A Hosanna for Chairman Mao & Canticles for Party General Secretary Xi

Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium

Chapter XX

 

The 16th of October 2022 marked the day on which, 1332 years earlier Wu Mei (武媚 624-705 CE), formerly the empress consort of the Emperor Gaozong) of the Tang and, after his death, empress dowager, ascended the throne as the Empress Regnant Wu Zhou 武周皇帝 of Zhao 曌. It was the day that the Chinese Communist Party convened its twentieth party congress as well as being the day on which, according to numerous independent Chinese commentators Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping effectively 稱孤道寡 chēng gū dào guǎ, ‘declared himself to the the Solitary One’, that is, emperor. References to Empress Wu’s anniversary were scrubbed from the Chinese internet, as were posts that employed terms like 稱帝 chēng dì, ‘to inaugurate one’s rule as emperor’. In English the expression the Streisand Effect refers to attempts to prevent people knowing or sharing something that the other party wants suppressed. Such efforts generally pique interest in the forbidden top and lead to people seeking out and sharing banned information. The old four-word expression 欲蓋彌彰 yù gài mí zhāng— ‘an attempt to cover something up serves to advertise its existence’ — is one equivalent of the Streisand Effect.

***

In this chapter of Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium we introduce readers to an old, Rabelaisian hosanna for Chairman Mao and record two canticles for Party General Secretary Xi. We preface these with a memorable line from Li Rui (李銳, 1917-2019), Party apparatchik turned dissident elder.

The hosannas and canticles mock the Mao and Xi personality cults respectively. In China’s Highly Consequential Political Silly Season (Part I; Part II; and, Part III) we offered examples of the adulatory and fawning word salad offered up to the People’s Leader Xi Jinping that features in the official Chinese media. As we have noted for many years, however, such exaggerated praise for the Party and its leaders did not go into abeyance after Mao, only to reappear with the growth of the Xi cult from 2017. Rather, it has been part of the bedrock of the Communist Party’s purple-prose enterprise during the Deng-Jiang-Hu era from 1979 to 2012. For more on this, see ‘In the Mytho-Poetic Realm of Xi Jinping’ in Part III of China’s Highly Consequential Political Silly Season.

***

The rubric of this chapter is 咒 zhoù, ‘prayer’, ‘mantra’, ‘spell’, ‘liturgical utterance’, ‘curse’, ‘imprecation’. Readers will recall the contemporary mantra that featured in The Sūtra of Perfected Covid Wisdom:

Therefore one should know the prajñāpāramitā of Covid Wisdom and its great spell, the utmost spell. It runs like this:

The economy flatlines, China is brought low.
Any or everything might kill you now,
Except, of course, for Covid.

from Xi the Exterminator & the Perfection of Covid WisdomChina Heritage, 1 September 2022

At the dawn of the second decade of Xi Jinping’s New Epoch an old saying comes to mind:

千錯萬錯馬屁不錯; 千穿萬穿馬屁不穿。

One can make many mistakes, but flattery is never one of them;
Everything wears thin, but flattery never grows old.

***

For all intents and purposes, the Twentieth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party confirmed what for many years we have referred to as Xi Jinping’s ‘terminal tenure’. Barring a palace coup, military mutiny, regime collapse or debilitating ill-health, the Chairman of Everything will dominate the scene until he eventually succumbs to biological attrition.

My thanks to Jason Young for alerting me to Pan Qinglin’s aphorism about the Cultural Revolution and Xi Jinping.

— Geremie R. Barmé, Editor, China Heritage
Distinguished Fellow, The Asia Society
22 October 2022

***

Related Material:


zhou, mantra, prayer, curse, in the hand of Kūkai (空海, 774-835 CE)

***

毛病不改,積惡成習

Translation #1:

If you don’t change your flaws they end up as bad habits

Translation #2:

Since the flaws of Mao were never remedied,
Their pernicious legacy has led to Xi Jinping

Li Rui 李鋭
my translation

  • [Note: Here 毛病 máo bìng, ‘the flaws of Mao’ is a pun on máobìng ‘illness’, ‘flaw’. The word 習 , which means ‘habit’ or ‘to learn through repetition’ is also used for the surname ‘Xi’, as in Xi Jinping.]

***

Ten-thousand Years and On to Eternity!

萬壽無疆

 

In ‘褒貶 bāo biǎn Evaluations’, a section in A New Sinology Reader, we observe that ‘moral-evaluative vocabulary’ 褒貶詞 has been a feature of Chinese writing from pre-dynastic times. Over the centuries it developed into a rich lexicon that has been adapted by the Communist Party media over some ninety years that explains, guides, as well as limiting, public and even private expression (for more on this topic, see also New China Newspeak).

According to tradition, the lexicon of moral-evaluative terms was initially formulated by Confucius. In the process of editing the history of the state of Lu — the Spring and Autumn Annals 春秋 chūn qiū — it is said that the sage judiciously chose expressions and words to describe the political actions of the rulers of Lu and other states in stark moral terms. In the process, Confucius supposedly apportioned praise 褒 bāo and criticism 貶 biǎn accordingly. Even-handed or non-evaluative 中性 zhōngxìng terms were also recognised. Such morally inflected prose is also known as the ‘Spring and Autumn writing style’ 春秋筆法 chūn qiū bǐ fǎ. Moral-evaluative terms include adjectives, adverbs, verbs, and ‘four-character fixed expressions’ 成語 chéngyǔ, which are a prominent feature of the Communist Party’s Official Chinese and are also replete with positive and negative connotations. An example of the mantra-like quality of such language can be found in the ‘Nine Keywords of Xi Jinping’s Newer New Era 九字箴言 jiǔ zì zhēn yán (see 收藏!未來圖景,用這9個字暢想一下, 人民网,2022年10月19日) and ‘Nine Keywords Revealed by a Close Reading of Xi Jinping’s Report to the Twentieth Party Congress’ (see 9個字細讀黨的二十大報告, 人民日報, 2022年10月20日). Both pieces are examples of the breviary of Xi Jinping Thought.

***

During the late 1980s, the stories, novels and film screenplays of Wang Shuo (王朔, 1958-) turned the wisecracking cynicism of Beijing into something of a tongue-in-cheek national art form — despairing yet engaged, sardonic but hopeful, Wang’s work resonated widely with readers and viewers during the chaotic and transformative 1980s. Wang’s picaresque masterpiece No Man’s Land 千萬別把我當人, the title of which is also translated as Please Don’t Call Me Human, was published shortly after the June Fourth Beijing Massacre. It captured the dizzyingly rebellious mood of the late 1980s that fed the nationwide protests of April-June 1989.

In the final episode of No Man’s Land the author takes us back to the Beijing alleyway where much of the earlier action of the book has taken place. Following an absurd account of China’s attempts to prove itself an athletic powerhouse, the inhabitants of the hutong present a formal Letter of Gratitude 感謝信 to the Party leader who has saved them from national humiliation. The epistle is packed with the logorrhea-like expressions typical of Chinese political and commercial language. A primer of New Sinology avant la lettre, Wang’s fictitious letter to the Party draws on China’s extensive linguistic spectrum: it bristles with classical references, riffs on modern fads and comically reworks bombastic Party-speak. This over-the-top incantation is like a string of interconnected mantras 咒語 zhòu yǔ. The verbal pile-up is also like a hex 詛咒 zǔ zhòu on the Party.

In Wang’s novel, the logorrhea of the Letter of Gratitude is printed as an unpunctuated whole. Here we have divided it into paragraphs. It is read to the Party leader by the hero’s mother as if it were a tearful incantation:

 

A calligraphic scroll in the hand of Wu Changshuo (吳昌碩, 1844-1927), 1920

You have righted the wrong and crushed the bad in one fell swoop. Respected wise dear teacher leader helmsman pathfinder vanguard pioneer designer bright light torch devil-deflecting mirror dog-beating stick dad mum grandad grandma old ancestor primal ape Supreme Deity Jade Emperor Guanyin Bodhisattva commander-in-chief: 敬愛的英明的親愛的先驅者開拓者設計師明燈方炬照妖鏡打狗棍爹媽爺爺奶奶老祖宗老猿猴老太上老君王皇大帝觀音菩薩總司令:

You who are busy with: ten thousand weighty matters each day, long-suffering one bad habits die hard and overworked to the point of illness done too often can be habit-forming shouldering heavy responsibilities speeding through the skies powerful and unconstrained staving off disaster and helping the poor dispelling the evil and ousting the heterodox, you who eliminate rheumatism cold sweats strengthen the yang and invigorate the spleen the brain who are good for the liver stomach pain relieving and cough repressing, and able to cure constipation. 您日理萬機千辛萬苦積重難返積勞成疾積習我癖肩挑重擔騰雲駕霧天馬行空扶危濟貧匡扶正義去惡除邪次風濕次虛寒壯陽補腎補腦補養肝調胃解痛鎮咳通大便,

You personally yourself in propria persona have come deigned lowered yourself honoured us with your presence to investigate look over police search patrol pay a visit to ask about express solicitude and come to our alley. For our alley this is the most magnanimous expression of concern a massive encouragement a great impetus a considerable relief formidable expression of trust and care a great honour and really a nice thing to do. 百忙中卻還親身親自親臨降光臨視察糾察檢查探查偵查查訪訪問詢問慰問我們衚衕,這是對我們衚衕的巨大關懷巨大鼓舞巨大鞭策巨大安慰巨大信任巨大體貼巨大榮光巨大抬舉。

We are little people knaves the black haired scum your children grandchildren tufts of grass little dogs and cats a gang of liumang [流氓] the cretinous crowds the great masses the hundred surnames and we feel oh-so-lucky extremely moved exceedingly uneasy terribly embarrassed so very pleased boundlessly enthusiastic very very overwhelmed by our good fortune grateful as all get out tears o’fill our eyes our hearts swell like the seas and we’re utterly and thoroughly lost for words. 我們這些小民昌民黎民賤民兒子孫子小草小狗小貓群氓愚眾大眾百姓感到十分幸福十分激動十分不安十分慚愧十分快活十分雀躍十分受寵若驚十分物品恩盡十分熱淚盈眶十分心潮澎湃十分不知道說什麼好,

Ten thousand words a million songs endless mountains and seas ceaseless groans and grumbles mumbles and whispers expressions and phrases all combine into one sentiment which rends the very heavens an hysterical sound cracking through the universe circling the rafters for three days deafening reverberating through heaven and earth moving all who hear it mysterious and beautiful beyond compare making people drunk pissed completely out of it so they don’t know the taste of meat for three days for it is the overriding chord of the age: longlife longlife longlonglife longlife longlife longlonglife! 千言萬語千歌萬曲千山萬海千呻千吟千嘟萬噥千詞萬字都匯成一句響徹雲霄聲嘶力端聲震寰宇繞梁三日震聾發聵驚天動地悅耳動聽美妙無比令人醉令人陶醉令人沈醉令人三日不知肉味兒時代最強音:萬歲萬歲萬萬歲萬歲萬歲萬萬歲!

  • [Note: This translation originally appeared in my 1992 article ‘Wang Shuo and Liumang (‘Hooligan’) Culture’, The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, No.28 (July 1992): 23-64, and a revised version featured in ‘The Apotheosis of the Liumang‘ in In the Red: on contemporary Chinese culture, New York: Columbia University Press, 1999, pp.94-95, from which this is taken.]

***

In dynastic China, superstitious sycophants tried to ward off the inevitable by hailing the emperor as ‘Lord of Ten Thousand Years’ 萬歲爺. In the dying days of the Maoist era, the Chairman’s inevitable demise was spoken of in hushed tones and courtiers employed euphemisms like ‘After One Hundred Years’ 百年之後, or when ‘He Goes to Meet Marx’ 去見馬克思. The old materialist himself mocked the refrain that was constantly on the lips of his devotees — ‘We Respectfully Wish Chairman Mao Longevity for Ten-thousand Years Without End!’ 敬祝毛主席萬壽無疆. On 18 August 1966, only a few months after Lin Biao and Zhou Enlai’s hosannahs quoted above, Mao responded to Luo Xiaohai 駱小海, a founder of the original Red Guards, by scoffing: ‘Even a long life of ten-thousand years has its limit!’ 萬壽也有疆麼! (From Luo’s interview, see the documentary film Morning Sun, Boston: Long Bow Group, 2003.)

from A People’s Banana Republic, China Heritage, 5 September 2018


The Second Coming, by Rebel Pepper, 12 October 2022. The artist has re-cast ‘The Founding of the Nation’ 開國大典, a 1953 oil painting by Dong Xiwen 董希文. This image circulated in China prior to the convening of the Twentieth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party on 16 October 2022

***

Canticles for Xi Jinping

The title of this section — ‘Canticles for Xi Jinping’ — is inspired by the novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, a post-apocalyptic social science fiction novel by Walter M. Miller Jr. One of the themes of that novel is the clash between technological progress and regress. A similar dialectic is at work in the New Epoch of Xi Jinping and throughout Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium.

In the Xi era — one that I have frequently described as one in which there is more cult than personality — there is no dearth of full-throated and lusty expressions of hagiographic excess for the Leader. Although, for the moment, no one has claimed that Xi Thought radiates universal effulgence, or that it is a spiritual atom bomb, as was the case in the Mao era, it is early days and party flunkies like Li Hongzhong, Party Secretary of Tianjin and a member of the Party’s Central Committee, show that there will be those who are up to the task. In October 2016, Li proved himself to be ahead of the laudatory curve when he formulated a palindrome-like slogan:

忠誠不絕對就是絕對不忠誠。

If loyalty is no absolute then it is absolutely not loyalty.

from 李鴻忠,忠誠不絕對就是絕對不忠誠 以「無我」示忠, 2016年10月22日

Below we offer two assessments of Xi Jinping and Xi Jinping’s decade-long New Epoch that circulated online during the lead-up to the Twentieth Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in October 2022. We conclude this chapter in Xi Jinping’s Empire of Tedium with a deathless quotation from a sycophant by the name of Pan Qinglin.

***

All Hail the Wannabe!

想要

Anonymous 無名

 

A man with no real achievements strives to claim a place in history. Though bereft of learning, grandiose utterances pour from His lips. Artful ignorance makes Him think that His is a strategic genius. He would remake the world according to His stunted perspective. A man who exemplifies shadow over substance, He believes He is a trend-setter. Limited in every way this fellow seeks to dominate all true talents as well as the genius of the nation.

This earthbound turtle would have us believe that He is a dragon that can soar high in the heavens. This feeble creature seeks to frustrate change. Bristling with an ambition far beyond his meagre abilities He imagines Himself to be a military giant. In His feverish dreams He is convinced that He can liberate humanity and that His crimped vision will save the planet.

He lives in a fantasy world. He thinks that He is Lord and Master. In his boundless vanity he would lay claim to Eternity.

寸功未立,想要名‍垂青史。胸無點墨,想要出口成章。不學無‍術,想要運籌帷幄。孤陋寡聞,想要指點山‍江。繡‌‌花頭‍枕,想要引領潮流。吳下阿蒙,想要技壓芳‍群。土鱉翻身,要‍想飛龍在天。螳臂擋車,想要阻攔趨勢。志大才疏,想‍要武林稱霸。痴人說‌‌夢,想要解放人類。自不量力‌‌,想要拯救世界。異天‍想開。想要唯我獨尊。貪得無厭,想要千秋萬‌‌代。

trans. GRB

***

A Verbal Portrait of Xi Jinping’s China

Anonymous 無名

Translated and annotated by Geremie R. Barmé

 

[Translator’s Note: The following text circulated in China from April 2022. Each sentence pivots around the syntactic pattern of 一 , or ‘as soon as’ and 就是 jiù shì, ‘then’ or 卻是 què shì, ‘however’. It is challenging to replicate the syntax, just as it is nearly impossible to convey the epigrammatic humour of the original. The text is replete with both sly and overt references to current affairs and contemporary culture, so much so that every sentence requires annotation. We have kept the interlinear additions, explanations and web links to a minimum and have chosen to render the mesmeric original in relatively straightforward prose. Although the subject of this essay is not named, depending on the context it is either Xi Jinping or the Communist Party.]

 

Just by rubbing his head generates Important Thoughts. Whenever he opens his mouth he spouts Revolutionary Theory. His stare is an expression of munificence. Just by glancing over his shoulder he see the Glorious Path. His heartbeat pumps out the chant Long Live the Fatherland! With every breath he inhales the dust of the world. Every cloying statement is about Serving the People. By turn around he’s launching an attack on Capitalist Roaders and Reactionaries. With every round of applause he celebrates unity and victory. Merely by raising his arm things are unanimously approved. A single gesture indicates the correct direction forward. Every step he takes is further Glorious Progress. When their calf muscle spasmed it meant having babies was too much, then when they stretched their leg three children were not enough.

Every meeting held celebrates Stunning Achievements. Every song sung is a paean to the Fatherland. Every cash splash signifies the generosity of a responsible Great Power. Every inch of ceded territory is proof of being a good neighbour. Every deleted message is about building a harmonious society. Locking down the Firewall is all about sovereignty and global equality. Every gathering brings together Wolf Warriors and Little Pinks. Every banquet is an expression of devotion to the Party and the Nation. Xi Jinping the Arbiter is the Great Leader. Every load he has carried on his shoulders has travelled a ten-li mountain track. When the bullshit flies it’s about the advent of a Global Power. Every lie told is a form of external propaganda. When people stand up they are criticised for disappearing up their own fundament, though when they lie down it’s all part of the vision for ‘shared prosperity’. With the wave of a pen they introduce Economic Reform and the Open Door and with another wave of the brush it is all replaced by the unified market economy. Every new urban area is built as a sponge city, but with each downpour [as they flood] the authorities claim this time around it is the worst climate event in 10,000 years.

When there is an incident involving Taiwanese airspace there is a media lockdown, while the death of someone becomes a heroic sacrifice for the good of the nation. Citywide lockdowns are described as a dynamic-Zero Covid elimination strategy, though when that doesn’t work they revert to static repression. Any swipe of a Health Status App might reveal infected close contacts, and if that doesn’t work there is always radical isolation. Each poke in a nose is a legitimate Covid test, though if you end up locked in a medical billet they make as much money out of you as they can for room and board. When foodstuffs are delivered to people in lockdown everyone is expected to praise the generosity of the state, and when they demolish your house you have no say as its up to the all-knowing Party. Putting people under lock and key is promoted with heart-warming stories, but when things go pear shaped you’re urged to consider the bigger picture. If you’re a whistle blower you’re accused of fabricating rumours to sully China’s reputation, but if you die [after trying to warn people about what was going on with the spread of Covid, as in the case of Dr Li Wenliang] you are mourned as a hero with all pomp and circumstance. If you record a diary [of what was happening on the ground in February-April 2020 like the Wuhan writer Fang Fang] you get accused of betrayal and hand a weapon to outsiders with evil intent. Winnie takes fright but something that should be marked by mourning ends up as a cause for celebration [as in the People’s Victory over Covid].

When Wuhan was locked down [Xi Jinping] went off on inspection tours of Yunnan and Guizhou, just as when Zhengzhou was flooded [He] headed out to Tibet pronto or during the Shanghai lockdown when [He] slipped off to Hainan Island. Meanwhile, everyone was being stripped of their dignity as anal Covid testing was imposed. That vile professor [Li Daokui, Mansfield Freeman Professor of Economics at Tsinghua University] chortled that the pandemic had added ten days to everyone’s lives and when they were handing out awards Zhong Nanshan was declared a People’s Hero. An epidemic that was nothing other than a disaster was celebrated as an opportunity for everyone to work together to overcome difficulties, even though the fact of the matter was that the Party was stymied by the trials and tribulations thrown up by it all. When Covid restrictions were tightened they were presented as a timely response to unfolding events, just as when restrictions were loosened they were hailed as the result of careful scientific evaluation.

Paeans were intoned praising makeshift hospitals and clamorous festivities were held when they thought the crisis had already passed. People who tried to return home [during Spring Festival] were suspected of harboring bad intentions and they were attacked for undertaking ‘malicious travel’, while anyone who was just trying to return to China from overseas was accused of attempting to import a poisonous disease from foreign parts. Loudspeakers blare out with supposedly supportive messages for your safety and demands are made for you to be tested for Covid at all hours of the day and night. As the economy collapses [the authorities eulogise it as] job market flexibility and CCTV promotes people creating new enterprises in the countryside. Remember when those babies fed on tainted Sanlu Milk ended up with ‘big head disease’ while PLA navy ships were being used surreptitiously to import foreign milk powder for the special provisioning of cadres? When Pinduoduo flourished it was part of the claim that China has already achieved ‘moderate economic  prosperity’ just as the fad for ‘blind boxes’ becomes all the rage.

腦一摸就是重要思想,嘴一說就是革命理論,眼一睜就是溫暖關懷,頭一回就是光輝歷程,心一跳就是祖國萬歲,鼻一吸卻是滿滿塵埃,嘴一甜就是為民服務,身一轉卻是走資反動,掌一鼓就是團結勝利,手一舉就是一致通過,臂一揮就是正確方向,腳一邁就是光榮進步,腿一緊就是一胎太多,腿一張卻是三胎太少,會一開就是光輝成就,歌一唱卻是我的祖國,錢一撒就是負責大國,地一割卻是友好鄰邦,貼一刪就是和諧社會,牆一鎖卻是平行世界,人一聚就是戰狼粉紅,飯一吃卻是愛黨愛國,習一尊就是偉大領袖,肩一挑卻是十里山路,牛一吹就是大國掘起,謊一扯卻是外宣喉舌,人一站就是相互內捲,人一躺卻是共同富裕,筆一揮就是改革開放,筆一收卻是統一市場,城一建就是海綿城市,雨一下卻是萬年一遇,機一摔就是消息封鎖,人一走卻是為國捐軀,城一封就是動態清零,再不行可稱靜態管理,碼一掃就是密切接觸,再不濟還有時空伴隨,鼻一戳就是核酸檢測,館一住卻是收費斂財,菜一送就是感謝政府,房一拆卻是黨蟆做主,鏈一上就是暖心故事,摔一跤卻是一盤大棋;口哨一吹就是造謠抹黑,英雄一死卻是哀悼懷念,日記一寫就是遞刀境外,維尼一嚇卻是喪事喜辦,武漢一封就是前往雲貴,鄭州一淹就是奔走西藏,上海一控卻是出逃海南,尊嚴一丟就是肛門快篩,教獸一挺卻是增壽命十天,表彰一開就是勛章大會,南山一領卻是人民英雄,疫情一襲就是共克時艱,實際一看卻是艱時克共,防疫一緊就是審時度勢,防疫一松卻是科學研判,歌曲一奏就是方艙神奇,疫情一完卻是敲鑼打鼓,肺炎一清就是惡意返鄉,歸國之心卻是萬里投毒,喇叭一喊就是暖心提醒,核酸一做卻是卯午丑時,經濟一垮就是靈活就業,央媒一播卻是下鄉創業,三鹿一喝就是大頭嬰兒,軍艦一靠卻是特供奶粉,多多一拼就是全面小康,盲盒一抽卻是引領潮流,

When a Party Leader puts in an appearance they declare that it is all part of a carefully calibrated policy move in the ongoing fight against Covid, although as soon as they leave they don’t give a damn about you anymore. Party Leaders make a big show about caring for the People, but when real people bang pots and pans in protest at the lockdowns they are ignored. When the cameras are trained on the scene everyone chants ‘Go for it, China!’, but when the Baymax [Covid restriction enforcers in white HAZMAT suits] turn up, no one gets a break. Squid Game took the world by storm [with its Dalgona cookies, one of which was a triangle], but China’s Baymax are like Reuleaux triangles [which always right themselves]. Satellite TV broadcasts song-and-dance shows in solidarity with Shanghai under lockdown, but the flood of online protests made them put the show on hold. They talk about us being ‘in the same bed dealing with the same issues’, but online satirists chorused ‘don’t fuck me!’ When people protested at the citywide lockdown in Shanghai, the local leaders cooked up a Mandarin Duck Hotpot [by treating Pudong differently from Puxi], even then the imposition of ‘one city two systems’ was nothing more than a Huangpo River fantasy. Supplies were supposedly dispatched to support Shanghai in its time of need, but when they arrived the market took over [resulting in limited access to food, price gouging, etcetera]. If you got a delivery of groceries it was expected that you would be gushing with gratitude and despite online notifications of where you could access more groceries the only way to get anything was by relying on autonomous shopping collectives. When food ran out people were forced to harvest the grass from the verges of roads, then the government came up with its relentless Zero-Covid policy. More food turned up but the hours you could access it were strictly limited just like when you got a permission slip to go out you still had to deal with areas of the city on strict lockdown. Then they made people who broke the rules confess on TV. They nabbed people’s pet corgis and treated them like pests [to be killed]. People blamed their local community committees, but they in turn laid blame on the government. After it was all over, the government declared that Shanghai had never even been under a mandated lockdown, and when people formally complained the bureaucrats declared that they had just been carrying out orders. When local administrative thugs turned up they claimed they were just ‘following the science’. When things go wrong they suck up to the police for help, but when the righteous fist of law enforcement comes bearing down they protest against police brutality. When the authorities praise the submissive masses they call it joint security operations, but as soon as the grumpy great unwashed make a fuss, they say crowd control and suppression are called for.

At the time of the Tangshan Incident [on 10 June 2022, when a number of women eating in a restaurant were harassed and attacked by local toughs] the police were quickly promoted for taking speedy action, but for years there was no sign of them when it comes to the Chained Woman of Xuzhou [whose circumstances were revealed by independent journalists in January 2022]. The true Might of China lies in the fact that there is one person to police every other person in the country. The ‘Rogue Professor’ Lang Xianping can grandstand all he wants, but it’s all useless: everyone knows that all those workplace dramas are nothing but grist for the fiction-mill of Liu Liu [see 六六和郎咸平的哀嚎:不敬畏天道人心者的現世報?] [Both are outsiders — from Taiwan and Singapore respectively] so they have no choice but to subject themselves to the constant solicitude of the ‘daddy-mommy’ state.

That wolf-warrior actor Jacky Wu calls for China’s enemies to be destroyed, no matter where they may be. Meanwhile,  that quack doctor Zhong Nanshan keeps on promoting his shonky Lianhua Qingwen influenza medicine to fight Covid even as Zhang Wenjun tries to expose the sham and push for Pfizer. The Internet censors did their best to outlaw all dissent [during the draconian two-month lockdown in Shanghai], but still the upshot was The Voices of April. In response, the state media has done its best to distract everyone by exaggerating the dangers of a Colour Revolution. The citizenry remain helpless, repeatedly resorting to beating pots and pans in an effort to save themselves. [Meanwhile, the foreign affairs spokesman Zhao] Lijian was sneering at representatives of the international media [in Beijing] and told them that: ‘Secretly, you must all be delighted’ [to be safe from Covid here in China]. Then there was [the broadcaster/ propagandist for CGTV] Liu Xin [known for promoting fake news stories about Covid on Twitter] who surreptitiously amassed groceries and supplies in preparation for war [that is, lockdowns]. Keyboard warrior Hu Jiwei [the former Global Times editor and a tireless tweeter] was far too clever to get himself trapped like that.

Everyone was ready to point the finger of accusation when Shanghai was regarded as a source of Covid infections. But then Jiangsu province stopped selling train tickets altogether [so as to contain the epidemic by cutting the province off from the outside world]; Shanxi [and its capital Xi’an] advertised rewards for anyone reporting people who broke the rules and down in Foshan [in Guangdong province] they ended up besieging themselves with all the regulations that they imposed.

領導一來就是精準防疫,領導一走卻是不關我事,領導一秀就是以民為本,碗盆一敲卻是若無其事,相機一架就是中國加油,大白一演卻是不眠不休,魷魚一播就是全球嘩然,大白一穿只有圓形三角,衛視一唱就是同心守滬,網友一罵卻是暫緩播出,時代一寫就是同床共寢,網友一嘲卻是不要睡我,質疑一喊就是鴛鴦封控,一滬兩制卻是黃浦江夢,物資一發就是馳援上海,物資一到卻是市場行為,配送一走就是感激團長,頁面一開卻是團購搶菜,食物一完就是吃綠化帶,念頭一轉卻是堅持清零,扁擔一挑就是限時買菜,憑票一齣卻是封管防區,犯人一關就是電視認罪,柯基一抓卻是無害處理,居委一搞就是甩鍋政府,政府一推卻是從未封城,投訴一寫就是上級命令,城管一來卻是科學辦案,送中一反就是汁持警察,鐵拳一揍卻喊警察打人,順民一贊就是聯防聯控,刁民一鬧卻是群防群治,唐山出事就是擺拍站崗,徐州鏈女卻是消失無蹤,一人一管就是中國力量,咸平一針卻是無果而終,六六一酸就是難得素材,爹蟆一疼卻是強迫接受,吳京一喊就是雖遠必誅,吳尊一蠢卻是舉家遷戶,南山一挺就是蓮花清瘟,文巨集一駁卻是混打輝瑞,網管一刪就是四月之聲,輿論一導卻是顏色革命,市民無奈只能敲鍋自救,立堅一諷卻是偷樂著吧,劉欣一漏就是囤貨備戰,胡編一叼卻是沒那麼笨;上海一涼就是過街老鼠,江蘇一驚卻是買斷車票,山西一鬥就是懸賞舉報,佛山一鎖就稱圍合管理;

The tearful [tennis player] Peng Shuai published a lengthy accusation [of being sexually harassed], while Zhang Gaoli [the Party leader she had accused] lay low and the official spokespeople feigned ignorance. It all blew over with the help of the International Olympic Committee, while [the US-Chinese champion skier] Eileen Gu indulged herself in the riches that came her way before, on the eve of new Covid restrictions being imposed, high-tailing it back to the US on a private jet. When the famous Taiwan Sister [an online influencer who promoted herself as a returnee patriot] decided it was time to flee [潤 rùn, ‘run for it’] she pretended that it was because she had to deal with some personal family matters.

He is high on chicken blood and that’s why He made the bold move to build Xiong’an [a new state-level development zone south of Beijing regarded as one of Xi Jinping’s notorious White Elephant projects]. Along with all the other failed projects it is still okay because the focus then shifted to Hainan [which, in 2020, Xi declared would be an international free trade port]. With bravura he created the One Belt One Road initiative and in the excitement of it all He has announced the Decline of the West and the Resurgence of the East. Then, with Zero-Covid in place, the authorities started cutting passports in half so as to limit the number of people exiting the country.

When the dogs of war were released Russian and China became like father and son and, with scripted chest-thumping He championed a new Treaty of Friendship. Then the invasion [of Ukraine in February] made Him pretend as though nothing was out of the ordinary. Tik Tok was brimming with praise for Russian bellicosity and vile Chinese influencers paraded their lack of moral decency by declaring that China would welcome the beautiful young Ukrainian women left destitute as a result of the war. At first, China’s online hawks called for Kyiv to be crushed then, as soon as it was evident that the Russians were losing, they started rabbiting on about it all being part of Moscow’s grand ‘strategic re-calibration’. When a general died it was framed as being but the conclusion of one stage in the overall operation. Then Russia’s flagship the Moskva was sunk. As Russian misinformation proliferated, in China it was dolled up as being authoritative. And if anyone tried talking about what was really going on they were denounced as collaborators with inimical foreign forces. When video clips of what was happening on the ground [including footage of the Bucha Massacre] circulated they were decried as cosplay by the American Imperialists. International condemnation was dismissed as being just more of the same old stuff.

Every mention of the West leads to online outrage because everyone knows foreigners have a burning desire to destroy China, yet when the Wolf Warriors congregate it’s just like one big circle-jerk. When a farmer [like Zhong ‘lone wolf’ Shanshan] drank Nongfu Spring water he ended up as the richest man in the country. Remember all the sign waving and loud protests for the princess [Meng Wanzhou] of Huawei and the outrage when Namewee’s song broke all of those fragile hearts. In response, the Little Pinks could do nothing but curse his mother to death. Ma Baoguo complained that martial arts athletes lack morals and virtue but then he mangles every statement that spews out of his mouth. There was righteous anger over the trade restrictions [imposed by Washington] and when red lines were drawn there was resolute opposition, though when you look into it currency manipulation by the government is a real thing. It has ended up with restrictions on electricity usage [due to self-defeating bans on imported foreign coal] then, as soon as an agreement is signed [between Beijing and Washington] it was little better than an historical artifact. Accusations of human rights abuses are dismissed as interference in the internal affairs of China and when Covid went viral we blamed everyone but ourselves.

This then is Xi Jinping’s China, a country that is truly worthy of the reputation of a ‘Celestial Empire’.

彭帥一哭就是長文控訴,高麗一躲卻是沒聽說過,奧委一挺就是一切安好,愛凌一站卻是盆滿缽滿,封控一跑就是包機返美,表妹一潤卻是家裡有事;雞血一灌就是雄安新區,爛尾一來卻是海南建設,腦門一敲就是一帶一路,腦袋一熱就是東升西降,護照一剪卻是限制出境,戰爭一響卻是俄爹親兒,胸脯一拍就是友好條約,侵略一打卻是翻臉不認,抖音一刷就是毛子威武,道德一崩卻是接管美女,鐵粉一嗨就是踏平基輔,戰場一敗卻是戰略調整,將軍一死就是階段完成,戰艦一沈卻是莫斯科號;謠言一傳就是權威發布,實話一說就是境外勢力,視頻一發就是美帝群演,國際一罵就是半斤八兩,西方一提就是亡我之心,戰狼一聚卻是集體膏潮,農夫一喝就是山泉首富,振臂一呼都是華為公主,明志一唱就是玻璃心碎,粉紅一吐卻是尼瑪斯樂,保國一暈就是不講武德,嘴炮一響卻是耗子尾汁,製裁一下就是強烈不滿,紅線一劃就是堅決反對,朔源一查就是政治鈔弄,代價一付就是有序用電,條約一簽就是歷史文件,人權一犯就是不得乾涉,病毒一放就是甩鍋他國,不愧乃我大天朝是也。

***

The Cultural Revolution might be blamed for a thousand bad things, but since the youth rustication campaign nurtured the unique talent of Xi Jinping there are also ten thousand reasons to think it was worth it.

文化大革命,有千個不是,只上山下鄉培養出這一個習近平,就一萬個值。

— Pan Qinglin 潘慶林, The World Needs China and China Needs Xi Jinping
《世界需要中國,中國需要習近平》, 東京:新華時報,2018

***

‘Long live!’ (literally, 10,000 years, 10,000 years, 100,000,000 years!), in the hand of Lin Biao 林彪, Mao Zedong’s ill-fated hand-picked successor