If you were living in the mainland or had access only to state media propaganda, you would probably feel supremely proud of being a Chinese, as in recent years state media have been obsessed with boasting about the might and glory of the Middle Kingdom.
Under their patriotic portrayal, China has once again become the center of the world like it was in ancient times.
Moreover, being a subject of the “Celestial Empire” means you would always emerge as the ultimate winner no matter what is going on in the rest of the world, be they Brexit, Donald Trump’s election as president of the United States, Washington’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the reconciliation between the US and North Korea, etc.
And thanks to the trend set by the officialdom, private online media outlets in the mainland have also jumped on the “boastfulness” bandwagon by flooding the internet with “grandeur articles”, i.e., embellished pieces of writing that brag about the success and achievements of China, and which either lack substance or are simply a gross exaggeration.
Such articles often carry eye-catching headlines which seek to feed the mass delusions of grandeur among netizens for the purpose of drawing more hits. Examples: “The US is scared”, “Japan is petrified”, “Europe is having regrets now”, etc.
In fact, the intensity of boastfulness of these “grandeur articles” has reached such a level that even state media outlets themselves are dismayed.
Recently, People.cn, the online version of People’s Daily, has run a series of op-ed articles lambasting this “boastful and cocky” writing style that is now all the rage among internet media outlets.
In an article titled “Is writing style just trivial?”, the author points out that “churning out pieces that belittle others and brag about state achievements has already become an industry-wide practice among private online media outlets.”
The writer then goes on to say that “whatever the motives, such boastful writing style is definitely harmful to society, and the only result would be ruining both the state and the public”.
The writer may have a point there, but let’s not forget the fact that it was the state media itself, particularly the People’s Daily, that created such “boastful” writing style in the first place. And what private media outlets did was just mimic this style of writing and then improve on it.
The main reason why the cyberworld is swamped with boastful propaganda material is that Beijing leaders have been tacitly endorsing it or even loving it.
Such “boastful” writing style actually dates back to the years of the Cultural Revolution, when Chairman Mao Zedong was praised to the skies by the party propaganda machine.
Sadly, even to this day, such toxic legacy of the Cultural Revolution lives on, under which mainland’s senior government officials are still eagerly kissing up to Beijing leaders by referring to them, particularly President Xi Jinping, as the “paramount leader”, “supreme commander”, “chief architect”, or even more gratuitously, “the core of cores”, “the key of keys” and “the foundation of foundations”.
As the People.cn article said, if allowed to grow unchecked, such trend of boastfulness in media would not only undermine the nation but also breed ultra-nationalist and populist sentiments, with the people in power being at the receiving end.
As a result, decision-makers would often have to toe public emotions when drafting policies. They would be prevented from acting rationally, and that would take a heavy toll on national interests.
Over the years, some local media outlets in Hong Kong have often mocked mainlanders as “great power citizens” because of their notoriously cocky, disrespectful or even uncivilized behavior when traveling abroad.
But this rampant boastfulness among mainland media is just as destructive.
As Beijing continues to tighten its grip on public opinions across the nation, it has become almost impossible for public debate on major government policy initiatives to take place. Nor are members of the public allowed to rationally cast doubts on government decisions.
Worse, the people are being exposed to widespread yellow journalism and party propaganda on a daily basis, which begs the question: how can the qualities of the Chinese people be raised under such an environment?
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 6
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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