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“What The F*ck is Communism?” – Discussion on Communism Takes over Weibo

A discussion on communism has taken over Weibo, as opinion leader Ren Zhiqian publicly stated that communist slogans have deceived Chinese people for over 10 years. His post instantly became trending: “What the f*ck is Communism anyway?”

Manya Koetse

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After reports of an overall declining faith in communism, the Communist Youth League reiterated their strong believe in communism on Weibo, under the slogan: “We are the successors of Communism”. Chinese opinion leader Ren Zhiqian publicly critiqued their stance. His post instantly became trending, igniting a hot online debate on communism.

On the 21st of September, the   Communist Youth League (共青团) posted a China Youth Daily article about “faith” on their official Weibo account, claiming that communism is at the heart of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the Chinese nation at large. The article was written by famous Marxist scholar Wang Xiangming (王向明).

The Communist Youth League is the youth movement of the People’s Republic of China, run by the CPC.

 

“Let us hold up the flag of communism, because we are the successors of communism.”

 

“For us, communism is our highest ideal, and we are on the road to achieve it,” they write on their official Weibo page. “At the present stage, we are realizing the great rise of the Chinese people, and are building on modernizing the powerful and civilized socialism. Let us hold up the flag of communism, boldly and confidently, because: we are the successors of communism.”

With their Weibo post, the Communist Youth League use the hashtag #We Are The Successors of Communism (#我们是共产主义接班人#), referring to a 1961 theme song that has been used by the League since 1978.

Mainland China’s popular real estate entrepreneur and opinion leader Ren Zhiqian (任志强, nearly 34 million Weibo fans) publicly responded to the article with his own post titled: “Are We the Successors of Communism?” [Edit March 5, 2016: This post is no longer accessible since Ren’s Weibo account has been removed, but you can find a screenshot of his post here.]

In the post, he critiques the Communist Youth League’s article, saying: “We’ve been deceived by these communist slogans for years!” Ren’s post has been viewed over a million times, and has received messages of sympathy from thousands of Weibo users, instantly becoming the top trending Weibo message of the day.

 

“Communism, what the fuck is communism?”

 

A user called “Chinese Moviemaker” responds: “Red Guards, oh Little Red Guards, the young people of China have been fooled!!”

An employee of a Henan real estate company bluntly stated: “Communism, what the fuck is communism?”, while others stated that “Communism is the biggest catastrophe in human history”.

In his article, Ren Zhiqian explains his experience with communism in the past, and shares his views for it in the future.

I am responding to the ‘We are the Successors of Communism’ Weibo post,” he writes: “We have been hearing our elder brothers and sisters singing this “We are the Successors of Communism” song since childhood, and we grew up with it.”

When I was in the third grade, wearing a red neckscarf, I also learned this song. Every time we saw the five-starred red flag raised, we saluted it with our right hand, and sang this song. Our hearts were full of confidence and hope!

 

“We dreamed of being seen by Leader Mao Zedong: a real successor of communism”

 

When I went to Middle School in 1964, the first thing we did every day was practice marching,” Ren writes: “For the National Day parade, celebrating the fifteenth anniversary of the founding of the New China, I became a proud member of the Young Pioneers of China, as the young drummer. We dreamed of being seen by Leader Mao Zedong, a real successor of communism.”

cultural-revolution-H

We lined up by the East Chang’an Avenue Beijing Hotel on the 1st of October, a bit over 5 AM, anxiously waiting for the National Day salute to go off. It was a moment of dreams coming true. On the sound of the drum, we walked to Tiananmen Square. Because I was a short kid at the time, I was the first in the row, and I felt proud that I would be nearer to Mao Zedong at Tiananmen’s City Gate than the others. My parents were also there, I wanted to see them, and I hoped they would see me.”

He continues:

But when the moment came, I was so nervous, that when we passed the eastern marble pillars, and the sound of the drums and cheers came up, I could only look down at the white line underneath my feet. I was afraid that it would affect the entire formation if I did not walk straight. I did not look up at all, not even at the Tiananmen City Gate. I just saw it from the corner of my eyes. When we finally reached the western pillars, and I stopped the drums, and it was already too late to look back.

Once I returned to school, I regretted not seeing Mao Zedong and I secretly cried. But I felt very proud to be successor of communism.”

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But then Ren’s happy memories of communism change as the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) begins, and his parents are accused of being capitalists.

I never thought that when the Cultural Revolution began a few months later, my parents would become ‘capitalist-roaders’, and I would be the child of criminals, and get the glorious title of a ‘son of a bitch’. My dream to grow up to be a next generation communist changed to being a child who had to be rehabilitated.

 

“We have been deceived for years.”

 

We’ve been deceived for years. The Cultural Revolution only let me know the class struggle under a proletarian dictatorship. And that there is no next generation of communism.”

Ren writes how him and his parents turned from city people into farmers during their rehabilitation. Despite the hardships, people still had trust in the nation:

We were more determined to join the Communist Party of China, and had confidence in rescuing people in need. We remained convinced that the great leader Chairman Mao was correct. All the problems in China were caused by those people hidden in the Party who were on Khrushchev’s side, and were doing bad things.”

 

“The invincible Mao Zedong thought has let thousands of people starve to death.”

 

But when Deng Xiaoping resigned, weeks after the Tiananmen events, the society started thinking. It was not until the overthrow of the “Gang of Four”, and the Third Plenum of the CPC and the ‘70% right 30% wrong’, that we got to know more errors from the once Great Leader.

Ren tells how China changed after the death of Mao:

Rightists who were overthrown were politically rehabilitated. The People’s Communes were dissolved. Farmer’s land was redistributed. The errors caused by the Cultural Revolution were corrected. The ‘Four Olds’, that were first knocked to the ground, were put back on their feet, and we again had a comeback of tradition (..) The capitalist class, that were first overthrown by the revolution, now became an important force in China’s economic development.”

The invincible Mao Zedong Thought has let thousands of people starve to death, and we don’t even know who many people died through persecution during the Cultural Revolution. Maybe even more people died because of wrong political policies than because of the war.”

 

“The Communist Youth League who now wants to welcome communism – are you joking?”

 

But China’s reform and opening has completely freed people of any food and clothing problems. The Reforms and Opening of China has re-established the confidence and trust in the Chinese leadership and the Communist Party. It also let the world know China. Everyone hopes the Communist Party of China will realise its promises of democracy, freedom, equality, and the rule of law, and lead the Chinese people to prosperity. They hope even more that they achieve the great ideal of communism. I also hope that communism can be realized. But what is the path to achieve it?

History has taught us that a violent revolution does not work. It has also taught us that public ownership does not work. That planned economy does not work. And that the absence of democracy and rule of law does not work!

Deng told us that China is still in the primary stage of socialism. It make take several generations to go to an intermediate stage. And it might take who-knows-how-many generations before we reach the higher goal. Deng Xiaoping also told us that it might take many generations before the wealth of some people turn into common wealth. If there is no step-by-step expansion of the middle class, it is impossible to achieve common prosperity.”

However, the impatient Chinese people cannot wait for generations without results , and want to achieve the goal of common prosperity.(..) It took 1000 years to go from feudal to capitalist society. It has not even been four decades since China’s primary stage of socialism. The Communist Youth League who now wants to welcome communism – are you joking? The only way to possibly ever achieve the ideal of communism is a long, long road, taking the effort of dozens of generations.

 

“Without democracy and freedom, how can we achieve equality under the law?”

 

Ren concludes his article by emphasizing the need for democracy: “Without democracy and freedom, how can we achieve equality under the law?”, he writes.

Perhaps there are many theoretical and institutional issues that gradually need to be reformed and resolved. Perhaps we need to understand that achieving communism is a very far-reaching and hard goal. But most of all, there needs to be a clear understanding that reaching communism is not just a very far-reached and ambitious goal, but that it will not be realised by this generation, or the ones after.

We can have ambitious goals, but it is more important that we live in reality. We first need to solve the system’s immediate problems. First, Chinese people should be confident in a system that allows people to share democracy and freedom. First, stable incomes need to be achieved. First, we need laws that can really protect people’s lives and property. First, the Chinese people need to join the system of values shared by the world. Otherwise, how could communism be ever reached?

Ren’s article has caused much commotion on Weibo. While some criticise communism and the system in general, others call for more a more nuanced discussion on the future of communism in China.

User Luo Qiang says: “After reading Ren Zhiqiang’s brilliant text, I am overwhelmed with emotions. I can’t help but also want to ridicule the system.” Weibo netizen Qinghua Sun Liping says:
“It’s good to say that communism is our ideal. It is better to have some ideals than to have none at all. (..) But to achieve communism, we need to concretise our targets.”

Ren’s article has got over 1 million views, was shared on Weibo over 13,780 times, received 8850 comments, and got over 15,000 ‘likes’.

By Manya Koetse

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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China and Covid19

Announced Changes in Nucleic Acid Testing and Further Easing of Covid Measures Across China

Bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate.

Manya Koetse

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On Monday, directly after that noteworthy unrest-filled weekend, the hashtag “Multiple Locations Announce Nucleic Acid Testing Changes” (#多地核酸检测通知发生变化#) went trending on Chinese social media, receiving over 660 million clicks by Monday evening.

Immediately following demonstrations in Beijing and a second night of protests in Shanghai and elsewhere, various Chinese media reported how different areas across the country are introducing changes to their current Covid19 testing measures.

On Wednesday, November 30, China’s vice-premier Sun Chunlan made remarks at a meeting on epidemic prevention, underlining the importance of “constantly optimizing” China’s Covid-19 response and talking about a “new stage and mission” – without ever mentioning “zero Covid.”

This is what we know about easing Covid measures thus far:

▶ Strict lockdowns have been lifted in Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, and Chongqing.

▶ On November 28, Guangzhou announced that people who do not actively participate in social life will no longer need to participate in continuous nucleic acid screening. This includes elderly people who stay indoors for long periods of time, students who take online classes, and those who work from home. The change will apply to residents in seven districts, including Haizhu, Panyu, Tianhe, and Baiyun (#广州7区无社会面活动者可不参加全员核酸#).

▶ Guangzhou, according to Reuters, also scrapped a rule that only people with a negative COVID test can buy fever medication over the counter.

Harbin will follow the example of Guangzhou, and will also allow people who are mostly based at home to skip nucleic acid test screenings.

▶ Same goes for Shenyang, and Taiyuan.

▶ In Chongqing, various districts have done widespread Covid testing campaigns, but the local authorities announced that those communities that have not had a positive Covid case over the past five days do not need to participate in nucleic acid screening anymore. This means an end to district-wide testing.

▶ On November 30, Beijing also announced that it will start exempting some people from frequent Covid testing, including those elderly residents who are bound to home and other people who do not go out and have social interactions. This also includes younger students who are following classes online.

▶ Starting from December 5, bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate (announced on December 2nd).

▶ Although not officially announced, there have been various social media posts and reports about Covid-positive people in Beijing being allowed to quarantine at home if they meet conditions.

Chengdu Metro announced on December 2nd that it will no longer check passengers’ nucleic acid test reports. Passengers still need to scan their travel code and those with a green code can enter. Other public places will reportedly also start to accept the ‘green code’ only without a time limit on nucleic acid testing.

Tianjin metro announced that the 72-hour nucleic acid certificate check will be also be canceled for passengers on the Tianjin metro lines. As in other places, people will still need to wear proper face masks and undergo temperature checks.

▶ In Hangzhou, except for at special places such as nursing homes, orphanages, primary and secondary schools, people’s nucleic acid tests will no longer be checked in public transportation and other public places. They will also stop checking people’s Venue Codes (场所码).

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China History

Mourning Jiang Zemin, Weibo Turns Black and White

Since the rise of Chinese social media, Jiang Zemin became a recurring part of Chinese memes.

Manya Koetse

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Following the announcement that Jiang Zemin (江泽民), the former president of the PRC, has passed away, various Chinese online platforms have turned into ‘grey’ mode as a sign of mourning. Jiang Zemin died due to leukemia and organ failure. He was 96 years old.

Besides Weibo, the home page of major Chinese websites such as Baidu, Sogou, Taobao, Alipay, Xinhua, People’s Daily, The Paper, and many others all turned into black-and-white mourning mode on Wednesday.

Bilibili turns into grey mode on November 30.

Search engine Sogou also in black and white mode.

On Weibo, one post about Jiang Zemin’s passing received a staggering one million reposts and over two million ‘likes.’ The hashtag “Comrade Jiang Zemin Passed Away at the Age of 96 in Shanghai” (#江泽民同志在上海逝世享年96岁#) had received over 2,5 billion clicks by Wednesday night.

Jiang Zemin was appointed as President of the People’s Republic of China in 1993. In the years before, the former Shanghai Party chief already held official positions as the chairman of the Central Military Affairs Commission and general secretary of the Party. In 2003, Jiang Zemin retired and was replaced by Hu Jintao (Sullivan 2012).

Since the rise of Chinese social media, Jiang became a recurring part of Chinese memes. Jiang had created a wide group of online fans, who are commonly referred to as ‘toad worshippers’ as the online phenomenon of ‘worshipping’ Jiang Zemin is called mo ha (膜蛤), ‘toad worship’ (Fang 2020, 38). The entire phenomenon has become its own subculture that is called ‘mo ha culture’ (móhá wénhuà, 膜蛤文化).

What started as a joke – nicknaming Jiang a ‘toad’ due to his big glasses, signature pants, and wide smile, – became an actual online movement of people who were appreciative of Jiang Zemin.

They loved him, not only because the former leader spoke many languages and other talents, and because of his unique appearance, but mainly because he was not scared to show his emotions, was very expressive, and good at telling stories.

One famous example of this, is when Jiang Zemin got upset with a Hong Kong journalist in 2000 and told them off using three languages (link to video, also here). The much-repeated quote “too young, too simple, sometimes naive” comes from this noteworthy moment as Jiang told journalists that they still had a lot to learn, whereas he had gone through “hundred of battles,” saying “I’ve seen it all.” This also led to Jiang later being called ‘the Elder’ (长者) by netizens.

Another popular Jiang Zemin video is when he met with American journalist Mike Wallace in August of 2000 in Beidaihe. During the interview, the two discussed sensitive topics including the Falun Gong and Tiananmen protests. The interview reportedly was one of the longest ever between an American journalist and a Chinese head of state (watch here).

A study by Kecheng Fang (2020) about ‘China’s toad worship culture’ suggests that for many online fans of Jiang, the cult around him is apolitical, playful, and part of a shared digital cultural tradition.

For some, however, it does hold some political meaning to ‘worship’ Jiang, who only became a popular online meme around 2014, after Xi Jinping took power as a conservative strongman who is not as emotionally expressive. Fang describes how one meme creator said: “We couldn’t express our criticism through normal channels, so we turned to other indrect ways, including lauding Jiang’s personality and characteristics in various ways” (2020, 45).

Although Jiang became popular among younger Chinese on online platforms over the past decade, he was not necessarily that popular at the time of his leadership, and opinions vary on the legacy he leaves behind. Jiang continuously pushed for reform and opening-up after Deng Xiaoping’s rule.

As summarized by Foreign Policy, Jiang oversaw two crucial transitions that shaped and improved the lives of the people of China: “First, he peacefully guided his country out of the shadow of China’s founding revolutionaries, who had spent decades purging one another and at times caused great pain and sorrow for everyone else. Second, although hesitant at first, Jiang came to embrace the market economy.”

As various places across China have seen unrest and protests over the past few days, the announcement of Jiang’s death comes at a sensitive time.

Many on Chinese social media are burning virtual candles in memory of Jiang Zemin today. “I will fondly recall your style and manners,” some say.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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References:

Fang, Kecheng. 2020. “Turning a communist party leader into an internet meme: the political and apolitical aspects of China’s toad worship culture.” Information, Communication & Society, 23 (1): 38-58.

Sullivan, Lawrence R. 2012. Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Communist Party. Lanham: The Scarecrow Press. See page: 3-43, 208.

 

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