2016年8月12日星期五

The East is pink

As online mobs get rowdier, they also get a label
La vie en rouge

TRY AS the Communist Party might to sanitise the internet, its people keep coming up with new ways to discuss politics. They have developed colourful slang to express sarcasm, dodge censors and attack their opponents. Their latest invention sounds cute: “little pink”, or xiao fenhong. Its meaning, at least as initially intended, is not so sweet. It is a disparaging term for young nationalists who use the internet as a battleground for patriotism, often focusing on pop culture to whip up support. 

The term first started to emerge a few years ago in a popular online chat group called Jinjiang Forum, whose website has a pink background. Its users called it “little pink” out of affection. It was not primarily a political forum, but from time to time political topics surfaced. A small group of contributors came to be known for their nationalism. Outsiders called them “little pink” as an insult, and the phrase soon caught on as a label for nationalistic youth.

To those who detect worrying parallels between Xi Jinping, China’s leader, and Mao Zedong, the little pink are sinister. They are seen as modern-day Red Guards, the students who exploded in rage and violence at the start of the Cultural Revolution 50 years ago. Many think this is an exaggeration; but they still see the little pink as an ugly trend, a Chinese manifestation of the coarsening of online discourse.

A two-week tussle catapulted the clan to mainstream attention in July. Young people lashed out at a Chinese film director for casting a Taiwanese actor in the lead role of “No Other Love”, a film due to be released next year. They accused Leon Dai, the actor concerned, of supporting Taiwanese independence because he appeared to back protests against a free-trade deal with China two years ago. The director ended up cutting Mr Dai out of the film, despite having already completed shooting. After this victory, media outlets and scholars began analysing the phenomenon.

Little-pink outbursts have been getting more frequent. In January, when Tsai Ing-wen, a Taiwanese politician who leans toward independence, was elected president, Chinese netizens flooded her Facebook page with negative comments and pictures. In June they called for a boycott of Lancôme, a French cosmetic company, for hiring Denise Ho, a Hong Kong singer suspected of supporting independence for the former British territory. Lancôme dropped her. Next, they swarmed Lady Gaga’s Instagram page after the American pop star met the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, condemned as a separatist by the Chinese government.

This week netizens have turned their rage on Mack Horton, an Australian swimmer who won gold at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, because he called Sun Yang, his Chinese rival, a “drug cheat”. Criticism of Mr Horton was much more widespread than that of either Ms Ho or Ms Gaga, crossing quickly into mainstream media. But the bombardment of his social-media accounts with angry comments bore the hallmarks of little-pink attacks.

The pink gang’s attitude is different from the broader nationalism in Chinese society. The vast majority of Chinese people would oppose Taiwanese or Hong Kong independence. But only a minority fly into a cyber-rage at the slightest provocation. Many people frown on little-pink actions as extreme, but they have won influential backers. Seizing on the more conventional association of the colour pink, the Communist Youth League praised the online mobs as female nationalists. It declared on its official microblog that they are “our daughters, our sisters, girls we had crushes on”. Many young women started declaring themselves “little pink” as a badge of honour. “We couple strength with gentleness, and love our country wisely,” one self-declared member wrote on the Youth League microblog.

There is a streak of humour in the movement. Members are not calling for violence. Often they just post silly pictures. Playing on the idea that Taiwanese look down on mainland Chinese for being poor and unable to afford good food, they flood Taiwanese websites with photos of mainland delicacies. But plenty of people still worry that beneath the giggles lies a more disturbing undercurrent—that, at some point, the little pink might blaze into a harsher shade of red.

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1 条评论:

  1. Arrogance and ignorance, combined with an actively xenophobic nationalistic and fascist agenda, have culminated in this ugly mob of blind running dogs, causing greater divisions between China and the world, while they run the reputation of the country into the ground. Shameful, harmful and embarrassing!

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