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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 World

From Pitch to Politics: About the Messy Messi Affair in Hong Kong (Updated)

Looking back at the Messi controversy: How a friendly match transformed into a political arena following Messi’s absence.

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In the days leading up to the start of the Chinese New Year, the hottest topic on Chinese social media was not about the upcoming celebration – everyone was talking about soccer instead. Why? Because of the Inter Miami CF match in Hong Kong, featuring none other than the Argentine soccer superstar Lionel Messi.

After winning the World Cup in 2023, Messi left European soccer to join David Beckham’s American professional soccer club, Inter Miami CF. Starting in 2024, the team planned a series of preseason exhibition matches, including matches against Dallas FC, Al Hilal, Al-Nasr, Hong Kong, and Vissel Kobe.

On February 4th, the Hong Kong Stadium, filled with nearly 40,000 fans, finally hosted the legendary Lionel Messi. However, according to on-site reports, Messi, wearing casual pants and shoes instead of soccer cleats and shorts, spent the entire time on the bench.

Frustration among the audience grew, leading to an outbreak of boos due to Messi’s continuous absence. By the 80th minute, some fans started leaving, and chants of “refund” persisted, overshadowing the post-match speech of Inter Miami’s president David Beckham.

As the game concluded, additional videos and images from the scene spread online, fueling further discussion among netizens. One video depicted Messi quickly leaving the stadium without engaging with fans, while another showed a furious supporter kicking over Messi’s advertising board. Enraged fans flooded Messi and the team’s social media platforms with comments, demanding refunds and an apology.

On major football social media platforms in mainland China, such as Dongqiudi (懂球帝) and Hupu (虎扑), netizens engaged in heated discussions. Some expressed understanding, stating that if Messi was injured and couldn’t play, fans should be more tolerant. However, a majority of fans voiced anger and found it hard to accept.

 
A Web of Confusion
 

So what actually happened in Hong Kong? In the days following the controversial match, different speculations arose about Messi’s absence, creating a web of confusion. Regarding the team line-up, the stadium’s player list indicated that Messi was on the substitutes’ bench, which meant that he might play in the game. However, in the official Inter Miami CF lineup released on X before the game, Messi was not included at all.

Messi is missing, artwork by the Hong-Kong based Victor Chen.

Contradicting reports on contractual obligations also came out. According to a report by Hong Kong Economic Daily, the contract only stipulated the presence of star players without guaranteeing Messi’s appearance. Newspaper Ta Kung Pao, however, reported that the contract between Inter Miami and Hong Kong stipulated Messi’s presence on the field for at least 45 minutes unless injured. Tatler Hong Kong, the organizer of the exhibition game, confirmed this, and stated that they were only informed about Messi’s absence at halftime. Soon after that, Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, current chairman of Hong Kong Arts Development Council, posted on his Weibo that the organizers were actually not informed at halftime but only ten minutes before the end of the match.

In the post-match press conference, the coach of Inter Miami explained Messi’s absence, saying that the decision was made by the medical team on the morning of the match. At a press conference in Japan, Messi himself stated that there was some discomfort in his adductor muscles, with swelling revealed in the MRI results. It was not classified as a muscle injury, but still caused discomfort. However, Messi’s official account on Weibo contradicted this by stating that the footballer has an injury to the “abdominal muscles”. The inconsistency added fuel to the fire, leaving fans feeling hurt and enraged.

As time went on, the conflicting information grew, without any clear answers emerging. Currently, the specifics of the contract between Inter Miami and the Hong Kong organizers remain undisclosed. However, on Weibo, users drew their own conclusions, making the hashtag “Messi breaks commercial bottom line” (#梅西爽约突破商业底线#) a trending topic.

 
A Political Battleground
 

The Messi storm still hasn’t blown over. Following the Hong Kong controversy, Messi came on as a substitute in Miami’s game against Vissel in Japan and his 30-minute stellar performance sparked heated debates on Chinese social media. Messi’s appearance in Japan was interpreted as him being “pro-Japan” and “anti-China,” turning a simple exhibition match into a political battleground.

A controversial video of Messi not shaking hands with the Chief Executive of Hong Kong and other government officials at the awards ceremony has been widely seen as a sign of disrespect toward Hong Kong and the Chinese government. As anti-Japanese sentiments surged, accusations against Messi flooded football forums.

A video titled “Messi’s Double Standards in Japan” by football influencer “Dishang zuqiu” (地上足球) gained significant traction. Among other things, the vlogger alleged that during Messi’s time at PSG, he used Japanese kanji on his kit, while all his teammates used proper Chinese characters to celebrate Chinese New Year. This video quickly gained over 2 million views, intensifying accusations of Messi’s anti-China stance. “I am a football fan, but first, I am Chinese,” expressed disappointed fans in various comment sections.

Despite its seeming absurdity, Messi’s absence has really become a political affair. The Hangzhou Sports Office issued a statement citing “obvious reasons” for the cancellation of the two friendly matches the Argentine national team had planned to play in China in March. The Chinese Football Association also suspended cooperation with the Argentine Football Association, removing all news related to Messi from its official website and social media.

Five days after the incident, media personality Hu Xijin posted on Weibo, stating that this matter “should not be politicized”, while emphasizing that “Messi is not that influential”, and suggesting that Chinese people should “look down upon” Messi.

On February 9, the eve of the Chinese New Year, Tatler Hong Kong, the organizer of this exhibition match, finally released a statement saying that they would offer those who purchased a ticket a 50% refund. They admitted that the contract stipulated Messi had to play for at least 45 minutes unless injured. Additionally, they revealed that upon learning Messi couldn’t play, they requested explanations from both Miami and Messi, which, unfortunately, did not materialize. The statement also expressed the organizers’ disappointment upon discovering that Messi still played in Japan, feeling it was “another slap in the face.”

In the summer of 2023, it seemed like Messi’s popularity in China had reached its peak during a friendly match between Argentina and Australia held at Beijing’s Workers’ Stadium when a Chinese fan stormed onto the pitch and embraced Messi. The incident went viral and only garnered more appreciation for the soccer superstar, who extended his arms and reciprocated the hug. Now, eight months later, Messi’s reputation in China has hit rock bottom.

The Hong Kong match and its aftermath will have lingering consequences for Messi. Not only have his matches in China been canceled, but it will also take time and effort to win back the hearts of Chinese soccer fans. “We now know how much you love Japan. China doesn’t welcome you anymore. Don’t come back,” one person posted on Messi’s Weibo page, where the footballer expressed his disappointment about not being able to play in Hong Kong and wished his fans a happy Chinese New Year.

For now, many fans are still left annoyed and puzzled, with many believing that Messi purposely did not appear at the Hong Kong match.

One Chinese football fan writes on Weibo: “I believe that Messi’s actions during this trip to Hong Kong are highly likely to be politically motivated. Whether this was because he was involuntarily influenced by powerful forces or because he is actively involved in politics himself, I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. Anyway, I’m no longer a fan.”

 
Update 2.19:
 

On February 19, the hashtag “Messi responds” (#梅西回应#, 320 million views by Monday night) went top trending on Weibo after Messi posted a video to his account. He wrote: “Happy Year of the Dragon, soccer friends! 🐲 Through this video, I want to clear up some things and once again express my gratitude to all the fans who came to support me and the team in Hong Kong, China. Thank you for your cheers, for your tifo support and love. Giving everyone a big hug 🙏🏼⚽️”

In the video, Messi states he wants to give his fans the “true version” of what happened in Hong Kong to avoid further speculation. Firstly, Messi denies that there were any political reasons for him not playing in Hong Kong or playing in Japan, stressing that he has visited China many times before since the start of his career: “I’ve had a very close and special relationship with China. I’ve done lots of things in China: interviews, games, and events. I’ve also been there and played many times for FC Barcelona and the national team.”

Messi then goes on to say that the reason he did not play in Hong Kong was because of an inflamed adductor, which got worse during his game in Saudi Arabia. As he really was not feeling well enough, he could not play in Hong Kong. As his situation improved, he was fit enough to play for a bit in Japan, “because I needed to play and get back up to speed.”

He adds: “As always, I send good wishes to everyone in China, who I’ve always had and continue to have special affection for. I hope to see you again soon.”

Although many fans do appreciate Messi’s statement, there are also numerous commenters on Weibo who still criticize the soccer player for not disclosing his injury earlier and lament the confusing communication surrounding the Hong Kong match, arguing that this video does not set the record straight.

This video marks Messi’s third response to the situation, following a press conference and a short Weibo post. The hashtag “Messi’s Third Response” (#梅西的3次回应#, #梅西3次表示希望再来中国#) also became a related hashtag.

Following all statements, some people have also had enough by now: “Are we done yet? Is it clarified enough now?”

Others argue that it might have been better for Messi not to post the video at all, as it reignites another social media storm just as the first one was calming down. The fact that the video was edited in the middle led to speculation about the omitted parts: what did he originally say? Why didn’t he release a video sooner? And why was Messi standing with his hands in his pockets?

In this way, the video seems to have a reverse effect, and however well-intended it may have been, it appears Messi is actually shooting himself in the foot.

By Ruixin Zhang and Manya Koetse

Featured image based on image posted on Weibo by @葡萄味的草莓萝妮

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China History

A Chinese Christmas Message: It’s Not Santa Bringing Peace, but the People’s Liberation Army

On social media, Chinese official channels are not celebrating a Merry Christmas but instead focus on a Military Christmas.

Manya Koetse

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It is not Santa bringing you peace and joy, it is the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Chinese state media and other influential social media accounts have been pushing an alternative Christmas narrative this year, which makes it very clear that this ‘Merry Christmas’ is brought by China’s military forces, not by a Western legendary figure.

On December 24, Party newspaper People’s Daily published a video on Weibo featuring various young PLA soldiers, writing:

Thank you for your hard work! Thanks to their protection, we have a peaceful Christmas Eve. They come from all over the country, steadfastly guarding the front lines day and night. “With our youth, we defend our prosperous China!” Thank you, and salute!

People’s Daily post on Weibo, December 24 2023.

The main argument that is propagated, is that this time in China should not be about Christmas and Santa Claus, but about remembering the end of the Korean War and paying tribute to China’s soldiers.

This narrative is not just promoted on social media by Chinese official media channels, it is also propagated in various other ways.

One Weibo user shared a photo of a mall in Binzhou where big banners were hanging reminding people of the 73rd anniversary of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War: “December 24 is not about Christmas Eve, but about the victory at Chosin Reservoir.”

Mall banners reminding Chinese that December 24 is about commemorating the end of the Second Phase Offensive (photo taken at 滨州吾悦广场/posted by 武汉潘唯杰).

Another blogger posted a video showing LED signs on taxis, allegedly in the Hinggan League in Inner Mongolia, with the words: “December 24 is NOT Christmas Eve, it is the military victory of the Battle of Chosin Reservoir” (“12.24不是平安夜,是长津湖战役胜利日”).

One social media video showed a teacher at a middle school in Chongqing also emphasizing to her students that “it’s not Father Christmas who brings us a happy and peaceful life, but our young soldiers!”

In the context of the Korean War (1950-1953), December 24 marks the conclusion of the Second Phase Offensive (1950), which was launched by the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army against the United Nations Command forces–primarily U.S. and South Korean troops.

The Chinese divisions’ surprise attack countered the ‘Home-by-Christmas’ campaign. This name stemmed from the UN forces’ belief that they would soon prevail, end the conflict, and be home well in time to celebrate Christmas. Instead, they were forced into retreat and the Chinese reclaimed most of North Korea by December 24, 1950.

The Battle of the Chosin Reservoir, also known as the the Battle at Lake Changjin, is part of this history. The battle began on November 27 of 1950, five months after the start of the Korean War. The 2021 movie Changjin Lake (长津湖/The Battle at Lake Changjin) provides a Chinese perspective on the lead-up and unfolding of this massive ground attack of the Chinese 9th Army Group, in which thousands of soldiers died.

Especially in recent years and in light of the launch of the blockbuster movie, there is an increased focus on the Chinese attack at Chosin as a glorious victory and strategic success for turning around the war situation in Korea and defending its own borders, underscoring the military strength of the People’s Republic of China as a new force to be reckoned with (read more here).

This Chinese Christmas narrative of honoring the PLA coincides with a series of popular social media posts from bloggers facing criticism for celebrating Christmas in China.

One of them is Liu Xiaoguang (刘晓光 @_恶魔奶爸_, 1.7 million followers), who wrote on December 25:

Some people are criticizing me for celebrating Christmas Eve, because, by celebrating a foreign festival, I would be unpatriotic and forgetful of our martyrs. What can I say, in our family Christmas must be a big deal, even if I don’t come home it must be celebrated, because my mom is a Christian, and she’s very devout (..) So you see, on one hand I should promote traditional Chinese virtues, and show filial piety, on the other hand I should be patriotic and not celebrate foreign festivals.”

Meanwhile, other popular bloggers stress the importance of remembering China’s military heroes during this time. Influential media blogger Zhang Xiaolei (@晓磊) posted: “It’s not Santa Claus who gives you peace, it’s the Chinese soldiers! #ChristmasEve” (“给你平安的不是圣诞老人,而是中国军人!🙏#平安夜#”). With his post, he added various pictures showing Chinese soldiers frozen in the snow as also depicted in the Battle at Lake Changjin movie.

Throughout the years, Christmas has become more popular in China, but as a predominantly atheist country with a small proportion of Christians, the festival is more about the commercial side of the holiday season including shopping and promotions, decorations, entertainment, etc.

Nevertheless, Christmas in China is generally perceived as “a foreign” or “Western” festival, and there have been consistent concerns that the festivities associated with Christmas clash with traditional Chinese culture.

In the past, these concerns have led to actual bans on Christmas celebrations. For instance, in 2017, officials in Hengyang were instructed not to partake in Christmas festivities and several universities throughout China have previously cautioned students against engaging in Christmas-related activities.

Chinese political and social commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进) also weighed in on the issue. In his December 24 social media column, the former Global Times editor-in-chief wrote that there is no problem with Christmas Eve and the Second Phase Offensive victory day both receiving attention on the same day. Even if the younger generations in China view Christmas more as a commercial event rather than a religious one, it’s understandable for businesses to capitalize on this period for additional revenue. He wrote:

In this era of globalization, holiday cultures inevitably influence each other. The Chinese government does not actively promote the rise of “Western holidays” for its own reasons, but they also have no intention to “suppress foreign holidays.” Some Chinese celebrate “Western holidays” and it is their right to do, they should not face criticism for it.”

Although many Chinese netizens post different viewpoints on this year’s Christmas debate, there are some who just don’t understand what all the fuss is about. “December 24 can be both Christmas Eve, and it can be Victory Day. It’s not like we need to pick one over the other. We are free to choose whatever.”

By Manya Koetse

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