With nearly 30 million followers on Chinese social media site Weibo, real estate mogul Ren Zhiqiang is well-known for his controversial and outspoken online writings about Chinese politics, society, and economics. The tweeting tycoon has lately confronted regime-controlled media about its intensified anti-Western rhetoric.
Multiple recently published opinion articles appearing in state mouthpieces such as the People’s Daily and Global Times have levied sharp criticism against “Western” values, such as human rights and democracy, placing emphasis on their incompatibility with China’s “socialist society.”
Early this February, Chinese Education Minister Yuan Guiren stated at a conference that “spreading Western values in Chinese universities was definitely prohibited.”
Not everyone agrees. In a scathing speech made on Feb. 14 at an annual national economic forum in Beijing, Ren Zhiqiang, who is often referred to casually as “Ren the Cannon,” rebuked the government for being too obsessed with its political power.
“[The Chinese regime’s] positioning itself against Western values looks like something out of the Cultural Revolution,” Ren said.
According to Ren, what the regime defines as expressing “Western values” is arbitrary and serves as a political weapon. For example, the protection of private property could be easily typecast as a Western notion, while state-run enterprises, as “socialist” operations, get a free pass.
“Why is it that when a state-run business is in trouble, the banks won’t force it to pay off its loans, while private companies are given different treatment?” Ren said in his conference speech.
Also on Feb. 14, in the evening, Ren posted a lengthy commentary on his Weibo account deriding the regime’s behavior.
“I can’t say for sure what constitutes ‘western values,’ but I can say that the political system of every nation should be chosen by its people. The political system represents a system of values. These values should not be imposed upon the people by a small group of rulers,” Ren’s post reads.
If money speaks, in China it does so loudly, as the mogul’s criticisms were answered by Party-controlled media the very next day.
A Global Times opinion piece dated Feb. 15 denounced Ren Zhiqiang as a “supporter of western values,” then went on to deride democracy, free elections, and separation of powers as not applicable to the Chinese social condition.
According to the piece, the application of Western values would be a “ticket to hell” and “only bring disaster to China.”
Ren’s speech and Weibo commentary gained much positive attention with his blog post receiving over 13,000 “likes” and 5,000 comments in a few days.
“If China wants the world to accept its values, why not let the two values compete on a level playing field? Why is it afraid of Western values?” Ren wrote in his Feb. 14 post.
Ren also criticized the authorities and state-run firms for occupying a large portion of capital in breach of contract, which led to mass capital flight overseas and domestic economic slowdown.
Many Chinese Internet users mocked the regime media.
“The slaveholders [Chinese regime] only care about their power, everything else are just excuses. Just take a look and see where their children and assets are,” a user wrote.
Another netizen remarked: “Communism itself is from the West. How shameless that the official media criticizes western values!”
Translated and written in English by Lu Chen.