Who came up with the phrase “positive energy” I don’t know. But the phrase getting hot goes back to a Zhang Lixian film called Beijing Blues, in which his character says “positive energy” over and over again — and that’s how its popularity took off. Of course, anyone who knows the rudiments of physics knows that energy doesn’t give a hoot about positive or negative, that it’s all about where energy goes or is induced. But when people in the arts use such a term it has a kind of infectious simplicity about it, and it goes right to the heart.
However, this term having now become popular, we find that the Party and government, and those closely aligned with them, are especially fond of using this term too. they open their mouths or shut them, and it’s all about positive energy.
Originally, the notion of positive energy was directed in our minds toward light, sunshine, love and decency. So a play, or a novel, so long as it made one feel a sort of warmth, we could say it was full of positive energy. Now, however, as use of the term has become habitual, we find its meaning has changed its flavour.
So-called positive energy now denotes patriotism, love for the government, love for the Party. It even bears along with this the sense of opposing Japan, opposing America and opposing the West. Articles, or posts on Weibo, no matter what the content, even if they are nothing more than abusive name-calling, are considered positive energy as long as they have this flavour. Some people make the most outlandish claims online, saying that the United States has no forced demolition because it massacred all of the native Americans, that the French president’s dining budget runs to 96 million euros, that US President Barack Obama and his family spend four million dollars each time they dine together, or that Obama’s mobile costs 27 million dollars. But because all of these statements suit the demand that we love the Party, the government and the country, and that we oppose Japan, America and the West, they all pass the positive energy test.
Positive energy having evolved to this point, we are now in a state of confusion as to what exactly is positive and what is wicked. Even if it were true that the American and French presidents were unpardonably evil, that they were the chieftains of imperialism, we can’t just throw mud indiscriminately, can we? If the definition of political correctness makes allowances for wild rumourmongering, if the ends justify the means anda all is fair however foul, how do we think the people of the world will view this country of ours?
The authorities, perhaps, have seen the situation prevailing online and feel that their own image is too lamentable, that there is too much praise for South Korea, Japan, America and the West. They imagine articles leaning in a different direction, that can be written in such a way as to suit the online style and earn approving eyes, and that they might, if energetically promoted, bring some balance or even turn the tide of public opinion in their favour. For the authorities, this is a kind of Operation Rescue, and there is no time to consider its implications more carefully.
But this term, “positive energy,” has been utterly befouled. It has become a political correctness utterly devoid of principle. And as a direct consequence people not only hold the concept itself in low regard, but beyond this look down on the authorities themselves, who have seen fit to elevate [online propagandists] like Zhou Xiaoping (周小平) so solemnly. The inference people draw from this is that the authorities have a weak capacity, insofar as they are incapable of finding writers of better quality.
Actually, in most places in the world, when people talk about positive energy they mean pretty much the same thing — those things that warm our hearts like a ray of sunshine. In any country in the world, regardless of its political system, regardless of the complexion of its people, love is something invariable. Without love, there is no positive energy. To politicise positive energy, and to uphold as champions of positive energy a group of hacks who will say anything in the pursuit of political correctness — this might deceive fools who lack any basic common sense, but the losses ultimately outweigh the gains.
In the end, public opinion cannot be swayed by the lowliest of fools. They are credulous and fickle. And never in history have they won the day.