Proud to be a scumbag


Lunar New Year is as good a time as any to commend your friends and threaten your enemies, all in the spirit of festive good will no doubt.

Wang Xining, China’s deputy ambassador in Australia, spoke last week at a dinner hosted by the Australia China Business Council in Canberra on the topic of how “It Is So Difficult to be China’s Friends in Australia Today”. The audience, if anything, would have been quite sympathetic and understanding – nothing spells friendship, after all, like billions of dollars being made in bi-lateral trade and business deals. But for all the rewards of the friendship that the attendees so richly share, there is a high price to pay, as Mr Wang observed:

Currently, the friends of China are given a nickname “panda-hugger”. It used to be a word of appreciation but now it carries derogatory meanings. It seems that being friendly to China, to be a friend of China becomes a sin and mistake in Australia. While, to take a stern face against Chinese would be the legislate stance by a patriotic Australian. Only in that way could the Australian politician win the heart of Australian population. Today, it is really difficult to be China’s friend in Australia.

Don’t be dispirited though, if you are a panda-hugger or a panda-stroker or maybe just a panda-appreciator-from-a-distance:

If you are in a difficult situation to be a China’s friend, don’t worry, your Chinese friends will stand together with you, your friends in China will always be with you. History will prove that it is wise and visionary to be China’s friends, and your children and grandchildren would be proud of you to be China’s friends and they will benefit from the relationship with China. Your Chinese friends and their children will also be proud and benefit from your friendship. For a better future and for the next generation, most people choose to make friends, but some people in Australia choose to make enemies to sustain a living. Those who deliberately vilify China and sabotage the friendship between our two countries and do damage to our long-term friendship and benefits out of their sectoral or selfish interest will be casted aside in history. Their children will be ashamed of mentioning their names in the history.

So says the official English translation. But as noted upon the review of the original Chinese version of the speech, there is a word missing, namely “Those bàilèi who deliberately vilify China…”, translatable as “scum”, “scumbag” or “degenerate”.

Well, count me in, Mr Wang.

Chinese Communist Party has this neat trick where it speaks of itself as synonymous with “China” or “Chinese people”. It’s neat because, firstly, it falsely portrays China as a monolith, where the nation, its people, and its government are unified as one, and secondly, because by blurring the lines between the three it can then portray any criticism as an attack on the country and the people.

Of course, nothing is further from the truth. No one is vilifying China as a country or the Chinese people as a whole. The problem is the Communist Party, which having ditched its commitment to communism as an economic proposition, maintains as ever a strong commitment to communism as a system of government, i.e. a one-party dictatorship. It’s a government/party that fears the world and fears its own people, otherwise it would have welcome people’s judgment and accountability through free democratic election. The party doesn’t kill as many as it used to (around 60 million murdered, starved or worked to death between 1949 and 1976, or almost two and a half Australias) but it still denies its citizens any and all human rights, oppresses ethnic minorities and non-conformists, keeps one million Uyghurs in concentration camps, and has expansionist ambitions abroad, not just in terms of coveting its neighbours’ territory but also as a superpower and global leader. To point out these things is not to vilify China, it’s to point out the true nature of its government.

This government, not surprisingly, bans the discussion of “7 speak-nots” or “7 prohibitions”. These are such dangerous ideas as universal values, freedom of speech, civil society, civil right and judicial independence (the other two are quite specific: historical errors of the party and crony capitalism – that is the past and the present of Chinese communism).

So, if to stand for things like universal values, freedom of speech, civil society, civil rights and judicial independence (and against dictatorship, genocide and corruption) – whether for people of Australia or for people of China – is to be a scumbag, then so be it, I’m proud to be a scumbag. Having been born under one communist regime, it’s a badge of honour to be considered a degenerate by another one – a smarter and nimbler one, and therefore an even more dangerous one.

“Those [scumbags] who deliberately vilify China and sabotage the friendship between our two countries and do damage to our long-term friendship and benefits out of their sectoral or selfish interest will be casted aside in history,” says Mr Wang. Unlike thousands of China’s “friends” in the West, who make money through business dealings or are more directly compensated for toeing the Communist Party line, I don’t have a skin in the game. I guess my “selfish interest” here is wanting to live in a world where more people enjoy peace and freedom. And while I don’t have children who might be in the future ashamed of mentioning my dirty anti-communist name, I do hope I will live long enough to see another odious regime – rather than myself – “casted aside in history”, or, to quote what somebody once said, “the ash heap of history.”