Making negative and slighting remarks about the Chinese Communist Party has become so common on the internet in China these days that a Party ideological journal saw fit to publicly call out the habit, complaining that no one now supports the Party online.
Red Flag Manuscript, an orthodox communist ideological publication, run under Qiushi magazine, which is in turn under the official cadre training ground, the Central Party School, said in a recent article that social media has become a major public opinion “front” against the Party.
This dangerous trend “seriously attacks mainstream socialist ideology,” the article said.
As is customary in Party line analysis, the authors sought to categorize the types of speech on Weibo, a Twitter-like social media platform in China. It said there is speech which supports the Party, has an ambiguous attitude toward the Party, or is against it.
Those who support the regime, however, are considered “helpless” and “subject to abuse and attack,” Red Flag Manuscript said. Meanwhile, anti-Party sentiment is said to be a “one-sided mainstream public opinion atmosphere.”
Despite the upbeat pronouncements of Party leader Xi Jinping of a “China Dream” that all can embrace, writings of this sort, by Party theoreticians, seem to highlight a deep lack of confidence in the public legitimacy of the regime. This is despite the Party’s vast deployment of trained commentators whose job it is to spread pro-Beijing propaganda online, or, when failing that, the orchestrated punishment of those who fail to toe the Party line.
The regime has already gone to great lengths to suppress individuals online who become too popular, using their popularity to promulgate opinions the propaganda authorities find unfavorable.
In August of last year for example, Charles Xue, an investor, was dragged onto national television to admit to visiting prostitutes—an effort that was widely seen as an attempt to destroy his reputation, and thus squelch his influence on the public, given that he used his Weibo account to highlight abuse of power and other ills of one-party rule.
Several others last year were hauled into custody and had their Weibo accounts suspended for similar crimes of expression.
But the problem of outspoken public figures does not seem to have gone away. The Red Flag Manuscript broadside went on to highlight three Weibo celebrities, each of whom enjoy mass followings, as individuals who have an insidious influence on the public.
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The first was well-known real estate developer Ren Zhiqiang, who has over 20 million followers on Weibo. On Sept. 4, for example, he criticized Marxism for being used to “brainwash the people.”
Another was Mao Yushi, a well-known economist who is on record calling communism a “dead end.” That post was forwarded 15,000 times. Mao is the recipient of the Milton Friedman Prize, given by the Cato Institute in 2012, for his support of individual rights and free markets in China.
Sun Haiying, an actor, enjoys over 2.6 million followers. He is on record questioning the famous Party slogan: “There would be no New China without the Communist Party.” To that he retorted, “There would be China even without anyone.”
The official attack did not name the individuals, but they were later identified from the descriptions provided. All are well-known for their liberal-leaning sentiments, and general distrust of the regime.
Faced with such miscreants, what is a Leninist dictatorship to do?
Luckily, the authors had already thought of that.
“The future of the Party and the nation depends on political thought work,” they announced. The phrase “political thought work” means using propaganda to manipulate the thoughts of the public, to bring them into line with those desired by the regime.
“We must firmly take control of the ideological work, ideological leadership, right to manage, and right to speak on Weibo.”
What about those who “slander the leadership of the Party and the socialist system,” and “interfere with social unity and order” with their “static noise”?
They must be “firmly taken charge of, resolutely eliminated.”
Translated and written in English by Lu Chen.
*Image of “censorship” via Shutterstock