“Running Dogs” Hold Sway
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“Running Dogs” Hold Sway

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Kong Qingdong has gone viral. The Peking University professor of literature and descendant of Confucius has become an overnight celebrity with his televised rant against Hong Kong. In an interview on CCTV, Kong rails against non-Mandarin speaking Hong Kongers, denounces their rule of law system, and calls them “running dogs,” a Maoist-era epithet that typified the class warfare of the 1950s and 60s. What induced this attack was a momentary interchange on a Hong Kong subway between a Hong Kong resident and a mainland woman, in which the Hong Konger told the woman that her child should not be eating on the subway.

While these two events may pass quickly into the Internet ether, what they signify will not – namely how will Hong Kong, China, and even Taiwan come to terms? By all reports, Hong Kong is being flooded by mainland tourists – a good thing if you want to keep your economy buoyant in these difficult times, not such a good thing if these “tourists” are overwhelming your public transportation, schools, hospitals, and more because those things don’t work as well where they come from. So resentment, for obvious reasons, is rising. At the same time, many in Hong Kong are concerned about their freedoms. Despite “one country, two systems,” the right to vote, freedom of expression, and the rule of law all seem perpetually at risk as a result of Beijing’s own political insecurities.

The mainland, in turn, views Hong Kong with a mixture of admiration and envy for its world class services and well-run bureaucracy as well as occasional irritation with the island’s ongoing complaints about mainland rule. When a 2011 University of Hong Kong poll revealed that Hong Kong residents identified more closely as Hong Kong citizens than as Chinese citizens, mainland officials and the media launched a broadside against the poll and its backers.

At the time of the handover, there was much speculation over whether the mainland would change Hong Kong or Hong Kong would act as a model for the mainland. Almost fifteen years on, it seems that neither is the case. Instead, both Hong Kong and the mainland talk about another model – Taiwan. Its recent presidential election caused a stir in the mainland, forcing even the mainland’s nationalistic Global Times to admit, however grudgingly, that the election “touched a nerve of the Chinese mainland,” and the questions that “overwhelmed the Internet” was: “Why can’t the same style of elections be held here?”

The Global Times answered its own question by saying the price for stability and unity is a lack of democracy or more to the point, you can’t have everything. Still, not everyone is convinced. Wealthy mainland businessmen who observed the elections in Taiwan were favorably impressed, with one reporting ”This is an amazing idea, to be able to choose the people who represent you.” And with up to 250 million mainland microbloggers watching the election and all chattering on the Internet, Taiwan may well become the tail that wags that running dog.

Elizabeth C. Economy is C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is an expert on Chinese domestic and foreign policy and U.S.-China relations and author of the award-winning book, 'The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China's Future.' She blogs at Asia Unbound, where this piece originally appeared. Follow her on Twitter: @lizeconomy

Comments
23
Samuel Tan
February 17, 2012 at 07:00

Wait a second, which country changed their ANCIENT writing to a simplified style. Which country allowed it’s great leader Mao to burn ANCIENT Chinese literature and ban customs that have been around for CENTURIES? You think that by following the CCP, the Chinese people are in tune with their Ancient culture? Laughable. At least the British allowed HK to keep the writing system that dates back thousands of years. Seems that they are more in touch with ancient Chinese culture than the Chinese in China. Ironic. If you are so in touch with your Chinese culture, then demolish all those WESTERN skyscrapers and start building pagodas. You should even try wearing a rice patty hat and traditional chinese clothing instead of a shirt and jeans. Maybe a queue haircut?

nirvana
January 30, 2012 at 19:21

If Dr Goebbels were to be around still, how would he react?

He would not condone vulgar language. Sure, he would not spend energy responding to detractors that do not “deserve” it. Yeah, he would take offense of being told he was wrong. And he would take a haughty tone to defend professor Kong, like this:
—-
“Ten years of National Socialism have been enough to make plain to the German people the seriousness of the danger posed by Bolshevism from the East. Now one can understand why we spoke so often of the fight against Bolshevism at our Nuremberg party rallies. We raised our voices in warning to our German people and the world, hoping to awaken Western humanity from the paralysis of will and spirit into which it had fallen. We tried to open their eyes to the horrible danger from Eastern Bolshevism, which had subjected a nation of nearly 200 million people to the terror of the Jews and was preparing an aggressive war against Europe.”

In “Nation, Rise Up, and Let the Storm Break Loose”, a speech by Dr Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Feb 1943. Later elevated by Hitler to “General Plenipotentiary for Total War”.

“rise-up”, “total war”, “superior race”, concepts that always go together in mass propaganda/”education”, whether in German or in Mandarin or in Cantonese. More than 60 years ago, but still work.

This is not about a bickering in the Hong Kong tube or elsewhere. This is not about a Peking University professor being rude to HongKongers on state TV. This is not about anti-Chinese. This is about against ultra-nationalist, whether exploited or tolerated by states.

Grant
January 30, 2012 at 11:16

Stability is not reliant on whether or not a nation is a democracy but rather on security, providing services and establishing an acceptable social contract between the the government, the governed, the elites, the poor and the social climbers. You tend to see more revolutions and riots in authoritarian states because the social contract is more likely to be abused by the rich and the security organizations*.

*Also movements to greatly alter the government have no opportunities to do so peacefully in authoritarian states. In democracies there is far more acceptance of differing opinions without resorting to state-directed violence.

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