The Five Vermin Threatening China

The China Story has posted a translation of ‘Where Are the Real Threats to China?’ by Yuan Peng, which was originally published in the overseas edition of People’s Daily in July. In his introduction, Geremie R. Barmé focuses on the essay’s most controversial element: Yuan’s list of social groups—”rights lawyers, underground religious activities, dissidents, Internet leaders and vulnerable groups”—whom the U.S. would try to use against the Chinese government. As CDT’s Grass Mud Horse Lexicon explains, netizens swiftly homed in on the list, naming it the ‘New Five Black Categories‘ in allusion to the original Five Black Categories of the Cultural Revolution: landlords, rich farmers, anti-revolutionaries, bad-influencers and right-wingers. Barmé explains, with some sympathy, the context of Yuan’s remarks, and why they caused such offence. Yuan offers an unsentimental view of the global environment. His particular concern is not the common fear of direct military conflict with the United States (although he also addresses this), but rather the fortuitous advantage that China presently enjoys due to the international malaise in the wake of the post-Global Financial Crisis, one that, given the right leadership, could well work in favour of the People’s Republic. The essay provides, therefore, valuable insights into the canny calculations of one prominent analyst. Its message was, however, not greeted with universal equanimity. For, among other things, Yuan controversially identified what his critics immediately dubbed the ‘New Black Five Categories of People’ 新黑五类 that threaten China’s social stability and party-dominated top-down reform (groups that he claims are being infiltrated and manipulated by the American imperium for its nefarious ends). [… O]f the ‘New Five Black Categories’ in Yuan’s analysis, four are not new. Nor indeed is the discussion of social anomie or unruly elements, given the fact that the Chinese party-state is presently much taken with the theory ...
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2 Responses to The Five Vermin Threatening China

  1. G. Dunnington says:

    I take strong issue with your characterization of the old “black categories” under Maoism as including, so you put it, “right wingers.” If you bother to check the actual identities of the people denounced in such a fashion, I think you will find that a great many of them were socialists who simply objected to the Party’s suppression of criticism and are certainly not “right wingers” at all, especially in the sense that the phrase has acquired in this country. The Maoist slander for these people is usually rendered in English-language texts as rightists; also a mischaracterization, but in this case, a deliberate one which then confers on the Maoists the title of the only “real” socialists by default. Some China scholars have adopted the sensible construction “rightists,” [quotation marks included] which shows the term as an attribution not necessarily proven. This is avoids doing the slanderous work of the Maoists for them and obscuring the actual political indentities of the people so described.

  2. Bo Peep says:

    Concur that “rightist” is the better term. It helps reveal the propaganda dishonesty of Mao & his fellow felons.