‘Left’ and ‘Right’ in Chinese Cyber-Politics

2531153Ever since the Internet was popularized in the late 1990s, Chinese BBS sites and blogosphere have been politically quite polarized, divided into “left” and “right” camps. But these concepts are very different from ideas of “left” and “right” in Western politics.

Here are two sample posts of how Chinese netizens themselves typically define “left” and “right”. The first post was written by netizen Minyue in a nationalistic (“”) online forum Tiexue, in which someone posted a question asking others to define ‘’ or ‘’ in Chinese cyberspace. Translated by CDT:

The leftist camp is essentially the nationalistic camp. Every leftist agrees with such a point of view: national interests precede all other things. From this standpoint, they advocate social justice, altruism, sacrifice and objection to individualism and liberalism. There may be some upset leftists who’d defend them as valuing the nation, not the state. When you ask him which nation he belongs to, haha, the answer is the Chinese nation. Isn’t it still ?

Since national interests prevail over anything else, the country’s territorial integrity must be safeguarded. So for the leftists, use of force, even nuclear force, is a ready option. Those who cry for a nuclear attack on Taiwan are of course leftists.

What are rightists like then? The rightist camp is actually the individualistic camp. All rightists would stress that individual interests take precedence over national interests. The individuals in question here not only include every citizen but also the rightists themselves. In other words, rightists feel that their own interests are naturally the highest interests, so rightists are particularly selfish. Certainly the rightists’ individualism does not mean they are not willing to do anything for the public good or to sacrifice their own interests for those of other people. They believe it’s completely at their discretion. If they are willing to, they will sacrifice personal interest for the common good. But if they are reluctant, nobody or no state power can force them to do so.

Some rightists will definitely oppose such a definition, because they feel it downgrades their well-intentioned cries for the suffering of ordinary people. Haha, but who cares? If you really want to distance yourself from individualism, it only shows that you are not a rightist. Yes, those who oppose individualism and advocate nationalism are all leftists.

左派,其实就是国家主义派。凡左派必定赞同这样的观点:国家利益高于一切。从这个观点出发,他们要提倡大公,要提倡无私,要提倡奉献,要提倡反对个人主义反对自由主义。有几个左派也许会不高兴的辩解说自己是民族主义者而非国家主义者。那就问他,你是什么民族的人呢?哈哈,答曰:中华民族。还是国家主义嘛。
既然国家利益高于一切,那就一定要维护国家领土完整。于是左派们说,为了统一是不惜使用武力的,甚至是核武力。所以,叫嚷要核平台湾的人士,当然是左派。
右派是什么样子呢?右派,其实就是个人主义派。大凡右派,都是强调公民个人利益高于国家利益。这个个人,不但是每个公民,同时也包括右派自己。换个说法,右派觉得他自己的利益是天经地义的最高利益,因此右派特别自私。当然,右派的个人主义并不是不肯做任何的公益事业或者为了别人的利益牺牲自己利益,但是不是那样做,要看他们自己是不是愿意。如果他们愿意,他们是会为公益为别人牺牲个人利益的,但如果他们不愿意,任何的别人或国家权力就都没有办法来强迫他们了。
一定有所谓的右派来反对这种对右派的定义,觉得这样就贬低了他们为百姓奔走呼号的善意了。哈哈,但那有什么关系呢?如果你真的想和个人主义划清界限,那只能说明不不是右派呀。对,反对个人主义提倡国家主义的,那都是左派。

The next post is from a more outspoken, pro-democracy (“rightist”) online community, kaidi. Netizen Chaotuo 2008 gave his answer to the question “What is the leftist camp?”. Translated by CDT:

Internationally, the leftist camp normally refers to the political faction that stresses the protection of the interests of the working class and the poor. In most of the countries, both the leftist and rightist camps identify with universal values. Their differences lie in the fact that leftists advocate more government intervention in the economy and more policies to help the poor, while rightists advocate “small government and big society” and value free competition and economic efficiency.

The leftist camp in the current Chinese context refers to the political faction that follows Maoism. They are arch foes of the Chinese rightists (liberals) who embrace universal values. At the same time, they are different from leftists in other parts of the world. The Chinese leftists hold up higher a fake banner of protecting the interests of the poor, but their ulterior motives have little to do with protecting the interests of the poor.

Because of different opinions about the Cultural Revolution, Chinese leftists fall into two categories – old and new leftists. The old leftists worship Mao’s thought, laud the Cultural Revolution and criticize the reform and opening-up. The new leftists believe in Marxist economics and praise Mao’s policy of public ownership, but view the Cultural Revolution negatively. They are also totally critical of China’s privatization dominated by privileged groups since 1992 and of the export-oriented economy. The new leftists talks much less about class struggle than the old leftists do. They are more nationalistic and have a strong awareness of an international scramble for hegemony.

However, both old and new leftists oppose China’s transition toward a constitutional democracy, detest market reforms and see rightists as enemies. They all neglect freedom, distort human rights, despise tolerance, love violence and instigate hatred against the rich. In contrast with the rightists’ appeals for democracy, old leftists want to see China return to the Maoist era with public ownership, while new leftists demand a re-expansion of the state economy, the restoration of a state monopoly in the economic field, and the extermination of “colonial”, “collaborationist” economies of foreign capital and private enterprises.

The privatizing reforms since 1992, which were characterized by the exploitation and pillaging of the powerful, have led to the complete marginalization of the underprivileged groups such as workers and farmers. As the “reformist” measures like forced demolitions, land seizures, layoffs and retirement intensify, the human rights of these underprivileged groups have been seriously infringed upon. Social discontent runs deep and social conflicts escalate. Many in the public, especially middle-aged and elderly people, began to miss the egalitarianism in the planned economy. On the other hand, some of the youth, faced with the scarcity of opportunities, believe that “redistributing the land after toppling the landlords” can be an easier and better solution. So populist incitement by the leftists among the underdogs has been very effective. With the connivance of those in power, the leftists have always held an advantage of discourse, association and assembly over rightists.

Those in power of course also understand the irrationality and brutal, ruthless dictatorial means of the leftists. How can they allow the leftists to once again dominate Chinese society? It is neither those in power nor the masses brainwashed by them who follow the global trend of democratization and determine the future course of the society. The job falls on the middle class and the intellectual elite of conscience.

“左派”,在国际上通常指比较强调维护劳工和穷人利益的政治派别,在多数国家,”左派”与”右派”都认同普世价值,其区别在于:左派主张政府对经济要有更多的干预,在政策上更多地照顾穷人;而”右派”主张”小政府,大社会”,强调自由竞争和经济效率。

当下中国的”左派”,则是指信奉毛主义的政治派别,他们既与崇尚普世价值的中国”右派(自由派)”水火不容,也根本上有别于国际上的”左派”;中国的”左派”高举维护穷人利益的幌子,但其背后的目的与维护穷人的利益并不相干。

由于对”文革”看法不同,中国的”左派”又分为”老左派”和”新左派”两大阵营。”老左派”推举毛思想、颂扬文革、否定改革开放;”新左派”信奉马主义经济学原理,称赞毛的公有制政策,但对文革持否定态度,又全面否定1992年以来权贵私有化路线,对”外向型经济”深恶痛绝。 “新左派” 比”老左派”的阶级斗争色彩较淡,民族主义色彩突出,国际争霸意识强烈。

但是,无论老左还是新左,他们都共同地反对中国宪政民主转型,厌恶市场化,敌视”右派”。他们均漠视自由、曲解人权、蔑视宽容、崇尚暴力、煽动仇富。与”右派”的民主化诉求不同,”老左派”要求回到毛时代”一大二公”的社会;”新左派”要求重新扩张国有经济、重新树立国家权力在经济领域中的全面垄断地位、消灭外资和民营企业等”殖民”、”买办”经济。

1992年后掠夺式的权贵私有化改革,导致工、农等弱势群体完全边缘化;随着强迫拆迁、征地、下岗、退休等”改革”措施变本加厉地实施,弱势群体的人权被严重侵害,社会积怨深重,矛盾尖锐,民众中的许多人,尤其是中老年人转而怀念计划经济年代较有保障的平均主义状况;而底层一些年轻人因为缺少机会而认为”打土豪分田地”来得容易和痛快。所以,”左派”的民粹煽情在底层民众中很有效。加上”当权派”的利用与纵容,”左派”一直据有对”右派”的”话语权优势”和”结社集会优势”。

当然,”当权派”也明白”左派”的非理性和”残酷斗争,无情打击”传统专政手法,岂容他们再次主宰中国社会?应该说,顺应世界民主化的潮流,决定一个社会最终走向的,从来不是他们以及被他们愚化了的民众,而是中产阶级和有良心的知识精英。

Read more perspectives from the “right” about “nation” and “country”:

* What Has Your “Guojia” Done for the Rest of the World? by Chang Ping
* Chinese Bloggers: A Patriot Like Me by Hecaitou and Wuyuesanren

March 22, 2009 10:41 PM
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