Meiyouren Yuedu Pinglun
(Nobody Reads the Comments)
So what do Chinese people think about their country?
Below are translations of three comments appended in Chinese (and hence not intended for foreigners) to a video by the popular and cynical China youtube commentator serpentza. Serpentza, a China resident who sounds South African, does a lot of China-bashing. But he is invested there, in every sense, and he has that right. Some BTL Chinese (writing in English) agree with him. I think he is overly negative, but he is also well-informed and interesting. Here’s the video I am referring to:
However, he is disliked intensely by a lot of Chinese. Some just leave insulting one-liners, like this by menghan Zhang: “Lying west-first arrogance and narrow-mindedness.” Others are more thoughtful. Here are two particularly interesting posts, about the way China is portrayed. The first is by a Cun Xue.
China has experienced too many ups and downs over thousands of years, and many invasions. We hate war and want to develop peacefully as a people. You cannot understand Chinese national consciousness. Without a country, you have no family. The government is the head of the family. Some people say he is an autocrat, but this is what we Chinese need. We don’t need a whole bunch of people heading our family and telling us what to do. The Communist Party is enough. As long as it rules for the people, it’s OK.
Let’s look at our development over recent years. The government has done a lot. They have done a lot more than other countries. I am a Chinese person. I don’t know why you, Western countries, don’t want to acknowledge the constant improvement in our lives, why you always paint us in black? Is it wrong to favour peace? We do not live under democracy, but this can reduce crime, and protect our security better. … Why do you foreigners always want to tell us what to do? Have you solved your racial discrimination issues?
You said that you are a superior race, but when China was a civilisation thousands of years ago, you were still running around with bare arses. We called you the barbarians then. So why didn’t we invade you? Because you were poor. Do you understand? But if you want to talk race, the Chinese are more noble than people of any country. You think that you are smart but you are really just foolish. ..
You said that we are censored by our government and do not know what is going on outside the country. Except that, surprise surprise, I am watching your Youtube video [addressed to serpentza]. My VPN is just a simple third party thing. It is very simple. In fact, deep down we Chinese know all about the world better than people in your country. So you don’t know how stupid every sentence you come out with sounds to us.
All you can do is bang on about democracy and the Chinese Communist Party. But, do you know how much your government envies us? Because our one party can plan for future development over the next 10, 20 years and 30 years. And you can’t manage that. We can plan for the future, because no matter who succeeds to the leadership, the plan will be followed. You can’t do that. So China can develop successfully. The (nature of the) party, whether or not it is the Communist Party, is not really important to us Chinese, as long as this government is working for our people, as long as it can lead us to development. I don’t know if stupid foreigners can grasp this. But to sum up, if any country has a future, it is China.
The second is by Li Ergou (李二狗 if you want to source it), whose name translates, coincidentally or otherwise, as Two-dogs Li. This one is an essay in its own right, and I have slightly abridged it for length reasons.
It is quite normal for you, as a foreigner, to dislike China. But I am curious as to why you always lie in your videos.
The last time I watched one of your videos, you said that you travelled all over China and there were dog meat shops everywhere. It made me wonder if I was living in the same world, because I have seen fewer dog meat places in all my over 20 years in China than you seem to have in a day.
You seem to want China to become a society like the West. In fact, I can understand that.
Democracy is good and freedom is good. However, do not equate democracy with voting. Voting is only one form of democratic politics. Don’t equate freedom with unrestricted licence. Unlimited freedom is the seed of destruction. In all human history, no country has instituted successful elective democracy while still a developing nation. Now that the West is developed, it expects the whole world to follow it. But don’t all things have a process?
A country as large as China cannot be measured by the governance standards of a small country of several million. Because the problems we face are multifaceted.
… I don’t think there is any kind of value that can be applied to the whole world. If you are willing to go and take a look around, you will find the unexpected somewhere. Before, I was influenced by Western values. I once felt that the CPC had nothing to offer, and I wanted to go out into the world to see what it was like. But when I had really seen things, I gradually understood that people, political parties, society and nations are constantly changing and progressing. .. Now I know that China is not really so bad. We have only lost the right to speak out.
I saw the electoral process in many places. I was struck especially by Taiwan. The appeal of democracy should be creation of a better life for the people. But most people are irrational. The fate of the country dictates the future of all the people. How can this decision be handed over to ordinary people? Ask yourself, how many people really know what to do? Some will vote for internet celebs, some will vote for their own acquaintances, some will vote for “cute” candidates and some for great speakers. However, few people care about how much experience these candidates have and what political achievements they can claim.
There are many problems in China now. .. The United Kingdom has also once had severe smog, the Americans are still shooting each other, and India is still plagued by rapes that happen every few minutes, but you still think that these countries are wonderful, don’t you? You focus on their strengths. So why can’t you be a bit more objective about China? China has ended the poverty of 700 million people in 30 years. Is that worthless achievement in your eyes? China has created a middle class that is larger than the entire US population. Is that good enough for you?
People are always going on about the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen incident. It is as if all Chinese people are bad because of the misdeeds of Mao …
I have seen videos by you before, explaining why China doesn’t like Japan. This to me was one of your most disappointing videos, because I thought you would explain the situation objectively, but you didn’t. … The Japanese are reluctant to admit that they have also falsified the history textbooks to glorify their history of invasion. This is why the Chinese do not like Japan. This is also why Koreans and other Asian countries have opinions about Japan. However, just because the Japanese have accepted your system and values, you chose to ignore this.
There are even people who moan about the security cameras along Chinese streets. I just want to ask, when you are walking safely along a Chinese road at three o’clock in the morning, do you think it is God who is watching over you? You can choose the freedom to possess a gun, but you run the risk of being shot yourself. You can choose absolute privacy, but don’t complain about the absence of security cameras when something bad happens.
Hong Kong never had an election during its 100 years under British rule. Did the United States ever say anything? No. But when Hong Kong reverted to China, democracy suddenly became an issue. There are also many people in the West who support independence for Tibet. But how many know about the horrors of Tibet under religious governance? Many people support Taiwan independence, but why is California not independent? Why is Texas not independent? Why is Catalonia not independent? Why is Northern Ireland not independent? Are people from the so-called free world indifferent to independence calls in their own countries?
[Explorer] Zheng He sailed to Asia, Africa and Europe [sic] nearly a century before Columbus, and the ships were several times larger than Columbus’. At that time, what was Southeast Asia like? Has anybody thought about that? Was it such an outrage for China to control some small islands? Why do some of those countries use Chinese characters today?
At the end of the day, everything is pursuit of political interest. So don’t impose your own values on others. People who can’t look at problems objectively do not get respect. People who lie are worse, and lying is the reason why many Chinese do not like you.
These translations are based on Google Translate. You probably won’t agree with some or even most of the sentiments expressed here. The first writer sounds a bit arrogant. The longer piece makes good points about Japan and Hong Kong, and not so good ones about Taiwan and Tibet, and is factually wrong about Zheng He — he never reached Europe. This second one, by the way, is evidently written by a mainlander but using traditional, not simplified, characters, which suggests he or she is writing for Hong Kongers and other overseas Chinese.
Of course, I cannot be sure they are not wumao (“five-cent”) fake posts written by government activists, but it hardly matters – these comments do, I think, reflect views held by most Chinese today, and they are views that are seldom aired in the west, partly out of a Chinese desire to avoid conflict, and partly due to the language barrier. I don’t necessarily agree with it (in fact, I could rant for a page or two about China myself). I just leave them here for what they are worth. These Chinese comments that nobody reads also help in their way to build “international understanding.”
If you would like to read more about my China experiences, you can download my book Shenzhou in whole or in parts from this crude (provisional) website (Asia links are at the bottom of the page; the top downloads are about Europe)
© Joe Slater 2019