Posted by: Third Tone Devil | 2 December 2011

The newspaper burning

Various sites have been reporting — although the Tianya thread was quickly deleted — on the open burning of newspapers belonging to the Southern Media Group on 17 November in Taiyuan and 18 November in Shijiazhuang. According to an article published in Hong Kong’s Apple Daily,”some leftist netizens” bought up copies of Southern Weekend and other papers and burned them in public while displaying slogans like “For the Chinese Nation, Burn Traitor Southern Media” 为了中华民族火烧汉奸南方报系.

A “leftist” website called 乌有之乡 has, according to the article, accused Southern Media for “doing the bidding of anti-Chinese forces, emphasizing the dark sides of China under the guise of attacking the CCP, correcting history, [and] peddling universal values” and, “with the pretext of opposing corruption, conspiring to subvert the Party and destroy the state and plotting to lead China into collapse and colonization. The site endorsed the burning as just. So did Peking University professor Kong Qingdong 孔庆东 (“Confucius-Celebrate-the-East”).

(A couple of days later, Southern Metropolis published an interview with an unusually nationalistic heading: “To change Western demonising propaganda in a way Africans understand” 已飞走听得懂的方式改变西方妖魔化宣传. True, the title is a quote from the official who was interviewed, but perhaps this is a cautious hedging strategy nonetheless, or even a shift.)

The burning of literature seems once again to be trendy; for example, members of the Hungarian National Front organised the burning of “Zionist” and “globalist” literature, including Marx, earlier this year. The fact that well-known academic endorse this act (others, of course, have condemned it) has been interpreted in Chinese commentary as an escalation of the war of words between the “new left” and “neo/liberals” in the Chinese intelligentsia. But I think it is indicative, rather, of the moving of violent nationalism closer to the mainstream.

At the same time, it is remarkable that some liberal intellectuals who responded by asking whether they should now burn People’s Daily used the term 北系 (Northern papers). Southern papers are, of course, called Southern. But I wonder if perceived political position somehow halos into a geographical division and vice versa. Is this an indication of an emering geographical opposition along political lines?

It is hard to say to what extent this attack is related to the hard times Southern is currently experiencing, what with the recent firing of the editor of its Internet portal, 南风窗, allegedly for an editorial he wrote. It is also hard to say whether this reflect Guangdong Party secretary Wang Yang’s falling out of grace and whether that in turn is related to Jiang Zemin’s ill health or the imminent change of Party leadership. But it is remarkable how different provinces can look politically, what with Bo Xilai’s “leftist” experimentation in Chongqing and the association of Guangdong with liberal treason. It is perhaps not that hard to imagine China falling apart, just as the accusers say.

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