Thursday, December 9

Alt-right finds new hate partners on China’s Internet | porcelain

In the early days of the 2016 U.S. election campaign, Fang Kecheng, a former journalist for the liberal-leaning Chinese newspaper Southern Weekly and then a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania, began verifying Donald Trump’s statements about refugees and Muslims on Chinese social media, hoping to provide additional context to the presidential candidate’s reports in China. But his effort was quickly met with fierce criticism on the Chinese Internet.

Some accused him of being a “white left,” a popular insult to idealistic, left-wing, and western-oriented liberals; others labeled him “virgin,” “bleeding heart,” and “white lotus” – degrading phrases that describe benefactors who care for the underprivileged – as he tried to defend women’s rights.

“It was absurd,” Fang, now a journalism professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the Observer. “When did caring for disadvantaged groups become the reason for the reprimand? When was social Darwinism so justified? “

Around the time of Trump’s election victory, he began to notice striking similarities between the “alt-right” community in the United States and a group of social media users who posted on the Chinese Internet.

“Like their counterparts in the English-speaking sphere, this small but growing community also rejects the liberal paradigm and identity-based rights, similar to what is called the ‘alt-right’ in the US context. In the Chinese context, speech often encompasses what he considers anti-feminist ideas, xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, and Han chauvinism.

Throughout the Trump presidency and in the immediate aftermath of the 2016 Brexit vote, researchers on both sides of the Atlantic began to carefully study the rise of the far-right in English-speaking cyberspace. On the Chinese Internet, a similar trend was taking place at the same time, with some observing that the Chinese online group also often took a nationalistic tone and called for state intervention.

Members of the Proud Boys and other right-wing protesters march in Portland, Oregon, in August 2019
Members of the Proud Boys and other right-wing protesters march in Portland, Oregon, in August 2019. Photograph: Noah Berger / AP

In a recent article Co-authored with Tian Yang, a colleague at the University of Pennsylvania, Fang analyzed nearly 30,000 alt-right posts on the Chinese Internet. They found that users share not only national alt-right posts, but also global ones. They found that many of the issues were raised by US-based Chinese immigrants who were disillusioned by the progressive agenda set by the American left.

Not all scholars are comfortable with the “alt-right” description. “I am skeptical about the application of categories drawn from American politics to the Chinese Internet,” said Sebastian Veg of the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris. “Many former ‘liberal’ intellectuals in China or China are extremely critical of Black Lives Matter, the refugee crisis, political correctness, etc. They are not just populists, but on the contrary, an elite critical of the regime. Are they alt-right? “

Dylan Levi King, a Tokyo-based Chinese internet writer, first noticed this loosely defined group during the 2015 European migration crisis. “Whether you call it populist or alt-right nationalism,” he said, “if you pay a lot of Pay attention to what they were talking about back then, you find them borrowing similar talking points from the European ‘alt-right’ community, like the phrase ‘the great replacement’, or the supposed ‘no-go zones’ for non-Muslims in the European cities, which was also used by Fox News ”.

Shortly after the migration crisis broke out, Liu Zhongjing, a Chinese translator and commentator who made a name for himself thanks to his strong anti-left and anti-progressive stance, was asked. your take on the way Germany handled it.

“A new kind of political correctness has taken shape in Germany, and many things can no longer be mentioned,” he observed. Liu also cited Thilo Sarrazin, a controversial figure who some say he is the “standard-bearer of the extreme right of Germany” in supporting your argument.

The 2015 European immigrant crisis was also closely watched by Chinese netizens
The European immigrant crisis of 2015 was also closely followed by Chinese internet users. Photograph: Odd Andersen / AFP / Getty Images

On June 20, 2017, when the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees posted on the plight of displaced people on Weibo On World Refugee Day with the hashtag #StandWithRefugees, thousands of Internet users overwhelmed their account with negative comments.

UNHCR’s Goodwill Ambassador, Chinese actress Yao Chen, I had to clarify that he had no intention of suggesting that China participate in accepting refugees.

In the same year, another post was featured on the popular social networking site Zhihu, with the headline “Sweden: The Sexual Assault Capital of Europe.” “But,” wrote author Wu Yuting, “the cruel reality is that, with the large numbers of Muslims arriving in Sweden, they also brought Islam’s repression and harm against women, and destroyed gender equality in society. Swedish “.

Islamophobia is the top issue among China’s far-right, according to Fang and Yang’s research.

“By framing the policies as biased, they interpreted them as a source of inequality and intended to provoke resentment by portraying Han as victims in their narrative,” Fang said. “They represented a confrontational relationship between Han, the dominant ethnic group in China, and other ethnic minorities, especially the two Muslim minorities, the Hui and the Uighurs.” He added: “It is exactly the same dominant logic and narrative played out on the far right in the United States: poor white working-class men preying on immigrants and minorities.”

Other researchers went one step further. In a 2019 article, Zhang Chenchen of Queen’s University Belfast, analyzed 1,038 Chinese social media posts and concluded that by criticizing Western “liberal elites”, the right-wing Chinese Internet discourse built ethnic-racial identity against the “inferior” of other non-Westerners. .

This is “exemplified by non-white immigrants and Muslims, with racial nationalism on the one hand; and formulates China’s political identity against the “other westerner in decline with realistic authoritarianism for the other,” he wrote.

Anti-feminism is another topic that the Chinese far-right online frequently discusses. Last December, 29-year-old Chinese comedian Yang Li faced a backlash after a question she asked on her show. “Do men have the end result?” joked.

The line drew laughter from its live audience, but it will be among many on the Internet. Although Yang does not publicly identify as a feminist, many accused her of adopting a feminist agenda, with some calling her a “militant feminist” and a “boxer,” “in an attempt to gain more privilege over men,” said one critic. “Feminist bitch,” scolded another.

And in April, Xiao Meili, a well-known Chinese feminist activist, received a series of abuse after she posted online a video of a man throwing hot liquid at her after she asked him to quit smoking. Some of the messages called her and others, without credible evidence, “anti-China” and “foreign forces.” Others said, “I hope you die, bitch,” or “Bitch, fuck the feminists.”

“When the Xiao Meili incident happened, many feminists were being controlled, including me,” said one of the artists who later collected more than 1,000 of the abusive messages sent to feminists and feminist groups and turned them into a work of art. “We wanted to turn the trolling words into something that you could see, touch, to materialize the trolling comments and amplify the abuse of what happens to people online,” he said.

Xiao blamed social media companies for not doing enough to stop such a vitriol, despite the fact that China has the most sophisticated internet filtering system in the world. “Weibo is the biggest facilitator” told a US-based website in April. “Treat the incels like they are the royal family.”

But Michel Hockx, director of the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies at the University of Notre Dame in the United States, believes this is because such speeches do not threaten the government. “They don’t necessarily challenge the ruling party and extend to collective action,” he said, “so there is less incentive for social media companies to remove them. The authorities don’t tell them to do it. “

King says Chinese state censors also walk a fine line in monitoring such content: “The ‘alt-right’ tends to broadly support the Communist Party line on most things. They see China as a bulwark against the corrosive power of Western liberalism. “

But his rhetoric online has consequences offline, he cautioned: “Things like ethnic resentment are something just below the surface, which cannot be allowed to escalate. When it explodes, it is very ugly. “

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