nordholt does not necessarily agree with Pieke’s view when it comes to this Party & society symbiosis: “There really is a clear division,” according to Schulte Nordholt.

Yet Pieke says: “A Party separate from society is fundamentally non-Chinese. Social government and social management are essential in understanding China,” – suggesting close ties between state, government and society in China today.

Audience participant Ingrid d’Hooge has a question for the panel. She says that there are many of her friends in China who worry about the growing dictatorial regime in China, as it paralyzes the people to some extent. “How do you see this?” she asks the panel.

 

“2002-2006 were China’s golden days with relative freedom and endless possibilities.”

 

“I understand your friends,” Pieke says: “But we should not forget that there are many people, both inside and outside the Party, who are happy that a ‘real’ leader has stood up who has the guts to watch the West in the eyes and show China’s limits.” In the end, Pieke says, a regime can only change when internal forces want it to change – “I’m fairly pessimistic about this,” he concludes.

One other audience participant, China Analyst Mr. Hofman, wonders if the significance of China’s previous President Hu Jintao (2002-2012) is not undervalued in discussions such as these – even 4, 5 years ago, people never spoke too highly of him. “He indeed did not get enough credit for what he did,” Pieke answers: “Perhaps he was less media-genic, but I think 2002-2006 were China’s golden days with relative freedom and endless possibilities. I want to emphasize that Xi Jinping cannot be blamed for today’s fascistic changes in China – it is part of a movement that is larger than the President.”

Audience participant Fred Sengers (@blogaap) wonders if there might be international consequences to China taking a route of ‘Lebensraum’, as Pieke previously mentioned.

“Of course it has international consequences. It is not all about creating trade routes, it is more than that. It is project of expanding China’s [economic] influence. It is not necessarily bad, but we have to set limits when we no longer profit from it. There is major diplomatic influence of China within today’s Europe. Let alone in Africa. Europe is more and more influenced by China, and we should set a limit to how much it will influence us.”

This live blog is now closed.

– By Manya Koetse

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©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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  1. Avatar

    Diandian GUO

    June 9, 2016 at 2:47 pm

    Since when “resisting the west” equals “developing into a worrisome regime”? Such linkage actually deems “not resisting the west” as moral and the opposite immoral.

    I am against authoritarianism, whether it means direct intrusion in individual lives, or the monopoly over defining “authoritarianism” and its moral implications.

    I always believe the presumption that “China has a big state and small society” is almost a “self-fulfilling prophecy”. The more scholars and media emphasize the “big state” of China, the less chance for the social forces to be discovered, nurtured and released. Even if when social forces are studied, they are studied with semi-autonomy: the public is only active when confronting and resisting the state, as if pure public initiation is non-existent or impossible. The more we look this way, the more we believe that China has a hopeless big state which suppresses an equally hopeless society.

    It is not that there exists no autonomy in Chinese society. But they are often dismissed or ignored. What is needed is that more study be done on those initiatives from society, which are not necessarily taken to de-construct, but to construct from ground up. That way, we could avoid endless condemnation that is unlikely to cause change, and find some hope that can lead to some solutions.

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China Digital

U.S. Embassy Launches WeChat Stickers Featuring Cartoon Eagle

A Weibo hashtag about the eagle stickers, that feature some phrases previously used by China’s Foreign Ministry, has now been taken offline.

Manya Koetse

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On January 30, the American Embassy in China announced the launch of its very own series of social media gifs, a special ’emoticon collection’ (表情包), featuring a little, somewhat silly cartoon eagle.

The U.S. Embassy launched the eagle series on WeChat and also announced the series on their Weibo account, writing that the eagle made its first public appearance in light of the festivities surrounding the Chinese New Year.

The eagle is called “Xiaomei” or “Little Mei” (鹰小美). The ‘mei’ is part of 美国 Měiguó, Chinese for the ‘United States,’ but měi also means beautiful and pretty.

The American embassy issued a total of 16 different animated stickers, and they’re intended to be used on Tencent’s WeChat, where users can download all kinds of different emoticons or stickers to use in conversations.

WeChat users often use many different animated stickers in conversations to express emotions, make jokes, or increase the festive mood (by sending out celebratory New Year’s or birthday etc gifs). Users can download new and preferred sticker packages through the app’s sticker section.

One sticker shows Xiaomei with a festive decoration with 福 () for blessing and prosperity, wishing everyone a happy start to the Chinese Lunar New Year. There are also stickers showing the texts “happy winter,” “hi,” and “thank you.”

Another sticker in the series that has triggered some online responses is one that shows the eagle with a surprised look, wiping its eyes, with the words “wait and see” written above. The Chinese expression used is 拭目以待 shìmù yǐdài, to eagerly wait for something to happen, literally meaning to wipe one’s eyes and wait.

This same expression was often used by the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian (赵立坚) during press conferences, and he also used it in 2022 when responding to questions related to Nancy Pelosi’s controversial visit to Taiwan and how the Chinese military would respond (e.g. he first used “wait and see” in the context of waiting to see if Pelosi would actually dare to go to Taiwan or not). But Zhao also used “please wait and see” (请大家拭目以待) when foreign reporters asked him how China would respond to the announced U.S. boycott of the Winter Olympics in 2021.

The Little Mei emoji triggered the most responses as some netizens felt it was meant as a sneer to the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

One of Little Mei’s quotes is also “remain calm” (保持冷静 bǎochí lěngjìng), which was – perhaps coincidentally – also often used by Zhao in the context of the war in Ukraine and to refer to other international conflicts or tensions (“all parties should remain calm”). The animated sticker also has olive branches growing behind the eagle.

It recently became known that Zhao, who became known as the ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomat, was removed as the Foreign Ministry spokesperson and was moved to the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs.

Especially in the context of Zhao leaving his post, some wondered why the U.S. Embassy would use phrases related to his press conferences for their new emoticons.

Although some people suggested the WeChat stickers were not launched in China with good intentions, others appreciated the humorous visuals and felt it was funny. Some also joked that America was infiltrating Chinese social media with its cultural export (“文化输出”), and others wondered if they could not also introduce some other stickers with more Chinese Foreign Ministry popular phrases on them.

A hashtag related to the topic made its rounds on Weibo on Tuesday (#美驻华大使馆上线鹰小美表情包#), but the topic suddenly was taken offline on Tuesday evening local time, along with some of the media reports about the remarkable WeChat series.

The WeChat stickers are still available for downloading by scanning the QR code below through WeChat.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China Arts & Entertainment

Chinese Social Media Reactions to The New York Times Bad Review of ‘Wandering Earth 2’

A New York Times bad review of ‘Wandering Earth II’ has triggered online discussions: “China’s gonna save the world, the US can’t stand it.”

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This Chinese Spring Festival, it’s all about going to the movies. After sluggish years for China’s movie market during the pandemic, Chinese cinemas welcomed millions of visitors back to the theaters during the weeklong Spring Festival holiday.

Much-anticipated new movies attracted Chinese moviegoers this festive season, including Full River Red by Zhang Yimou, the suspenseful Hidden Blade, or the animated Deep Sea by Tian Xiaopeng.

But the undisputed Spring Festival box office champion of 2023 is Frant Gwo’s Wandering Earth II (流浪地球II), the sequel to China’s all-time highest-grossing sci-fi epic Wandering Earth (2019), which also became the fifth highest-grossing non-English film of all time.

The narrative of the follow-up movie Wandering Earth II actually takes place before the events of the first film and focuses on the efforts by the United Earth Government (UEG) to propel the Earth out of the solar system to avoid planetary disaster. This so-called Moving Mountain Project – which later becomes the Wandering Earth Project – is not just met with protest (the majority of Americans don’t believe in it), it also bans the Digital Life Project, which supports the idea that the future of humanity can be saved by preserving human consciousness on computers (backed by an American majority). The film is all about hope and resilience, human destiny, and geopolitics at a time of apocalyptic chaos.

Outside of China, the sequel was also released in, among others, North American, Australian, and UK cinemas.

Although the film, featuring movie stars Wu Jing and Andy Lau, received an 8.2 on the Chinese rating & review platform Douban, a 9.4 on movie ticketing app Maoyan, dozens of positive reviews on Bilibili, and was overall very well-received among Chinese viewers, a bad review by The New York Times triggered discussions on Chinese social media this weekend.

Chinese media outlet The Observer (观察者网) initiated a Weibo hashtag about “The New York Times‘s completely sour review of Wandering Earth II” (#纽约时报酸味拉满差评流浪地球2#, 6.2 million views at time of writing).

The New York Times review of Wandering Earth II, titled “The Wandering Earth II Review: It Wanders Too Far,” was written by Brandon Yu and published in print on January 27, 2023.

Yu does not have a lot of good things to say about China’s latest blockbuster. Although he calls the 2019 The Wandering Earth “entertaining enough,” he writes that the sequel is a movie that is “audaciously messy” and has lost “all of the glee” its predecessor had:

“(..) the movie instead offers nearly three hours of convoluted storylines, undercooked themes and a tangle of confused, glaringly state-approved political subtext.”

The topic was discussed on Chinese social media using various hashtags, including “The New York Times Gave Wandering Earth II a 3″ (#纽约时报给流浪地球打30分#, #纽约时报给流浪地球2打30分#).

Instead of triggering anger, the bad review actually instilled a sense of pride among many Chinese, who argued that the review showed the impact the movie has made. Some commenters pointed out that the movie is a new milestone in Chinese cinema, not just threatening America’s domination of the movie industry but also setting a narrative in which China leads the way.

“We’re gonna save the world, and America just can’t stand it,” one commenter replied.

That same view was also reiterated by other bloggers. The author and history blogger Zhang Yi’an (@张忆安-龙战于野) argued that The New York Times review was not necessarily bad; it actually shows that Americans feel threatened by the idea of China’s important role in a new international world order, and by the fact that China actually will have the capacity to lead the way when it comes to, for example, space technology innovation, robotics, and artificial intelligence.

Zhang argues that if a similar movie had been made by India as a Bollywood blockbuster – including exploding suns and wandering earths – The New York Times would have been more forgiving and might have even called it cute or silly.

But because this is China, the film’s success and its narrative plays into existing fears over China’s rise, and it clashes with American values about what the international community should look like.

Zhang writes: “The China in the movie doesn’t boast itself as the savior of the world, but in reality, China really is capable of saving the world. The United States is no longer able to do so (电影里的中国没有把自己吹嘘成救世主,现实中的中国真的有能力做救世主。而美国却已经不能了).”

One popular Film & TV account (@影视综艺君) also summarized the general online reaction to the bad review in the American newspaper: “Whenever the enemy gets scared, it must mean we’re doing it right. Our cultural export has succeeded.” That post received over 120,000 likes.

On Zhihu.com, some commenters also attached little value to the review and showed how the overseas reviews of Wandering Earth II widely varied in their verdict.

Meanwhile, a state media-initiated hashtag on Weibo claimed on January 28 that Wandering Earth II has actually “captured the hearts of many overseas audiences” (#流浪地球2海外上映获好评#), and that the film’s “imaginative” and “wonderful” visuals combined with its strong storyline were being praised by moviegoers outside of China.

On IMDB, the movie has received 5.9/10; it has gotten a 70% Rotten Tomatoes score. The Guardian gave it 2/5. Meanwhile, on Weibo, one reviewer after the other gives the film 5/5 stars.

Weibo blogger Lang Yanzhi (@郎言志) writes: “Recently, we’ve seen a lot of attacks and slander directed at the China-made science fiction movie Wandering Earth 2, especially coming from Western media and pro-Western forces, because the film’s “Chinese salvation” narrative made them uncomfortable. This was already the case when the first film in the series was released. It is very clear that Wandering Earth is not just a movie: it is a symbol of great influence.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Zilan Qian

 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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