Today, as we approach the Year of the Goat, Hu Yong (胡泳), a former CMP fellow and one of China’s top internet experts, posted a list to Twitter and Facebook of five events in the past year that defined overall social and political trends in China.
Hu Yong’s notes follow, with relevant passages added from the Chinese material to which he links. They reflect the deepening of ideology and broad tightening of intellectual space in China that is becoming — as the Global Times said contentedly earlier this month — the “new normal,” or xin changtai (新常态).
What Happened in 2014?
1) The formation of a “joint police and propaganda regime” (警宣联动机制) that are far more formidable than the previous stability preservation regime.
From Hong Kong’s Oriental News (on.cc):
“This round of again whipping up the Guo Meimei case reveals the idiocy of official planners . . . In order to shame and target a person or organization, the police are first employed, a waste of state resources and violence, to conduct an investigation against this person or organization, without consideration of cost, grasping onto some “moral” or “legal” scandal — then the propaganda organs of the state leap into action all at once, conducting a detailed smear campaign. As for those facts that complicate the official narrative, they are prohibited entirely. For now I’ll just call this a “joint police and propaganda regime.” This system is far more terrible that the stability preservation regime. If the stability preservation regime was about “holding on,” the joint police and propaganda regime is about advancing. It’s about the blackening and twisting of public opinion . . . so that the people can’t tell up from down.”
2) Under the so-called “new normal (新常态), intellectuals enter a period of extreme uncertainty.
From Hong Kong’s Yazhou Zhoukan (December 14, 2014):
“Chinese writer Xu Xiao was recently taken away and detained by the authorities [in China], the stated reason being ‘damage to national security (危害国家安全). The case possibly deals with the fact that she was the editor of a volume on constitutionalism written by recently deceased June Fourth scholar Chen Ziming (陈子明), and she printed and distributed several dozen copies. Xue Ye (薛野) and Liu Jianshu (柳建树) of the non-profit Liren University were taken away the same day. Intellectuals in China face a season of uncertainty.”
3) Mo Shaoping (莫少平) and other moderate or relatively progressive figures are embroiled in accusations of serious political crimes.
Yazhou Zhoukan interview with lawyer Mo Shaoping (莫少平) on the latest developments in the criminal cases against lawyer Pu Zhiqiang (浦志强) and journalist Gao Yu (高瑜) (January 10, 2015):
“Owing to reasons of insufficient evidence and unclear facts, the Pu Zhiqiang case has been referred back to the police for investigation, while hearings in the Gao Yu case have been postponed. . . “
4) For many Chinese aspiring to live globalized lives, the prospect of a total restriction on VPN services in China is dispiriting. Add to this the spectre of pollution and the serious crackdown on dissident ideas, and many Chinese say they feel they are being pushed to the edge.
The New York Times (January 29, 2015):
“‘If it was legal to protest and throw rotten eggs on the street, I’d definitely be up for that,’ Ms. Jing, 25, said.”
5) On January 6, 2015, the [Chinese-language] Global Times runs a piece called, “The Proper Standard for a ‘Chinese Internet User'” (“中国好网民”应有哪些标准). It argues that being Chinese not only means having the courage to be a “50 center” (五毛), [or paid online propagandist], or part of the “praise party” (点贊党), but they must also be “bring your own grainers” (自干五), [50 cent-like positive propagandists who work for free]. They must, said the article, be forces of positivity on the internet and for mainstream values.
Global Times (January 6, 2015):
“A report pointed out [recently] that in the past year our internet has been fresher and cleaner, that positive energy online has been much greater, and that the internet is beginning to enter a ‘new normal’ (新常态) . . . Without a doubt, in order to preserve this ‘new normal,’ we must all be ‘good web users.’ This is the most reliable force in returning sunny and clear skies to the internet, and the most important foundation for the development of the ‘new normal.'”