The rise of social media in China has brought a burst of communication in the country. In the midst of the recent Beijing floods, for example, tens of thousands of posts on platforms like Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo shared local eyewitness accounts, snapshots and video in real time.
But social media have of course also become a new platform for the playing out of longstanding ideological divisions in China.
In a post late last night, freelance writer Wang Pei (王佩) made a post to Sina Weibo about the erection of a statue of Mao Zedong (among other world figures) in the southern French city of Montpellier.
Just after 2am this morning, veteran China Youth Daily photojournalist He Yanguang (贺延光), a past CMP fellow, re-posted Wang Pei’s original post, and added:
Why don’t they just add Hitler, Mussolini, [Japanese military leader] Tojo Hideki, Stalin, Pol Pot, Nicolae Ceauşescu and Kim Il Sung together with him?
He Yanguang’s association of Mao Zedong with this list of historical tyrants, murderers and war criminals — Tojo Hideki, it should be noted is buried at the Yasukuni Shrine, a constant source of Sino-Japanese friction — quickly drew fury from leftist defenders of Mao Zedong’s legacy as a liberator of the Chinese people.
The Weibo user “Internationale” (英特那雄纳尔), whose name is a reference to the official anthem of the Socialist International, fumed in response to He’s post:
It is clearly written in the Party Constitution that we must take “Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory and the ‘Three Represents'” as our personal guides to action. China Youth Daily was created by the founding fathers Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai. @HeYangguang, a journalist at China Youth Daily, has clearly insulted our founding leader, Mao Zedong. He has classed Mao together with fascists and war criminals, and his motives are execrable. I strongly call for the removal of this unprincipled journalist He Yanguang! Everyone pass on this call!
中青报是毛泽东周恩来等开国元勋创立的，@贺延光 身为中青报的记者公然侮辱开国领袖毛泽东，把毛与法西斯战犯相提并论，其心可诛，强烈建议开除无良记者@贺延光 ！呼吁大家转起！
Many Weibo users did pass on the call from “Internationale”, including a user called “Lao Jiu” who added to his re-post the tag for “Peaceful Beijing” (平安北京), the official Weibo of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau.
Here we find, in the dawning age of social media in China, what we might call Maoist atavism. Social media are used as a contemporary, real-time tool to politically attack and shame one’s perceived ideological enemies — not at all unlike the so-called “struggle sessions” of the Mao era.
These are, we might say, “micro-struggle sessions”, or wei pidou (微批斗).
Here are some of the comments trailing behind the original post by “Internationale”:
1. Sina still hasn’t harmonized his [He Yanguang’s] post.
2. This bastard can be a journalist at China Youth Daily?
3. Just as you said, his parents were from landlord families.
4. He should have been fired long ago. This isn’t the first or second time he has opposed the Chinese Communist Party.
5. Who exactly is China Youth Daily speaking for? He Yanguang, this clown!
6. The [political] standpoint of the China Youth Daily has always been a problem.
7. China Youth Daily is an organ of the Chinese Communist Youth League of the CCP. [We] strongly call for the removal of He Yanguang, this performing buffoon.