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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 Comment

  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 Media

The Beishan Park Stabbings: How the Story Unfolded and Was Censored on Weibo

A timeline of the censorship & reporting of the Jilin Beishan Park stabbing incident on Chinese social media.

Manya Koetse

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The recent stabbing incident at Beishan Park in Jilin city, involving four American teachers, has made headlines worldwide. However, on the Chinese internet, the story was initially kept under wraps. This is a brief overview of how the incident was reported, censored, and discussed on Weibo.

On Monday, June 10, four Americans were stabbed while visiting Beishan park in Jilin.

Video footage of the victims lying on the ground in the park was viewed by millions of people outside the Chinese internet by Monday afternoon.

Despite the serious and unusual nature of such an attack on foreigners visiting China, it took about an entire day for the news to be reported by official Chinese channels.

 
How the Beishan Incident Unfolded Online
 

In the afternoon of June 10, news about four foreigners being stabbed in Jilin’s Beishan Park started circulating online.

Among the first online accounts to report this incident was the well-known Chinese-language X account ‘Li Laoshi’ (李老师不是你老师, @whyyoutouzhele), which has 1.5 million followers, along with the news account Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24), which has 1 million followers on X.

They both posted a video showing the incident’s aftermath, which soon went viral on X and beyond. It showed how three victims – one female and two male – were lying on the ground at the park, bleeding heavily while waiting for medical help. A police officer was already at the scene.

As soon as the video and tweets triggered discussions in the English-language social media sphere, it was clear that Chinese social media platforms were censoring and blocking mentions of the incident.

By Monday night, China local time, many Weibo commenters had started writing about what had happened in Beishan Park earlier that day, but their posts became unavailable.

Some bloggers wrote about receiving an automated message from Weibo management that their posts had been taken offline. Others started posting about “that thing in Jilin,” but even those messages disappeared. On other platforms, such as Douyin, the story was also being contained.

By 21:00-22:00 local time, a hashtag on Weibo, “Jilin Beishan Park Foreigners” (吉林北山外国人), briefly became the second most-searched topic before it was taken offline. Weibo stated: “According to relevant laws, regulations, and policies, the content of this topic is not shown.”

A hashtag about the Beishan stabbings soon became one of the hottest search queries before it disappeared.

While netizens came up with more creative words and other descriptions to talk about what had happened, the focus shifted from what had happened in Beishan Park to why the topic was being censored. “What’s this? Why can’t we talk about it?” one Weibo user wondered: “Not a single piece of news!”

Around 23:30 local time, another blogger posted: “It seems to be real that four foreigners were stabbed in Jilin’s Beishan Park this afternoon. We’ll have to see when it will formally be reported on Weibo.” Others questioned, “Why is the Jilin incident so tightly covered up on the internet?”

Around 04:00 local time on June 11, the first media outlet to really report on what had happened was Iowa Public Radio (IPR News). Before that time, one Iowan citizen had already commented on X that their sister-in-law was one of the victims involved.

One victim’s family had told IPR News that the individuals involved were four Cornell College instructors. All four survived and were recovering at a nearby hospital after being stabbed during a park visit in China.

The instructors were part of a partnership with Beihua University in Jilin. Cornell College and Beihua University have had an active partnership since 2018, with Beihua funding Cornell instructors to visit China, travel, and teach during a two-week period. Members from both institutions were visiting the public park in Jilin City when they were attacked. The visit was likely intended as a sightseeing and relaxation opportunity during the Dragon Boat Festival holiday, when many people visit the park.

As reported by IPR News reporter Zachary Oren Smith (@ZacharyOS), U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks stated that her office was working with the U.S. Embassy to ensure the victims would receive care for their injuries and safely leave China.

 
Hu Xijin Post
 

Now that news of the attack on four Americans was all over X, soon picked up by dozens of international news outlets, the Chinese censorship of the story seemed unusual, considering the magnitude of the story.

Furthermore, there had still been no official statement from the Chinese side, nor any news reports on the suspect and whether or not he had been detained.

By the morning of June 11, an internal, unverified BOLO notice from the Jilin city Chuanying police office circulated online. It identified the suspect as 55-year-old Jilin resident Cui Dapeng (崔大鹏), who was still at large. The notice also clarified that there were not four but five victims in total.

At 11:33 local time, it seemed that the wall of censorship surrounding the incident was suddenly lifted when Chinese political and social commentator Hu Xijin (胡锡进), who has nearly 25 million followers on Weibo, posted about what had happened.

He based his post on “Western media reports,” and commented that this is a time when Chinese and American sides are actually promoting exchange. He saw the incident as a “random” one, which, regardless of the attacker’s motive, does not reflect broader sentiment within Chinese society. He concluded, “I also hope and believe that this incident will not negatively affect the exchanges between China and the US.”

Hu’s post spurred a flurry of discussions about the Beishan Park incident, turning it into a top-searched topic once again. His comments sparked controversy, with many disagreeing with his suggestion that the incident could potentially affect Sino-American exchanges. Many argued that there are numerous examples of Chinese people being attacked or even murdered in the US without anyone suggesting it would harm US-China relations.

Within approximately two hours of posting, Hu’s post was no longer visible and had disappeared from his timeline. This sudden deletion or blocking of his post again triggered confusion: Was Hu being censored? Why?

Later, screenshots of Hu Xijin’s post shared on social media were also censored.

 
A “Collision”
 

By the early Tuesday evening, June 11, Chinese official accounts and state media accounts finally issued a report on what had happened in what was now dubbed the “Beishan Park Stabbing Incident” (#吉林公安通报北山公园伤人案#).

Jilin authorities issued a report on what happened in Beishan Park.

A notice from local public security authorities stated that the first emergency call about a stabbing incident at the park came in at 11:49 in the morning on Monday, June 10, and police and medical assistance soon arrived at the scene.

The 55-year-old Chinese suspect, referred to as ‘Cui’ (崔某某), reportedly stabbed one of the Americans after they bumped into each other at the park (described as “a collision” 发生碰撞). The suspect then attacked the American, his three American companions, and a Chinese visitor who tried to intervene. Reports indicated that the victims were all transported to the hospital and were not in critical condition.

It was also stated that the suspect was arrested on the “same day,” without specifying the time and location of the arrest.

Later on Tuesday, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs addressed the incident during their regular press conference. Spokesperson Lin Jian (林剑) stated that local police had initially judged the case to be a random incident and that they were conducting further investigation (#外交部回应吉林北山公园伤人案#).

 
Boxer Rebellion References
 

With the discussions about the incident on Chinese social media less controlled, various views emerged, commenting on issues such as public safety in China, US-China relations, and anti-Western sentiments.

One notable trend during the early discussions of the incident is how many commenters referenced to the ‘Boxer Rebellion’ (1899–1901), an anti-foreign, anti-Christian uprising that took place during the final years of the Qing Dynasty and led to large-scale massacres of foreign residents. Many commenters believed the attacker had nationalist motives targeting foreigners.

Anti-american, nationalist sentiments also surfaced online. Some commenters laughed about the incident or praised the attacker for doing a “good job.”

However, the majority argued that this event should not be seen as indicative of a broader trend of foreign-targeted violence in China. They emphasized that Asians in America are far more frequently targeted in hate crimes than any Westerner in China, underscoring that this incident is just an isolated case.

This idea of the event being “random” (“偶然事件”) was reiterated in official reports, Hu Xijin’s column, and by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

But there are also those who think this might be a conspiracy, calling it bizarre for such a rare incident to occur just when Chinese tourism was finally starting to flourish in the post-Covid era: “Now that our tourism industry is booming, foreigners are getting stabbed? How could it be such a coincidence? Is it possible that this was arranged by spies from other countries?”

On Tuesday, social commentator Hu Xijin made a second attempt at posting about the Beishan Park incident. This time, his post was shorter and less outspoken:

“This appears to be a public security incident,” he wrote: “But this time, four foreign nationals were attacked. In every place around the world, there are criminal and public security incidents where foreigners become victims. China is one of the relatively safest countries in the world, but this incident still occurred in broad daylight in a tourist area. This reminds us, that we need to always keep enhancing the effectiveness of security measures to protect the safety of all Chinese and foreign nationals.”

Again, his post triggered some controversy as some bloggers discovered that Hu had previously argued against extra security checks at Chinese parks, which he deemed unnecessary. They felt he was now contradicting himself.

The differing views on Hu’s posts and the incident at large perhaps explain why the news was initially controlled and censored. Although censorship and control are inherent parts of the Chinese social media apparatus, the level of control over this story was quite unusual. Whether it was due to the suspect still being on the loose, public safety concerns, fears of rising nationalist sentiments, or the need to understand the full details before the story blew up, we will likely never know.

Nevertheless, this time, Hu’s post stayed up.

The Beishan Park incident is reportedly still under investigation.

By Manya Koetse

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.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Military

Saying Goodbye to “Uncle Wang”: Wang Wenbin Becomes Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia

Manya Koetse

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When China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) Spokesperson Wang Wenbin concluded a regular press conference on May 24, he suddenly said “farewell” (“我们再见”) and stepped down to shake hands with reporters. This surprising moment quickly had his online fan circles buzzing. Was he leaving? Starting a new job? Everyone was speculating.

Wang Wenbin (汪文斌, b. 1971), the Deputy Director of the Foreign Ministry Information Department of China, has been with the Foreign Ministry since 1993. His face became familiar to many both inside and outside China after he took on the role of MFA spokesperson in 2020.

Over the years, Wang has become increasingly popular on social media. There are thriving fan forums filled with thousands of posts and videos dedicated to Wang, praising his professionalism and humorous expressions.

Although there were no official reports on Wang leaving his post, hundreds of netizens began saying goodbye to their favorite diplomat.

Nearly two weeks later, on June 4th, it was announced that Wang will be starting as China’s new ambassador to Cambodia. A related hashtag went trending on Weibo (“Wang Wenbin Appointed as Ambassador to Cambodia” #汪文斌候任驻柬埔寨大使#), attracting over 130 million views within a day.

 
“Anhui’s Pride”
 

Why is Wang so popular?

First, his popularity is part of a larger trend of Chinese diplomats being admired and idolized online, a phenomenon detailed in our article here (link).

But besides being part of China’s “Diplomat Dream Team” (外交天团), Wang is admired for his conduct and character. He appears very serious but often shows a smile. He is highly professional, yet occasionally displays a playful side.

These likeable contrasts in his persona also reflect his background. While Wang represents international China, he comes from a small village. Born and raised in Xindu in Tongcheng, Anhui, Wang studied at China’s Foreign Affairs University, majoring in French and economics. He speaks several foreign languages, including English, and once sent out New Year’s wishes in 11 different languages. His success story makes him “Anhui’s pride.”

While Zhao Lijian was known as a real ‘wolf warrior diplomat,’ Wang Wenbin’s style is perceived as more “calm,” “scholarly,” and “refined,” though he remains critical, firm, and assertive. For instance, Wang rebuffed U.S. claims that China might arm Russian troops in the Ukraine war, stating, “it is the United States and not China that is endlessly shipping weapons to the battlefield.” He also called the shootdown of the alleged Chinese spy balloon “100 percent hysteria” and urged the United States to abandon its “hegemonic” approaches to international affairs.

For many Wang Wenbin fans, his assertive yet ‘refined’ (‘温文尔雅’) foreign policy resonates deeply, as they appreciate how Wang shapes China’s image abroad: “It’s the perfect interpretation of being a great and elegant great power.”

Wang’s large fanbase on Chinese social media is always creative in editing images of him and adding quotes. In response to the news of Wang’s new position, a flood of new videos popped up in Wang Wenbin fan communities. Many see Wang as relatable, likeable, and a role model, often saying that ‘Uncle Wang’ (汪叔) is just too “cool.”

 
“We’ve got your back”
 

Wang’s role as China’s ambassador to Cambodia is not entirely new to him. He has previously worked in various positions at Chinese embassies in Senegal, Cameroon, and Mauritius, and served as ambassador to Tunisia from 2018 to 2020.

Cambodia is an important regional ally to China, and Sino-Cambodian ties have grown stronger, exemplified by the two countries holding a 15-day joint military exercise in May of this year. Cambodia is a key country for China’s strategic layout in Southeast Asia.

Many netizens are pleased to see Wang Wenbin appointed to Cambodia, though some complain that his “talent is wasted on an insignificant role” (“大材小用” dà cái xiǎo yòng). However, others recognize the growing strategic importance of Cambodia and see Wang’s appointment as a reflection of his significance to China; they suggest he is the right man in the right place.

Wang’s loyal fans wish him nothing but the best in his new position. One person posted: “No matter where you are, we’ve got your back, Uncle Wang.”

Wang Wenbin will replace Wang Wentian (王文天), who served as Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia since November 2018.

Although Wang Wenbin’s online fan communities might become a bit quieter from now on, one thing is certain: he won’t be forgotten. One fan wrote: “From now on, we’ll continue to watch you shine.”

By Manya Koetse

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.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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