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China: New political campaign shows sarcasm is alive and well

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:

以热爱祖国为荣、以危害祖国为耻,
以服务人民为荣、以背离人民为耻,
以崇尚科学为荣、以愚昧无知为耻,
以辛勤劳动为荣、以好逸恶劳为耻,
以团结互助为荣、以损人利己为耻,
以诚实守信为荣、以见利忘义为耻,
以遵纪守法为荣、以违法乱纪为耻,
以艰苦奋斗为荣、以骄奢淫逸为耻。

Love the motherland, do not harm it
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:

文化部这么多年来,没干过一样招老百姓喜欢待见的事情,20年来,先有清除精神污染,把邓丽君的歌说成是大毒草,全国禁播,后有反对资产阶级自由化,把穿牛仔裤,留长发也说成是向往资产阶级的生活方式,事实证明,这些做法和最广大的人民群众的想法背道而驰,和世界潮流背道而驰。事实证明:我听过邓丽君,穿过牛仔裤,留过长发,tmd到现在我也没变成资产阶级,连tmd中产阶级也没变成,却先变成了下岗工人。谁也不能否认,我们这一代听过邓丽君,穿过牛仔裤,留过长发的人还没来得及变成资产阶级,就已经成了社会主义建设的中坚力量和下岗对象,事实和历史证明了,文化部某些人的傻逼想法和傻逼做法只是杞人忧天,遗臭万年。

In all these years the Department of Culture hasn't come up with anything pleasing for the general population. Twenty years ago we had cleaning of spiritual pollution, when Teresa Deng‘s songs became poison and banned throughout the country. Later we had opposition to bourgeois liberalization when wearing blue jeans and having long hair became bourgeois lifestyles. In reality, these actions ran counter to the thoughts of the vast majority of people and counter to world trends at the time. In truth, I wore blue jeans, had long hair and I've yet to turn bourgeois. Even the middle class has yet to change, except for becoming out of work. Nobody can deny, us of that generation which listened to Teresa, wore blue jeans and long hair, we never had time to become bourgeois and just ended up as the central force in the construction of a socialist society: the unemployed. Reality and history show that the people in the Department of Culture with these idiotic ideas and campaigns are half the problem and will go down in history that way.

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:

以传播网络先进文化为荣,以传播网络不良信息为耻,
以维护互联网的秩序为荣,以破坏互联网的秩序为耻,
以网络自由与分享为荣, 以抄袭与霸权为耻。
以致力于网络创新为荣, 以沉溺于网络为耻。
以文明语言上网交流为荣,以污言秽语网上谩骂为耻,
以诚实守信为荣, 以见利忘义为耻,
以遵纪守法文明上网为荣, 以违法乱纪网络欺骗为耻,
以做好网民,文明博客为荣,以网络流氓,不良博客为耻。

Spread advanced Internet culture, don't spread harmful information.
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:

鉴于本人的博客浏览量很高,
所以本人尝试在这个博客上普及一些农业、科技知识。
尝试了几天,效果不错,
浏览量一点没有减少。
所以打算继续坚持下去。
感兴趣的人可以天天来看看。
没兴趣的人就别来这里耽误时间了。
感谢一直以来关注这个博客的人,
不管我们是不是认识,
不管你看我的博客是舒服还是不舒服,
在这里一并感谢。

Because this blog's readership is quite high, I've tried disseminating basic agricultural and scientific information. I've tried for a few days and the result hasn't been bad, readership hasn't gone down a bit. That's why I intend to keep on going. Those who are interested can come every day to look. Those who aren't can stop wasting their time. I thank those who have been coming all along, whether we know each other or not, whether my blog makes you uncomfortable or not, I thank you all the same.

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.

1 comment

  • A chinsee

    ‘Eight Honors and Eight Shames’is a very good example which speaks volumes for Chinese Culture contains too much insubstantial ideology. It seems very beautiful,but it’s unrealistice after you think over. Sarcastically, Uphold science remind people should not
    believe the Eight Dos and Don’ts, if you believe it,you are ignorant and unenlightened.
    Chinese Culture is always in constructive fraud Chinese people who used to satisfy its beautiful appearance.

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