A strange custom of every Communist Party of China leader is for them to come up with their own theory or “ism”. Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping had their own respective variations of Socialist theory. Jiang Zemin has his Three Represents. And what about the current Chinese president Hu Jintao? His, just released earlier this year, is often translated as the Eight Dos and Don'ts, or ‘Eight Honors and Eight Shames,’ and emphasizes the moral education of citizens—particularly the young generation—with the basis of conventional moral values like diligence and patriotism. The weirdest part of this theory is that all the Dos and Don'ts are nothing more than common sense and seem unworthy of the overwhelming propaganda in recent days:
Serve, don't disserve the people
Uphold science, don't be ignorant and unenlightened
Work hard, don't be lazy
Be united and help each other, don't benefit at the expense of others
Be honest, not profit-mongering
Be disciplined and law-abiding, not chaotic and lawless
Know plain living and hard struggle, do not wallow in luxuries.
Even an illiterate child, merely by his living experiences, can recognize them as great virtues. So why does the government need to promote them with their utmost exertion? Nowadays you can see almost every government newspaper attaching this slogan at the end of their propaganda articles. Not to mention online news. A search on Google News shows how many news items are using this slogan to ‘elevate’ their news report. With such a broad definition of moral value, which is somehow universally acknowledged, it can be applied to the acts of all citizens, with all their behaviors judged by the Eight Dos and Don'ts standard.
It seems all students, police and workers have begun guiding their life and work by these principles overnight. Indeed, as these values shift onto the internet, the patriotic nature of the campaign has become increasingly clear with a growing number of websites being closed, BBS posts being deleted and bloggers self-censoring, all in the name of ‘honor’ and from fear of being seen as disobedient of the government.
And are the citizens really listen to such empty talks? Probably not. Mostly they choose to praise it superficially but ignore it practically. A common joke on schoolyards across the nation now is the phrase ‘Hu says eight rules’ (胡说八道), a euphemism for saying something silly or not making sense.
Even the government itself can't obey it. An evidence can be illustrated with photos like these taken from the official press and showing a sharp comparison with the original principle ‘know plain living and hard struggle, do not wallow in luxuries.': the most luxurious district government in the world, in Henan province—one of China's poorest—with a magnificent garden of beautiful scenery and an artificial lake.
Supergirl (超级女声), the Chinese version of American Idol, was recently struck out against quite vocally by Liu Zhongde (刘忠德), former head of the central government's Department of Culture. In an interview translated by Joel Martinsen from Chinese media research blog Danwei, Liu refers to the program—which in using viewers’ votes to choose a winner led many to see it as a case study for direct elections—as poison and calls for its termination. Although the Superboy version has since been cancelled, auditions for a second round of Supergirl began earlier this month, perhaps an indication that public demand and not political ideology call the shots in Chinese society today.
The Wu Zuolai blogger shares some thoughts:
For the internet community, teasing the powerful seem to be a common source of joy and fun regardless of nationalities and cultures. For Americans it's to make fun of Bush and for Chinese it's to adapt the latest solemn slogan. Many adapted versions of the Eight Dos and Don'ts have popped up recently (zh), some funny, some ironic, some quite mean. There's even a version for bloggers now, from the research team at Bokee, one of the leading BSPs in China:
Advocate the order of Internet, don't disturb the order.
Freedom and sharing of Internet, not copy and hegemony.
Be creative on Internet, not addictive to it.
Speak right language to communicate, don't abuse language.
Be honest and trustworthy, not selling oneself to benefits.
Surf the net civilized and obey the law, don't cheat and break the law.
Be a good netzien and well-behaved blogger, not a gangster-like netizen and bad blogger.
However, to be a member in the communist party or a government official one can not avoid such thing. The internet not only gives birth to satirical pieces but also serves as a guide for everyone to use ‘The Eight’ in their news reports, essays, public speeches and even offers a method to memorize these lengthy slogans in under three minutes (zh). Hence everyone can see how the serious moral education has been playfully turned into a superficial ceremony by the creative netizens.
Shortly after this campaign was announced, Wang Xiaofeng, blogger of the hugely popular entertainment blog Massage Milk without explanation or the least bit of irony stopped writing posts of his own altogether and began pasting articles on raising farm animals and the various properties of natural gasses in Chinese, Russian and German until this short notice towards the end of April:
Then nothing but more borrowed socialist content straight until earlier this week when Wang wrote a short request asking for all bloggers planning to link to his site to both note clearly sources and authors, and to delete all links to any previous posts, as Wang himself had already taken them down. The facade, although both impressive and hilarious in and of itself, seems to be losing ground to his even funnier natural state as the past few days have seen a series of well-chosen news releases illustrating various governmental hypocrisies and not-so-subtly mocking the new campaign.