Posted by: Third Tone Devil | 16 March 2009

New book: China’s Not Happy

The writers of China’s Not Happy 中国不高兴 intend their book to be a sequel to China Can Say No,with the difference — according to one of the authors — that while the latter asserted only that China was capable of leading itself, the new book takes the view that China is capable of leading the world.

According to an interview with the authors in the official Canton Daily 广州日报,one of the main themes of the book is that “if we still do not get rid of the culture of being slaves to foreigners, then we have no way to save ourselves”  再不抛弃洋奴文化,我们就没得救了. With regard to France, the authors advocate “punitive diplomacy” 惩罚外交 and revenge as a response to the disruption of the Olympic torch relay last year. The book also condemns the so-called “elite” 精英 (i.e. the faction seen as “cosmopolitan” or “liberal”, which the authors maintain have hegemony over public discourse) and corruption in academia.

The five authors of this book are Song Qiang 宋强 (one of China Can Say No‘s main authors), the nationalist ideologue Wang Xiaodong 王小东, the military analyst Song Xiaojun 宋晓军, the sociologist Huang Jisu黄纪苏, and the journalist Liu Yang 刘仰, whose name has the same sound (but different characters) as that of the lawyer who started the campaign to stop the Paris auction. The ideas of the book seem to bear a strong imprint of Wang Xiaodong’s thought, although Wang has previously embraced global capitalism. If the anti-intellectualism of these nationalist thinkers is now also moving towards anti-capitalism, then it is becoming more like European antiglobalist nationalisms.

Interestingly, in an interview with journalist Liu Ke published on Song Qiang’s blog and reproduced  on, Song Qiang goes some way to assure readers that they are no less concerned about (some form of) democracy in China than the “liberals”. Though he doesn’t use the terms “democracy” or “political reform,” he formulates the authors’ goal as “improving human rights domestically, striving for sovereignty internationally” 内修人权,外争主权. Elsewhere, Wang Xiaodong said that “China’s development cannot leave out the majority of the people,” and that China should refrain rom “playing with financial warfare” a la Wall Street because of the risk for the ordinary people, tempting though it may be. No doubt to boost the authors’ credentials as critics of the government, Song Qiang also revealed that “in order to ensure publication, we made some technical adjustments, removing some parts of the [discussion on] internal politics.” This points to an intriguing trend: while nationalism has certainly grown since 1996, and political freedoms have not really expanded, it is now nonetheless almost expected of any popular text to be critical of the government even as it attacks foreign countries.

Mainstream media have not directly endorsed the new book, but by presenting it as a serious scholarly achievement and a bestseller, it has made an important step in legitimizing the “say no club” as part of mainstream public discourse. By contrast, bloggers have mostly been critical of the book and dismissed the idea that it could be as popular as China Can Say No was.

This view seems to be supported by a quick look at’s own discussion forum, on which reactions were far more mixed than I had expected. Among the “Top 20” posts (presumably based on the number of views) as reported by the site for the thread discussing the above article, those that endorsed the book were actually outnumbered by those that challenged it with a variety of arguments: that a nation that continuously pointed to the faults of others but not those of its own could not advance; that blind nationalism led to tragedy, as the example of  Japan demonstrated; that if China was too aggressive all countries would team up against it; that intellectuals who only criticise others but not themselves are counterfeit intellectuals; that China’s population quality was still very far from the point where China could say no to anyone; that the very idea of “happy/unhappy” was childish. A good number of comments were ironic (the title of the book should be changed to China’s Interest Groups Are Not Happy 中国利益集团不高兴 or Ordinary Chinese Are Not Happy: On Graft, Corruption, Livelihoods etc. 中国老百姓不高兴:论贪污腐败/民生等问题; resolutely oppose buying Chinese goods; I just want to make money and raise my children and don’t care if China’s happy nor not) or personal attacks (the authors act in bad faith, their goal is only to make money).



  1. I would like to buy your book, does it come in english?

    • China’s Not Happy is not my book. I don’t know if there is an English translation yet, but I suspect you can find at least excerpts translated online.

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