Status quo of Liberal Idea in China
Left-wing idea, especially the Marxism, has occupied most part of Chinese modern history: It was budding in May, 4, 1919 when myriads of students marching on the street in Shanghai, protesting against the Northern Warlord Government, the pusillanimous puppet of Imperialism, and eventually simmered out when the protagonist of the movement changing from students to the working class. It slogged through almost 3 decades to dominate the Chinese political landscape lasting to the present day. However, thorough my daily life, I always smell a sense of disdain and condescension towards liberal ideas. So why this happens?
Liberalism among the world
Before the election of Donald Trump, liberal, a branch of left-wing, seems to have already to lose its ground among the world: the British have voted to leave and in former communist countries, such as Poland and Hungary, power has passed to xenophobic ultranationalist. There is even a urgent threat to the EU, the upcoming French election, which has a great possibility to catapult a far-right leader into presidency, shaking the whole structure of EU and the landscape of the world. The election of Donald Trump putted even a larger sledgehammer to the progressive and liberal. Currently, these events seem have no huge impact upon the Chinese government since its mouthpiece asserts that China will unflinchingly and doubtlessly embrace the globalization and criticizes Trump as man-child. However, according to my observation, Chinese folks’ views , especially the Millennials’, about Donald Trump is stunningly, largely lean to phrasing him instead of fearing and criticizing, which seems to be totally opposite to its counterparts from western world as a whole. So what causes this anomaly?
Liberal and Political Correctness, and Communism
Many Chinese folks label liberal ideas as political correctness and usually expand the definition of “ liberal” to all left-wing branches. This mindset, according to my real life experience, might be precipitated by three phenomena mixed together.
The first one is The Rise of Donald Trump. Donald Trump labeled himself as an “anti-establishment” figure during his campaign trial. This rhetoric not only turned many states used to support Obama, especially those in the rustbelt, into red, but also attracts myriad of Chinese audiences and the majority of which is millennials that is supposed to embrace the liberal ideas when it comes to social issues. Based on my experience of interacting with those who like Donald Trump, I reach a conclusion that most of them like Donald Trump because of his rhetoric depicting him as a anti-establishment or anti-lobbyist, however, not on the policy. The prejudice that “liberals and left-wings equal political correctness” was further entrenched by the second cause mixed with the third one I list below.
The second one is Weariness of Obama and his administration. President Barack Obama is a liberal in general by definition in the political spectrum. And he always label himself as a liberal. In his interview with Trevor Noah from the Daily Show, he asserted that he was thwarted because he was a liberal. However, in actuality, many democratic president were more liberal than Obama according to the DW-Nominate.
According to the report, we can find that President Obama is the most ideologically moderate Democratic president in the post-war period, with a first dimension DW-NOMINATE Common Space score of -0.329. President Lyndon Johnson, the second-most moderate Democratic president in this period, has a score of -0.345. President Obama’s ideological position is estimated from his “votes” (statements of support or opposition) on 282 congressional roll call votes. This amount is somewhat low; for example, President George W. Bush “voted” 453 times during his last term in office. However, it is adequate to recover his latent ideological score.Judging from the DW-Nominate scores, Obama’s closest analog, ideologically speaking, is Lyndon Johnson. The rankings also suggest that both Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were more liberal than Obama. He did many things unfitted to be described as liberal, but all of which were accounted into “Liberalism” in the perspective of Chinese folks.
The third one is the perverted development of left-wing ideas in China. As well-known, China is a so-called communist or socialist regime. However, after the inauguration of Xiaoping Deng, the successor of Mao, the founder of the PRC, China is turning right at some extents. Within Mao’s era, litany of disasters, such as the Great Leap and Culture Revolution, deplete many people’s favor of CCP and its ideology, the communism, a branch of left-wing idea. Since then, left-wing idea has been a bête noire for the folk.
Government Clampdown and Cyber Lynch Mobs
It is safe to reach the conclusion that liberals are overwhelmingly clamped down criticized both by authority and its people in China than ever before. Even in the the successor of Mao, Deng Xiaoping, began his economic reform that calls for the Chinese Special Socialism that embrace the globalization, an liberal idea, Chinese authority was gingerly vigilant about the Bourgeois Liberalization. After the Tiananmen Massacre, CCP egregiously muzzled nearly all accesses to the relevant reports and commemorations within sovereignty of PRC, attempting to blot out this iconic movement, which called for liberty, democracy, and equality. from young generation’s memory. In the present day, pressured by the trend that myriads of Chinese elite that used to study abroad bring back liberal idea, a threat to the stability of Chinese society and socialism, asserted by the government, CCP’s mouthpieces, for example, published articles criticizing the western liberal ideas like “ CASS Should Show The Sword To Criticize Wrong Tide of Western Ideology”. Besides, Chinese Supreme Court Justice, Zhou Qiang, publicly perorated in Jan, 14, 2017 that Chinese should fence off the Wrong Concepts peddled by the western world: Constitutional Democracy, Separation of Powers, and Independence of Judicature, all of which are not only upheld by liberals, but the whole western ideas. This announcement is interpreted to be a message implying the upcoming crackdown on the currently popular liberal idea in china.
There are two groups respectively named “ Wu Mao” and “Zi Gan Wu” that will start a thread of comments criticize liberals mordantly once they see relevant news. These two groups are mainly consisted by seniors. They usually comment condescendingly on those who shrug off their ideas or who vociferate against them and forge a sense that they are in actuality deigning to teach those ignoramuses perverted by western world. They convened mainly in Sina, NetEase, Tiexue, Zhihu, and Tianya, five battlefields receiving the latest shockwaves and conflicts of so-called “Wrong Western Ideas”.
Another throng of people mainly consisted by fledging millennials contribute the most to the current cyber lynch mob of liberals. They can be hair split into two categories: people modeled in the domestic curriculum; people studying abroad.
Most of the people from the first category instinctively show animosity to the western world regardless of progressive or conservative. Textbooks within the parameter of Chinese Domestic Curriculum, especially the “普通高中课程标准实验教科书”, virtually label all western religions and ideologies as “hypocrisy”, “ meretriciousness “ and “ falsehood”. In the Chinese Textbook of grade 9, a standard answer towards the idiosyncrasy of Tom Sawyer, the protagonist of the novel — The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, given by the textbook, is that” 他向往着自由，鄙视虚伪的基督教义和政府“ which means “He longs for the liberation of straitjacket exerted by the parents and disdains the hypocritical and sanctimonious biblical dogmas and authority“. Given that the government’s hauteur and jaundice towards western ideas, especially the liberal idea, it is not hard to speculate its people whose who are staunch of ideology of CCP, show great enmity to the liberalism.
The second group is a bit different. Many of them are well-educated, typically raised up in least colleges in western country, especially in the U.S . Then swagger in throng in Zhuhu, Chinese version of Quora, post radical articles mixed with exaggerated facts and mud-slinging rumors and delivers litany of broadsides to liberal, what they particularly call “Bai Zuo”. Bat Zuo has already became the synonym of liberalism in china since it appears in virtually all the popular website.
In the answer thread of the question — How to evaluate the Women’s March on Washington in Jan 21 2017–187 out of 323 answers, criticize women presenting on the march for “being Bai Zuo to hysterically against Donald Trump and hosting a last-ditch movement to and actually do not believe feminism”. Comments area of answers that express opposite thoughts are occupied by wrathful comments such as “又一个白左“ ”中华田园左“ ”实在是见识到了这些白左的丑恶嘴脸“. Moreover, many liberal comments that shows a little bit radical ideas were reported and shut down while the right, conservative answers possessing similar extents of radicalness received dozens of ‘upvote” and free from shutting down. From this, people can already find out that liberals are facing some extents of discrimination in internet.
There are even more agonizing examples. After the mayhem in UC-Berkeley happened in Feb 2 2017, an article accusing the students of UC-Berkeley suddenly emerged soaringly and popped up as a hot topic in Zhihu. The article was entitled “伯克利的左逼终于露出了丑恶的嘴脸” which means “ The So-called Liberal Pussy Finally Unmask Their Baleful Hypocrisy”. This article lambasted the violent demonstration, which at first was a peaceful demonstration and escalated to unlooked-for violent act happened in the campus of UC-Berkeley and directly pointed out that the students as a group is the perpetrator and sarcastically lampoon the “hypocrisy, duplicity of left-wings when it coms to point which put a threat on their interests”. In general, the whole article was groundless and incendiary since It employed no reference to the reports and resources of Media and merely based on the Chinese Student within the campus, who cannot judge the event objectively since most of them lean to the right. Staggeringly, a whopping number of Zhihu Users, for about 872 persons in sum, liked the article.
These cases are exacerbated and precipitated by a social behavior called Group Polarization, specifically the Belief Polarization. Some so-called “ American issue experts”, at some extends similar to the televangelists, depict liberalism as the bane of all the tribulation the people in the world is undergoing and asserts Donald Trump may be the enabler of revolution int he popular websites in China, beefed up by the hype of the media such as Tencent that selectively report the news . These ideas attracts lots of ‘political outlets”, which in Chinese we called 吃瓜群众， who hold similar perspectives, and then these people try to reinforce and strength their ideas by all means such as creating conspiracy theories, which simply mires more potential right-wing supporters into their movement, and avoiding the news resources which may bolster the idea or belief they disagree. Under that mindset, the bias becomes orthodoxy and the truth may just become the so-called “Fake News”. People who are staunch of liberal or left-wing ideas became “ irremediable bigot” or liar while the right-wing group such as who call for the banishment of Islam that used to be gagged by Political Correctness become the new principles of the society in China.
Status quo of Liberalism in China
Right-wings and misologists is in preponderance in the duel with liberalism and left-wing. It is safe to say the Liberalism is literally under the despotism of “major opinions” since it has ostensibly become a minority idea in China. (It is absurd and ridiculous to point out that the right-wing ideas used to be under a similar situation before when the liberalism is in the power) Many people calling for the left-wing idea are simply silenced and muzzle. For instance, a columnists named “平章律事吃吃殿“ or Juris Doctor Candidate, was silenced for 2 weeks because of his sky-rocked popularity in a community for political discussion by the opponent of his idea. The columnist is a law assistant who happens to embrace the left-wing idea; thus, he wrote an article answering a question “how to interpret Donald Trump’s speech that depict the act by a lawyer from Hawaii who suspended the renewed Travel Ban as a “unprecedented judicial overreach” . In the article, he explains his opinions why there is not an overreach by providing details and law cases and in the end of the article he sort of lampooning the unconstitutionality of Donald Trump’s act, which lately instigated a litany of retaliation by Chinese Trump supporters. They firstly “dislike” the article and report the comments which were in favor of the article. and then, staggeringly, the reported the article, asserting the article violates the “Peaceful Discussion, No Vituperation” policy and maligning the writer as a shyster. They also emailed the writer, cowing him that if he wrote this kind of article again they will report him again and again.
Similar instances happen everyday to anyone that contends differently from the those who is in preponderance right now.
Prediction of the future of liberalism in China
“Unless it is sufferable to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of prejudice, with little comprehension of feelings of its rational grounds.” Said John Mill in his On Liberty.
The future is ominously poignant for not only people believe in liberalism, but also those who embrace right-wing and the whole society. A healthy regime ready for mental developing should at least welcome and tolerate the salutary discussion and collision of different ideas, which will always engender public discussion, to deepen public’s comprehension upon the issue on both sides of it. However, under the yoke of such a despotism of right-wing idea, an idea held by majority currently, not only the left-wing idea will be precluded from entering the mainstream of ideas of Chinese folk for a indefinite period, but also the right-wing, anti-liberalism loses their meaning in their supporters’ mind gradually. The prejudice of liberalism or other left-wing ideas will be ever-perpetuating in their minds and finally become a bromidic truth for them. They and their descendants will be predisposed to hate the liberalism and left-wing idea without understanding why they are support to dislike it. This way of thinking will produce not firm believer clearly comprehending the cause, but ignorant time-server.
An available way, I conceive, to save the Chinese society from metamorphosing into the morbid society describing above is to compel the media or managers of public platform under which the free discussion is prohibited or the left-wingers are silenced. By that mean viewers can profoundly understand both sides of the political spectrums and freely choose their stance, and the prejudice may also not emerge.
1 The Economist: Trump’s world, the New Nationalism Nov 19t2016
2 Millennials Are Social Liberals, Fiscal Centrists by Emily Ekins
3 Is Barack Obama the most liberal president ever? by Chris Cillizza in Washington Post, Feb 4 2014
4社科院敢于亮剑 批判西方错误思潮 Jul 10 2014(CASS Should Show The Sword To Criticize Wrong Tide of Western Ideology)
5 中新社北京 Jan 14 in Beijing( Report from CNS)
6 [On Liberty] by John Mill