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Following the Elections in the West – Chinese Reactions on Wilders and “The Rise of the Right”

Weibo users are closely following the new political trends in the West, with a recent focus on populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

Manya Koetse

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With Trump as the new US president, and popularity of right-wing politicians rising in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, Weibo users are now following the new political trends in the West with a recent focus on populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders. While Chinese state media write about the dangers of the “rise of the right,” many Chinese netizens express their appreciation of Wilders.

On Weibo, the topic ‘following the elections in the West’ has recently become increasingly popular. “The American elections have ended, and Trump is now running the country via Twitter. The French and German elections are coming up next,” – an account named “Following The Elections in the West” (hashtag: #关注西方大选#) says.

Besides the elections in Germany and France, the Dutch elections are also a topic of discussion. Dutch politician Wilders, called Wéi’ěrdésī (维尔德斯 or 威尔德斯) in Chinese, has become a recurring subject in the Chinese media, that represent the results of the Dutch elections as the precursor for the other elections of Continental Europe.

Geert Wilders is the leader of the Dutch right-wing Freedom Party (PVV), which is expected to win many votes in the upcoming elections in the Netherlands. With his plans to “de-Islamize” the Netherlands and his anti-EU and anti-establishment stance, Wilders is winning over voters who feel alienated from the ruling political class.

 

ALL EYES ON EUROPE

“This Dutch man, who is crazier than Trump, wants to change Europe.”

 

“Why do we need to closely follow the Dutch elections?”, one Shanghai media source recently wrote on Weibo: “Because after the shock of the 2016 Trump election and Brexit, all eyes are now on Europe. And on the one hand we have Le Pen (勒庞), the leader of the right-wing National Front (FN), and on the other hand, we are now approaching the Dutch elections where we have the Dutch right-wing party of Wilders, who just might become the next prime minister.”

The heightened media attention for European politics with a current focus on the Netherlands and Wilders is noticeable in Chinese state media, with official media such as Global Times and Xinhua writing about it.

In late February, Chinese state tabloid Global Times featured a column about Wilders, which was also shared on Chinese social media platforms Weibo, Baidu forum, and on WeChat. It is titled: “This Dutch man, who is crazier than Trump, wants to change Europe” (这个比特朗普还要疯的荷兰人要让欧洲变天了).

“These days, the whole western world is focused on the Netherlands like never before,” the article starts: “Because within a month the big elections will take place and the potential big winner is an unusual political party that opposes practically everything that mainstream European thinking stands for.”

Photo (size adjusted) by David Sedlecký.

The article quotes Wilders in saying: “The Islam is not a religion – it is an ideology that has sprung from a backward culture. And this ideology might be scarier than Nazism, as the Koran is even more violent and more anti-semitic than Mein Kampf , and it needs to be shut out.”

 

STRONG ANTI-ISLAM STANCE

“If Wilders’ Freedom Party really wins the Dutch elections it will be a worse nightmare for the EU and Europe than Brexit was.”

 

The Global Times article argues that if Wilders’ Freedom Party really wins the Dutch elections, “it will be a worse nightmare for the EU and Europe than Brexit was.”

One of the reasons mentioned why it would be “nightmarish” for Wilders to win, is because of the Freedom Party’s strong anti-Islam stance and its proposals to shut down mosques and stop serving halal food in the canteens of Dutch schools.

The Global Times explains this by writing: “They think that Islam is the greatest threat to Western civilization. [They think that] If you let Islam take root in Western countries, then Europe will be Islamized decades later, and Western civilization will be completely destroyed.”

The article continues: “Of course, their stance has greatly angered followers of Islam all across Europe, but when these religious people fight back, they actually precisely do what the Freedom Party expects. Like in 2009, when Geert Wilders came to England for an interview and over 40 Islamic people went to the streets carrying banners that said that ‘Islam will dominate the world.'”

Tweet above: the image as used in the Global Times when mentioning the protest by Muslims outside Geert Wilders press conference in central London in October 2009.[/caption]

The article argues that Wilders “represents himself” as a “victim of Islamic violence” – as he cannot leave his house without bodyguards by his side – but that his provocative way of speaking has also led to him facing legal actions within the Netherlands. He was found guilty of inciting discrimination when he asked a roomful of Freedom Party supporters if they wanted to have “more or fewer Moroccans” in the country.

 

RISE OF THE RIGHT

“The Dutch Freedom Party is not alone, but is part of the rise of other far-right political parties across Europe: this is their year of patriotism.”

 

Besides his strong anti-Islam stance, another reason why the article says a win by Wilders would be disastrous to Europe, is because of his anti-EU position. This stance comes from the belief that the corrupt nature of the EU organizational structure and the incompetence of the ruling authorities in Brussels have led to the immigration crisis and the financial crisis in Europe.

The column points out that the Freedom Party has greatly gained in popularity in the Netherlands since its establishment in 2006. The Greek debt crisis, the refugee crisis, as well as last year’s Brexit and the election of Trump, have all contributed to its popularity.

The Global Times finally argues that the Dutch Freedom Party is not alone, but is part of the rise of other far-right political parties across Europe, such as the National Front in France. “This is their year of patriotism,” they write.

Embedded tweet: Geert Wilders, left, Frauke Petry, Harald Vilimsky, Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini at a meeting in 2017.

“The current mainstream media are worried and anxious about the rise of the right-wing forces, but they can only pray that the Europeans won’t be as stupid as the Americans,” the column concludes, also adding: “We the Chinese people just want to say that whatever American, UK, or even French, German, Dutch, or Russian drama, etc., there is, let’s not make this a drama that includes China.”

 

THE WILDERS EFFECT

“It is relevant to note that the Netherlands can be regarded as the leader of European political trends.”

 

Besides Global Times, Chinese media outlets Xinhua News and Sina recently also wrote about Wilders. China’s Sina News published an article on March 1st titled “Is Holland the first domino stone to collapse on the European continent?” (荷兰 欧盟倒下的第一张多米诺), and Xinhua‘s article is titled “The Dutch elections are nearing, will populism win?” (荷兰大选在即,民粹主义会得势吗).

Sina News (March 1st): “Will Holland be the first domino stone falling on the European continent?”

Both articles suggest that parties such as the Freedom Party win support because of their anti-immigration and anti-EU tendencies, but that voters of Wilders do not necessarily want him to actually lead the country: “People may vote for Wilders as a protest vote,” they write.

They emphasize the role of the Netherlands on the European continent: “It is relevant to note that the Netherlands can be regarded as the leader of European political trends,” Sina News says, looking back at political trends in the 1960s and 1990s.

Xinhua also brings up the so-called ‘Wilders Effect’ (威尔德斯效应). The ‘Wilders Effect’, also mentioned by Tom-Jan Meeus on Politico.eu, implies that the harsher Wilders is criticized (e.g. by the mainstream media or ruling politicians), the better his chances of winning are.

Even if Wilders comes out as the big winner in the upcoming elections, the chances of him forming a governing coalition are slim as few other parties are willing to govern alongside Wilders after the elections. However, it is precisely the rejection of Wilders that testifies to his accusations that “the political elites disregard the will of the people.”

Although Chinese state media emphasize the dangers of Wilders’ popularity and “the rise of the right,” Chinese responses on Weibo and other social media platforms reveal that many netizens seemingly support the far-right Dutch politician.

 

CHINESE NETIZENS RESPOND

“Supporters of Islam need to reflect on why it is that all over the world in developed nations people like Trump are receiving the support of the people.”

 

On Weibo, one Chinese blogger recently wrote about Wilders: “The populist Geert Wilders promises (..) to make the Netherlands ‘great again.’ His ‘Freedom Party’ (自由党) might win more seats than ever before. He is often called the “Dutch Trump”, as he is just as opposed to muslim immigration as the new American president. He also has no trust in the media and loves to send out tweets.”

The post continues: “This ‘Dutch Trump’ wants no more acceptance of immigrants or refugees from muslim countries, as Holland is becoming ‘Islamized’, [he wants to] prohibit the wearing of Islamic headscarves in public places (..), to let the Koran classify as a banned book, a closure of mosques and Islamic schools, the Netherlands should get out of the EU, criminals with a dual citizenship have to be deported, income taxes have to be reduced, people should receive pension at 65 (..).”

In response to this post and the state media articles, many netizens write that they agree with Wilders’ ideas about Islam and that it can be viewed as an ideology, saying: “Isn’t he right about this?”

One Weibo user (@乡梦天地) writes: “Is Islam still a ‘religion’? Perhaps it has deteriorated and has become an ideology that serves a religion. In a normal country, religion is often used as a way to serve the ruling class. But now, it seems that the ruling class is serving religion instead.”

Other Chinese commenters say that “the religion of Islam is an obstruction to the development of society.”

“I have been to Holland and the streets are very ‘green'”, one person says (‘green’ being slang to refer to ‘islam’). “Europe has reached a crucial moment of life or death, turning right is a final opportunity to save themselves,” one commenter (@传捷天下) writes.

Embedded: Wilders cartoon (same image republished in Global Times).

“Supporters of Islam need to reflect on why it is that all over the world in developed nations people like Trump are receiving the support of the people,” another person responds.

Several netizens say: “There is nothing wrong (没毛病) with what [Wilders] says, it is the truth.”

One person even says: “It would be a blessing for the Netherlands if he were to be elected.”

People responding to the post on Weibo say they look forward to him winning the elections: “I support Wilders becoming the prime minister of Holland!”, one Guangdong-based English tutor writes.

 

WHAT’S THE FUSS?

“Europe is like a domino game. When one right-wing party comes up, others will follow. When one country leaves the EU, others will also leave the EU.”

 

But there are also netizens who worry about the rise in popularity of politicians such as Wilders: “Hasn’t the rise of populism already entered a point of no return?”

Like the Global Times column, they also see the rise of right-wing parties as a global trend rather than a European one (“全球右转是个趋势”). Some of them write that “the rise of the right” is a “dangerous trend.”

One France-based Weibo user (@欧洲行-私人订制) writes: “Europe is like a domino game. When one right-wing party comes up, others will follow. When one country leaves the EU, others will also leave the EU.”

But precisely this anti-EU stance is what many other netizens also appreciate in Wilders. When Wilders announced that a Dutch ‘Nexit’ referendum would follow after the Brexit, some Weibo commenters said: “Getting out of the EU might be the only way to save yourself,” although others said that organizing a referendum over such a crucial issue is “much too risky.”

There are also many commenters who do not understand what the fuss is all about: “Holland is such a small country,” a Baidu user writes. One Weibo commenter (@TOAac) also says: “So what, Holland? What will happen in Germany and France is what really matters.”

According to the latest polls, Geert Wilders has now fallen behind the conservative VVD party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte for the first time since November 2016. But until the results come out of the Dutch elections of March 15, nothing is sure.

“In the end, this all is a choice that has to be made by the Dutch voters,” one Baidu netizen concludes.

– By Manya Koetse


Chinese (state) media about Wilders:

Global Times (环球时报). 2017. “这个比特朗普还要疯的荷兰人要让欧洲变天了 [This Dutch Man Crazier Than Trump Wants To Change Europe]” (In Chinese). Global Times, February 21 http://global.sina.cn/szzx/article/20170221/00bf33efd2851000.html [2.3.17].

Sina News (新浪). 2017. “荷兰 欧盟倒下的第一张多米诺 [Is Holland the first domino stone to collapse on the European continent?]” (In Chinese). Sina News, March 1 http://finance.sina.com.cn/stock/usstock/c/2017-03-01/doc-ifyavwcv9263847.shtml [2.3.17].

Xinhua (新华). 2017. “荷兰大选在即,民粹主义会得势吗? [The Dutch Elections Are Nearing, Will Populism Win Power?]” (In Chinese). Xinhuanet.com, February 16 http://news.xinhuanet.com/world/2017-02/16/c_129481542.htm [2.3.17].

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©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    cool

    March 2, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    no wonder many people Chinese came to support Wilders due to his anti-Islam stance because religion as whole is often taught hindrance to development in the Chinese state media and educational institutes. One most striking observance I noticed that no one among them thought about western role in middle east which brought extremist threats worldwide.

    • Avatar

      Joey

      March 5, 2017 at 8:42 am

      It’s more about Chinese netizens believing that a unicultural (or even uniracial) society as a prosperous one. They see multiculturalism as a sickness that has overtaken the West, and a component of its decline.

  2. Avatar

    Speakthetruth

    March 6, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Geert Wilders MUST win the election if Europe wishes to regain her sanity and her sovereignty she had lost from decades of neglect from past leaderships.

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China Media

After 88 Days of ‘Missing in Action,’ Jack Ma Appears in Public Again

“Daddy, you’re back!” – Jack Ma reappears after three months of silence.

Manya Koetse

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Jack Ma’s alleged ‘disappearance’ made international headlines and also generated many discussions on Chinese social media.

But now, after not appearing in public for 88 days, the Alibaba founder has finally popped up again in a video that is circulating online. News of his appearance was first reported by Tianmu News (天目新闻), a news platform under the umbrella of the Zhejiang Daily.

The video was recorded during an online award ceremony for rural teachers, which was attended by 100 educators from around the country. In his speech, Ma expressed his respect for China’s 2.9 million countryside teachers and said that although the physical event for the rural teaching initiative was canceled due to COVID19, they would all meet again once the epidemic is over. The event is usually held annually in Sanya, Hainan.

Jack Ma, who used to be a teacher himself, previously put forward the Rural Teachers Program to further develop and modernize education in China’s countryside areas.

Image via Sina Finance

Image via Sina Finance

Image via Sina Finance

Chinese media report that Alibaba shares immediately went up after Ma’s online appearance.

Meanwhile, Jack Ma personally still has not posted anything on his Weibo account, where his latest post of October 17th 2020 is still attracting new comments every day. Today, some people commented: “Teacher Ma, I finally saw your face again in a video! It made me happy.”

Other wrote: “Daddy, you’re back!”

For more on Jack Ma and his recent ‘disappearance’, read “Daddy Ma, Are You OK?” – Jack Ma’s Situation Discussed on Chinese Social Media.

By Manya Koetse


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©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Media

The Top 10 Buzzwords in Chinese Online Media in 2020 (咬文嚼字)

Some of the buzzwords that were most noteworthy in Chinese media this year.

Jialing Xie

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These are some of the expressions and idioms that have been buzzing in Chinese media in 2020. What’s on Weibo’s Jialing Xie explains.

China’s online media environment is a breeding ground for new terms and niche expressions that suddenly make it to mainstream discussions.

Every year, the most popular new words and expressions are listed by the Chinese magazine 咬文嚼字 (yǎo wén jiáo zì). The magazine selects buzzwords that reflect present-day society and the changing times.

Yǎo Wén Jiáozì, which means “to pay excessive attention to wording,”* is a monthly publication featuring commentary, criticism, and essays on the Chinese language.

Founded in 1995, the magazine has gained social influence for correcting typos in the language used by media and celebrities. Some of these corrections have been impactful, such as their correction of the 2006 CCTV Chinese New Year Gala on writing ‘Shenzhou 6’ (the second human spaceflight of the Chinese space program) as “神州六号” rather than “神舟六号” (different character for ‘zhōu’). It was included in their “Ten Biggest Language Mistakes” list (十大语文差错) of that year.

On social media, Chinese online (state) media always promote the magazine’s selection of the top words and terms of the past year. The ten terms have also become a relatively big topic on Weibo over the past month, with the list of Top 10 Buzzwords in 2020 #2020年度十大流行语# already garnering 460 million views.

*yǎo wén jiáo zì, literal meaning: to talk pedantically and pay excessive attention to wording, often referring to a stickler for detail with an intent to display their fine knowledge; often used negatively or neutrally.

We’ve listed the top 10 buzzwords for you here:

 

1. 人民至上,生命至上 (Rénmín zhìshàng, shēngmìng zhìshàng): “People First”

  • Literal Meaning: “People are above everything else, life is above everything else.”
  • The context of this phrase in 2020: On May 22 of 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping took part in the deliberation of the Inner Mongolia delegation at the annual legislative session, where he stated that “our people come first, people’s lives come first, and the safety and health of our people should be secured at all costs.” “People first, life first” has since become a widely circulated slogan and guiding principle for government and society to combat Covid-19 across the country. 

 

2. 逆行者 (Nìxíng zhě): “People Going against the Tide”

  • Literal Meaning: “People who swim upstream / people who go against the current.”
  • The context of this phrase in 2020: In a broad sense, this phrase shares a similar meaning as its English counterpart, describing people who dare to differ from the mainstream and to go above and beyond their call of duty. In 2020, it has become a term often used by state media to refer to frontline workers and individuals who made a significant contribution or sacrifice during the battle against the novel coronavirus.

 

3. 飒 (): “Spirited”

  • Literal Meaning: “1) Chill and refreshing 2) Onomatopoeia: the sound of the wind 
  • The context of this word in 2020: In modern Chinese literature, this word is commonly used in the idiom “英姿飒爽” (yīng zī sà shuǎng), illustrating how a person, either a man or woman, is high of energy and full of morale and is showing an attitude of heroism and prestige. According to People’s Daily, half of the doctors and more than 90% of the nurses working in healthcare during the fight against COVID19 are female. State media started to use 飒 () as an adjective to eulogize these female medical workers. The word was later used to praise both men and women working in other industries as well. 

 

4. 后浪 (Hòu làng): “The Rear Waves”

  • Literal Meaning: “The rear waves.”
  • The context of this phrase in 2020: 后浪 hòulàng is often used within the idiom “长江后浪推前浪” (cháng jiāng hòu làng tuī qián làng) which literally means “the rear waves in the Yangtze River drive on those before,” and figuratively referring to how the new generation excels beyond the one before, or how the new is constantly replacing the old. This phrase became an internet meme regarding the young generation in China – specifically, those born in the 90s and 00s – as a result of heated online discussions about a video launched on Bilibili and other social media for Youth Day (May 4th), in which the older actor He Bing talks about the rights and opportunities enjoyed by young people in China today. On various occasions, this word is used to address the more privileged young people. Some associated stereotypes about this group include studying or living abroad, high-quality lifestyle, and luxury material possessions. Those who don’t identify with this privileged group tend to refer to themselves as “韭菜” (Jiǔcài, chives), which shares a similar sentiment as “屌丝” (Diǎosī, loser), as opposed to “the rear waves.”

 

5. 神兽 (Shén shòu): “Divine Beasts”

  • Literal Meaning: “Divine beasts.”
  • The context of this word in 2020: Totem worshiping is deeply rooted in the religion and tradition of many ancient cultures. Divine beasts in China are in fact deities, also known as the Four Symbols (四象), as a mixed product of Chinese ancient cosmology and mythology. Since the beginning of remote learning and delay in schools reopening across the country, many parents and caregivers have posted their experience balancing work and remote learning with their children from home. In these posts, parents often call their children ‘divine beasts’ then share their children’s naughty behavior and how they struggled to deal with them. 

 

6. 直播带货 (Zhíbò dài huò): “Live commerce”

  • Literal Meaning: “Live commerce”, “Influencer marketing via live streaming.
  • The context of this phrase in 2020: China’s live-streaming economy played an important role in the country’s economic market recovery amidst COVID19. Influencer marketing via live streaming combines talk show-like entertainment and the convenience of online shopping, at times even leveraging social proof and the reputation of influencers themselves to crack astonishing sales records. Apart from internet celebrities, many business executives (i.e. Jack Ma) and even government officials (i.e. 13 local mayors in Hubei Province) also took advantage of the booming live-streaming and appeared in front of webcams to promote certain products which resulted in millions of views on TikTok. On the flip-side of the business, there have been concerns about the quality of the products as well as lawsuits against fraudulent sales practices. Popular topics on Weibo as such include #如何看待直播带货卖假货#(“What do you think of counterfeit goods in live-streaming sales”). 

 

7. 双循环 (Shuāng xún huán): “Dual Cycle”

  • Literal Meaning: “Dual cycle.”
  • The context of this word in 2020: This term comes from President Xi’s speech at the meeting of the Politburo of the Chinese Communist Party on May 4, 2020, during which he stated that the dual-cycle system will be the party’s strategy for China’s economic and political development for the near future following COVID19 recovery. The system focuses on recovering and growing the economy by primarily expanding domestic demand mixed with healthy participation in international trade. While it certainly was not the first time the Communist Party introduced this concept of prioritizing the domestic market, according to Xinhua News Agency, the dual-cycle system has been regarded as a suitable strategy given current restrictions facing international trade due to the pandemic and the ongoing trade tensions between China and a few western powers.

 

8. 打工人 (Dǎ gōng rén): “Working People”

  • Literal Meaning: “Working people”
  • The context of this phrase in 2020: As agriculture, foreign trade, and investment sectors developed following the economic reform in 1978, a social-economic trend emerged in the 80s during which labor forces across China’s villages and countrysides migrated to cities and worked in blue-collar jobs. These migrant workers are called 打工人 (Dǎ gōng rén) / 打工仔 (Dǎ gōng zǎi). The word later evolved and was used to address the entire working class and salaried employees. For example, the memoir written by Shujuan Liu of the former president of Microsoft China, Jun Tang, was titled “I’m the 高级打工仔 (Gāojí dǎgōng zǎi, high-class worker) at Microsoft”. The term was frequently used as an internet buzzword in 2020 after appearing in a viral video in which a man acted as a migrant worker and showed watchers warm and positive encouragement. The video ended with a “good morning” greeting and addressed watchers as 打工人.  

 

9. 内卷  (Nèi juǎn): “Involution”

  • Literal Meaning: “Involution
  • The context of this phrase in 2020: According to People’s Daily, this word is a direct translation of the concept of ‘involution’ brought up by the American anthropologist Clifford Geertz. Involution describes the economic situation in which as the population grows, per capita wealth decreases. This year, this word is used to represent the competitive circumstances in academic or professional settings where individuals are compelled to overwork because of the standard raised by their peers who appear to be even more hard working. In the latter half of 2020, a few pictures capturing college students’ multitasking went viral on Weibo. One of the images shows a person working on his computer while riding his bike. These people were then called “卷王” (Juǎn wáng, meaning they are the example of overworking) on social media and became the origin of this buzzword. You can find this word sometimes associated with the 996 working hour system on Weibo.

 

10. 凡尔赛文学 (Fán’ěrsài wénxué): “Versailles Literature”

  • Literal Meaning: “Versailles literature.”
  • The context of this phrase in 2020: Social media has made displaying wealth and superiority easier than ever before. Instead of showing off explicitly, some find a way to both satisfy their desire for publicity and avoid doing so ostentatiously, by flaunting wealth and material possessions in an indirect and often negative-toned message. This writing style for social media posts is then referred to as “Versailles literature.” Admittedly not all posts labeled as “Versailles literature” were written with the intent to show off, but those with clear intention are often easily spotted and circulated online and became funny memes. This then led to a wave of discussions and a contest of “Versailles literature” on social media, which became a form of entertainment itself.

 

By Jialing Xie

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