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The politics of the great toad king
Politics is a quite dangerous word in China, because political power means everything in China. Different to many other countries, in China political capital is the most powerful weapon. Politicians do not rely on rich men, but rich men must rely on politicians. In China, the Chinese government controls every corner, the Chinese communist party has the greatest power, meanwhile, the party is in extremely fear of losing its power. Therefore, talking about politics in China is a quite dangerous thing, especially when you do something against the government. From the first leader Mao Zedong to his successor Deng Xiaoping, and Deng’s successor Jiang Zemin, we can easily find that old, retired politicians will not give up their power easily. With this concern and pressure, the Chinese government has a very strict censorship on the political topic. In recent years, Toad worship occurred and has become more and more influential. In this term, Toad indicates Jiang Zemin, the former president of the People’ republic of China. The worshippers are often some young people under 25. They believe that Jiang looks like a toad, and they share his funny video and funny quotes on the internet. They call Jiang as HaHa (means toad in Chinese.), and describe themselves as Hasi, which means toad fan in Chinese. This is a popular network culture, unfortunately, the Chinese government regards this as a dangerous sign, and banned toad worship by censorship machine.
Toad worship attracted journalists around the whole world. In the next part of my article, I will discuss two articles about Toad worship. One is from BBC News The politics of toad kings and fairy tales in China, written by Scottish journalist Carrie Gracie. The second one is from Hong Kong Free Press, Defying web censors, Chinese ‘worship’ toads to mark a former state leader’s 90th birthday, written by Hong Kong journalist Oiwan Lam.
In Gracie’s view, the toad worship is a sign, shows that: “Old politicians never die in China. They may “retire” but in the godfather realm of China’s Communist Party elite, some never give up influence.” She believes that: “Chinese politics is anything but simple and naive. It is a subtle world rich in literary and historical allegory.”, and toad worship proved it.
This sentence is an interesting evaluation claim, she pointed out that the political world in China is rich in literary and historical allegory, which means that no one in China will talk about politics openly. Everyone knows that you cannot directly write something to criticize the government online, the only result is that your account will be banned, and if you are famous, you may be prisoned. One example is that Bi Fujian, a former compere of CCTV, he was very famous in China, but he lost his job, because he criticized Mao Zedong in a private party. Gracie also had her own pieces of evidence, Pu Zhiqiang and Wang Yu. They are both political journalists, were sent to prison because they wrote many articles to criticize the government. In America, many journalists and talk shows are famous for sneering at politicians or exposing political scandals. Gracie used these two people as pieces of evidence to show readers the result of doing so in China, and make them understand her primary claim, that talking about politics openly in China is very dangerous.
So, if people do not have freedom to criticize the government, what would they do? In her opinion, the answers are literary and historical allegory, the toad worship is such an allegory. Interestingly, this sentence will be more meaningful for Chinese. Chinese people are more sensitive about the allegory, because in Chinese history, those allegories were usually come with revolution and suppression. Many revolutionists would make up an allegory to attract followers, and the government would suppress them as soon as possible. Therefore, this sentence will make Chinese readers realized the dangerous political environment of China.
“By underlining that two decades ago China had a leader who was open, human and friendly to the west, the toad worshippers are making the point that in Xi Jinping they now have a leader who is not.”
This is her explanation about the motivation of toad fans. She pointed out that people were missing the free environment of Jiang’s time. However, what is the real implied meaning of toad worship? She listed four famous fairy tales: Sown White, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Frog Prince and 1984. This is a very wise skill, link the complicated Chinese political environment to simple and naïve fairy tales. Gracie described Xi Jingping, the current president of China as the jealous queen, prisoned Jiang as the White Snow, and arrested Jiang’s allies as killing the seven dwarfs. Meanwhile, she used this story to expose another group of people in China—toadies. Who were performing the mirror, offering flattery to Xi. She believed that Jiang was the Prince to those toad fans, because they are dreaming that Jiang is wise president.
Those four stories are very simple and naïve to most of the people, however, the politics in China just looks like those. The author used those four stories to remind readers that the politics people can read in Chinese newspaper are just such simple and naïve, but they can find the dangerous political struggle if they think more.
“This kissing a frog and turning him into a prince is surely a case of rose-tinted spectacles.”
In the end part of her article, Gracie told all toad fans that, Jiang was not their prince, they should be soberer.
“Let’s face it, Jiang Zemin was often vain and self -regarding in office, he oversaw a period of explosive corruption, and after his retirement from active politics, his placemen and cronies threw grit in the wheels of the next team’s attempts at reform.”
Gracie exposed Jiang’s crime with “Let’s face” it as the beginning, brought a special feeling to readers, that there would come a typhoon, but she would stay with them, suffer the typhoon with them. This can make readers be more close to her, and more willing to believe her.
Then, she started with “surely”, to claim that regarded Jiang as a frog prince was the absence of real political royalty. “Surely” is a strong word, made readers feel she was very convinced and determined.
“So if you’re a member of the Chinese Communist Party, look into your own mirror this weekend and ask yourself whether you are a toady or a “Toady”?
If you’re young and smart and imaginative for your country, ask yourself… even if only in the privacy of your own head… whether there should be space to be something else again?”
In the end of her article, she used two “if you are” to make readers introspect their identities, and their behaviours. From her end part, we can easily find out that her target readers are Chinese. Then we can have a better understanding of the article’s structure.
Gracie started with a clam that old politicians would never give up their power, and then she pointed out the Jiang Zemin and the toad worship proved it, make readers have a clear understanding about the toad worship and the political environment of China.
Then she soon pointed out that most of the toad fans were young people, who never experienced Jiang’s government. She implied that most of the toad fans might be ignorant and sequacious, but she did not point it out at the beginning part of her article. Because her target readers were Chinese, so that some of her readers may be toad fans. Then she started her explanation, and used some fairy tales to introduce the conflict between Jiang and Xi. She used 1964 6.4 event as an example, to remind readers the dangerous of this kind of worship. This is an excellent example for Chinese people. Many Chinese will never forget the event, because it was one of the most influential events in China.
Many students started a parade to ask for freedom and democracy in Tiananmen square, and the government command army to suppress. Then, in the last part of her article she pointed out that Jiang was not a good president, and young people in China should understand this point and know their duty. The wisest part of the article was the author did not tell readers her main point in the start of the article, but in the end part. So, that readers will not feel be taught at the beginning, but after they read the whole article.
The second article Defying web censors, Chinese ‘worship’ toads to mark a former state leader’s 90th birthday was like the first one, but focused more on web censors. The author Oiwan Lam believed that “Toad worship is a way of people to defy web censors, and people are expressing their nostalgia of a free environment through the toad worship.” She believed that toad worship was a subculture popular in young people groups, and the main reason they were doing so was trying to resist web censors, and enjoying the pleasure of challenging the authority. Her article started with the 90th birthday of Jiang. This article was written on 27th August, one week after Jiang’s birthday. So, starting with his birthday could catch many people’s attention. Then, she pointed out that toad worship shew that people were missing the old time, and Xi’s government regarded this as a threaten. Lam posted many funny birthday pictures to prove that toad worship was very popular in Internet. Then she shared a video, in the video Jiang criticized Hong Kong reporter Cheung Bo Wah for being “too young” and “too simple and naive.” She explained that this was the reason why many people became toad fans. They are missing a president who was not stubborn and obstinate, who was enlightened and funny. This affects the bottom line of Xi’s government. She used many examples show this point. First, a WeChat public account about toad worship only managed to survive for barely one year. It was banned soon. Second, the government authorities issued a warning against public celebrations of Jiang’s 90th. However, in her view, this is a good chance for toad fans to challenge the authority. She introduced that many people held the private birthday parties and made birthday cards for Jiang.
“Nostalgia” was the key word of this article. Chinese people will not feel unfamiliar to this word. China has a very long history, and many dynasties changed in this Country. Every time, when the new dynasty let its people down, nostalgia will show up. For example, in Qing dynasty, people hated the government, so many revolution groups were appealing about “rebelling Qing dynasty and rebuilding Ming dynasty” Toad worship shows people hate Xi’s government, Lam provided a strong evidence to prove this point.
She quoted a tweet from Murongxuecun. This is a very famous writer in China, many people in China are his fans. Using his tweet can be more persuasive than Lan explaining by herself. In his tweet, he said that “While the toad’s era was not free, it looked better than Bun’s [meaning Xi’s] era. In this sense, Chinese people worshiping the toad is similar to prisoners in confinement, missing their brief outdoor recess.” As a famous writer, Murongxuecun wrote a tweet rich in hint and sarcasm. Take this sentence as an example. He used “Bun” as a nick of Xi. Bun is a very well-known food in China, a little bit like Hamburger. In 2014, Xi went to a popular Bun shop named Qingfeng Bun shop and had a lunch there. The Chinese government publicized this event to show Xi was approachable, but many people believed this was only a show. He also used a metaphor, said toad fans was like prisoners. In some situations, they are all real prisoner, under the confinement of censorship.
Since Jiang announced Falun Gong was heresy, members of Falun Gong made up many fake news about Jiang’s death or arrest online. This is one of the reasons that online censor in China is so strict, and people are missing Jiang so much. However, in recent years, with the series of arrests of Jiang’s allies, people are terrified. No one loves political struggles. Both of two articles introduced toad worship. The first one mainly talked about the complicate and dangerous political struggles in China, and the ignorance of some young toad fans, while the second one was introducing the web censors and the resistance of toad fans. They have different emphasis, but they are all very persuasive. The best way to persuade someone is showing them facts, and both two articles used this strategy. The first article gave many examples of Xi was trying to make Jiang lose his force, and talking about politics openly may send you into prison. The second one posted many pictures, to prove that many toad fans tried to celebrate the birthday of Jiang and challenged Xi’s Government.
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