Even though his home was flattened by the village head’s bulldozer a few days ago and that his second child, without a birth certificate, has been rejected by the local school, Mr. Zhao was zealously patriotic. He would forgo his daily job – the only source of his income --and join a local group to smash Korean cars, in responding to the government’s initiative to retaliate South Korea.
The short story widely circulated on WeChat has cast in harsh light on Beijing’s agenda that has elicited quick reactions from the public – including the marginalized villagers. Irritated by Washington’s agreement with Seoul to deploy a missile shield system THAAD, Beijing has waged a national wide war to sanction South Korea. It has appealed to its citizens to boycott South Korea’s core business and entertainment products and to curb the imports of its cars and cellphones.
China state media has urged its citizens to stop buying Korean products from stores of Lotte -- the company made an agreement with South Korea Defence Ministry. China social media has instantly turned the bashing into a viral trend, with a flood of posts calling users not to visit Lotte stores. Some posts even made an extreme demand that the protest lasts a long as a decade. Immediately, all Lotte items have been pulled off from shelves of supermarkets and its stores, and the company’s website has been attacked and suspended. Some 3000 Chinese cruise passengers, putting patriotism above tourism, decided to avoid visiting the South Korean island of Jeju, a move that has earned “a patriotic action” praise from the government tabloid.
South Korea wasn’t the first target in China’s public retaliation efforts in recent years. Amid a growing desire of Beijing to exert foreign influence, China has increasingly flexed its military muscles over its surrounding countries and regions, fueling its citizens ‘anger towards Japanese, Vietnamese, and Philippines. In 2012, angry citizens took to the streets, attacking Toyotas and Japanese-branded shopping malls and supermarkets.
It appears that the Chinese government and its citizens have formed a strong bond that empowers the nation to retaliate any foreign forces deemed to have hurt its national pride. Amid a growing public trust crisis that governments across the globe are facing, Beijing have done an incredible job in gaining public support to push through its agenda.
In Western countries – including Canada, US, and European countries, public is deeply cynical about the government, the politics, and the nation’s elected leaders. Citizens increasingly lack faith in its government’s ability to solve national problems, complaining that the political elites are out of reach. In a recent study spanning 40 countries, it has found that governments feel to have lost grip on public trust and communications in the internet era.
But bucking this trend is the Chinese government, its tight grip on its citizens and its heavy censorship on social media. Running the most efficient propaganda operation in the world, Beijing has taken a new level of assertiveness, confidence, and ambition, with a critical mandate to advocate the “Chinese Dream” and its “rich country and a strong military”, and to promote the idea that it is indeed a “China’s Century”.
Unsurprisingly, Beijing’s powerful propaganda machine has successfully pulled citizens in its orbit, inspiring them to establish a naïve loyalty and build a blind faith towards their government. The operation has been functioning remarkably well that even villagers like Zhao -- who have been victimized by Beijing’s human rights violations -- are willing to sacrifice their personal lives to answer any calls from their government.
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