Hu, the Loser
April 17, 2017 12:43 PM   Subscribe

The term Diaosi (屌丝), which is roughly translated to mean ‘loser’, was originally used as an insult to mock other online users. By 2013, Analysys International, a consultancy, estimated that over 500 million Chinese—more than a quarter of the total population of the country—self-identified as a Diaosi. This throwaway derogatory slang had seemingly hit a deep and collective emotional chord among the wider Chinese population.
Winning and Losing in Modern China
posted by Rumple (47 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps the next bloody conflict that consumes the world will come from the NEETs.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:51 PM on April 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm a Diaosi, baby/
So why don't you shā wǒ?
posted by Strange Interlude at 12:55 PM on April 17, 2017 [15 favorites]

Hu earned a good salary at around 9,500 RMB (1,500 USD) a month, but it still made buying an apartment anywhere else but in the farthest suburbs an impossibility. Property prices in China have been rising at nearly 10% a year. An average apartment in the city of Hangzhou was listed at over 275,000 USD, over 180 times Hu’s annual income.

$1,500/mo is $18,000/year. $275,000 is only around 15 times that salary. To be 180 times Hu's annual income, the apartment would have to cost over $3 million.
posted by enn at 1:04 PM on April 17, 2017 [10 favorites]

In a roundabout way this reminds me of Japan's otaku and hikkomori, rejecting the realities of Japan's working life and fleeing into nerd culture instead.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:08 PM on April 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Many online commentators and journalists in China are baffled by the idea that some 500 million people in China consider themselves losers. Even on the lower end, the salaries of the Diaosi suggest they are middle-class.

They need to take a look at what has happened to America's own middle class, especially on the lower end, and I think they'd come to better understand. To be middle class today is to be going backwards.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:11 PM on April 17, 2017 [10 favorites]

It's not just the Japanese hikkis. This is shades of the beta/incel/wizard troll *chan culture that is linked to everything from Elliot Rodger to the revanche of far right authoritarianism in the Western world. We probably should have expected this- the presence of large numbers of single, jobless, disenfranchised young men is one of the root causes of jihad, after all.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:14 PM on April 17, 2017 [9 favorites]

Did you guys read the same article I did? I have no idea if it's representing the collective identity of the Diaosi accurately, but the Brother Hua thing sounds like the complete opposite of fleeing into nerd culture or far right authoritarianism.
posted by XMLicious at 1:27 PM on April 17, 2017 [8 favorites]

Human flesh search engines have been around in China and they're good for taking down corruption, sure. But such populist action are in the end, still vigilante mobs, which have the potential to be subverted for other purposes. After all, Anonymous got its start by attacking white supremacist Hal Turner and then the Church of Scientology.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:36 PM on April 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

$1,500/mo is $18,000/year. $275,000 is only around 15 times that salary. To be 180 times Hu's annual income, the apartment would have to cost over $3 million.

And 12 ✕ 15 = 180. Good catch!
posted by XMLicious at 1:36 PM on April 17, 2017

I assume you weren't on the internet for 2016.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:49 PM on April 17, 2017

You certainly seem to be basing everything you're saying in this thread on assumptions of equal quality. How about we discuss what it actually says in the OP article?
posted by XMLicious at 1:56 PM on April 17, 2017

Perhaps the next bloody conflict that consumes the world will come from the NEETs.

The next? Most of our bloody conflicts have been fueled by young, angry, hungry men willing to go to war because they have nothing left to lose, or had nothing to lose in the first place.

See also: Brownshirts and Hitler Youth.

The next won't be much different.

Except it's going to be fueled and driven by the NEETs, self-described losers, incels, Proud Boys, red-pillers and this terrifying mix of angry not-always-white alt-right male that feel they've been denied access to basically everything but especially and including the kind of imaginary hard core porn educated sexual access they think exists behind closed doors to everyone they think is better looking or richer than them.

Except they'll have internet access, Discord and snapchat and mass organization skills.

It's actually already happening now, and has been happening for a while in the form of mass murderers like Roger Fuckface.

I'm increasingly frustrated with the peaceful centrist left for not taking this threat seriously and just laughing it off. There's a really sick, violent groundswell rising on the backwaters of the internet.

For fuck's sake, the Berkeley Antifa and Black Bloc contingent just got their asses handed to them by a group of anti-masturbation Proud Boys wearing superhero comic book paraphernalia, and we're living in a world with openly fascist queer furries!

Transectionally related to this is that a fraction of a billion unwed, unsatisfied and potentially angry young Chinese men should be cause for acute alarm for anyone with a grasp of military history and tactics.

Pardon the cynical arm-chair futurist in me but our only saving grace might be the distraction of mobile internet, social media and unbridled, materialist consumerism.
posted by loquacious at 2:02 PM on April 17, 2017 [17 favorites]

Despite the variation, there is consensus on three defining features: they are predominantly men born in the 1980s, the large majority play online games (82.5%), and finally, by self-identifying as Diaosi, it means that they do not see themselves as Gao Fu Shuai (tall, rich, handsome, 高富帅). This seemingly innocuous combination of commonalities—masculinity, technology, and class—has in fact situated these so-called losers as one of the most politically dynamic social forces to have emerged in contemporary China.
My point is, when you see high youth employment, particularly embittered, aggressive, single male youth unemployment, it is not a genuinely good sign for the health of society. And this is a global phenomenon we've seen before in the U.S., western Europe, and in Japan. And perhaps, if the previously-linked hypothesis is correct, the rise of jihad in economically depressed places of the Arab world. I'm not saying it's inevitable- Xi is making authoritarian measures fine on his own without these diaosi calling for it (so far), and the article is probably right when it's saying that the rural poor is the natural place for unrest in China- but I'm saying all of these trends are variations of a theme even as our international capitalist system loses its head in mass inequality and disgruntlement. The rest of my comments might be gadfly sensationalism, but it's not as if it's made without a purpose.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:10 PM on April 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Pardon the cynical arm-chair futurist in me but our only saving grace might be the distraction of mobile internet, social media and unbridled, materialist consumerism.

That might very well happen instead of another world war. The system will attempt to repair itself- basic income so some people can become Twitch streamers while others much poorer can survive day to day to game and watch those streams full-time. VR pans out and creates increasingly better entertainment rabbit holes for the barely-possessed to disappear into. Revolution against the system is forestalled by increasingly more advanced drones and electronic surveillance networks, preventing violent struggle in developed nations. Brave New World as the solution to global conflict. In the end we willingly construct and enter our very own The Matrix, mannnnn

Seriously, even the Pope is talking about the dangers of youth unemployment.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:26 PM on April 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Given your mention of Japan, does that mean your hypothesis is linking hikkomori with jihad?

Not all phenomena that have masculinity, technology, and class in common are related to jihad (or Hitler Youth, loquacious!)

I'm just saying that, since the article does not actually present this as sinister, it may be premature to paint it as such and assume that it's the Chinese version of other phenomena recently prominent in English-language media, until we find some confirmation of that. If it is really just bad badness, we can be encouraged that the article says the Chinese government has already taken steps to censor and ban this kind of attitude.

(Or, more accurately after referring back to the OP, to censor and control gamer culture in China.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:31 PM on April 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Well, hikkomori, like most ostracized, simultaneously self-deprecating and system-hating, geek subcultures, can embrace fringe politics including the far-right. This subculture-within-subcultures has existed for a while. While the OP doesn't talk about that sort of aggressive nationalist response within diaosi, it still looks like a population that's capable of radicalization of some sort, imo. (Maybe they'll rediscover Mao and go far-left instead.) Either way, I don't think they're sinister or evil so much as angry and disempowered.
posted by Apocryphon at 2:49 PM on April 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

A bit off topic, but hikikomori are by no means all or even majority otaku/nerds. I think in the West these ideas have gotten tied together somehow, but most otaku are not hikikomori and vice-versa. The defining feature of hikikomori is withdrawing from society, not any particular interests (and there are plenty of women hikikomori as well).
posted by thefoxgod at 2:50 PM on April 17, 2017 [7 favorites]

Yeah, the human search engine seems great when it's finding corrupt officials, but it's been used for some far less savory purposes before.

Interesting, if depressing, article.
posted by corb at 3:37 PM on April 17, 2017

Not all phenomena that have masculinity, technology, and class in common are related to jihad (or Hitler Youth, loquacious!)

Sorry, to be clear, I'm not implying that it should, or that isn't orthogonal to the article.

I'm just seeing this being replayed in various forms around the country. In the US we're developing our own rather virulent brand of NEET-and/or-ASBO and/or hikikomori.

And they're getting increasingly angry. And disturbingly well armed and into guns, gun violence and shooting based video games in a way that is - even for someone as art and media permissive and liberal as me - frankly alarming and needs to be addressed.

A huge part of this is the unemployment, and how we've been telling youth for the last 10-15 years that the dream is still alive, that if they go to college and jump through the hoops they can have a "normal" job and house and all that.

And we've been (culturally) lying to them and ourselves.

Which is problematic in itself because is that really how we should be living in the 21st century? Trying to emulate the elusive imperfection of the 1950s? the 1850s?

No, I don't think so. Yet they're being told that this is what they need to do. That message and plan is being both increasingly rejected if just not feasible at all.

And a whole lot of young folks are pretty pissed off about it on a variety of levels, not just MAGA-grade alt-right fascism. If anything it's this exact power vacuum, aimlessness and justifiable disbelief in the status quo that's giving fertilizer to this new, young alt-right shit.
posted by loquacious at 3:41 PM on April 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

Continuing the theme of separating out dissimilar things, the Wikipedia article on hikikomori makes it sound more like a psychological condition insofar as it's a social phenomenon, rather than a subculture, which agrees with my understanding (having only read about it in English-language sources, though.)
posted by XMLicious at 3:59 PM on April 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, "hikikomori" isn't really a subculture. It's just people who can't handle being in Society.
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:00 PM on April 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

I sent this article to a friend of mine who was born in China and moved to America when he was a teen. His only response:

What a fucking shitty article
They didn't even clarify that the word originally is the term for stray pube
"Roughly translate to loser"

Note to self: Just because they're Chinese, doesn't mean you should send an article about China to them.
posted by weewooweewoo at 4:25 PM on April 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

You probably need a truckload of caveats if you want to draw direct parallels between Diaosi culture and Western social ailments -- the anxiety about elder care alone is hugely different than what we see in the US/Europe -- but...
  • Young middle class feels sold out and helpless, can only dream of standard markers of adulthood.
  • Young men in particular feel like they cannot achieve masculine expectations.
  • Available work is alienating and offers no clear path for the future.
  • Video games offer community and clear rewards for skill/work.
  • Mainstream cultural authorities actually do attack video games / gamers.
  • Online vigilante mobs investigate and hound actually corrupt officials.
is like the last 2-5 years of the anglophone internet, remixed.

I would like to know more.
posted by postcommunism at 4:45 PM on April 17, 2017 [5 favorites]

Thanks for linking to this piece, I found it very interesting.

It's actually quite timely for me: Reading stories of the everyday frustrations faced by these people is a good companion to a book I'm reading at the moment, China's Second Continent, about the spread of Chinese citizens throughout Africa. The author, French, speaks Mandarin and the book is essentially a series of anecdotes/encounters with Chinese people working in different African countries.

The people he speaks with are surprisingly frank about what attracted them to Africa; and it's many of the frustrations voiced in this article. The heavy-handedness of the lumbering CCP and their insistence on saccharine fairy tales directly contradicted by everyday life for Chinese people - and their naked fear and attempts at control - are a big one. The corruption also came up a lot. Moving to freaking Sierra Leone because of the corruption back home is quite telling.

I would have liked to hear some female voices in this piece - I realise it's painting the phenomenon as primarily male, but I would be interested to see in what commonalities and differences a young Chinese woman experiences.

I would be cautious in trying to tie this phenomenon into what's happening in the US, for example. Whilst there may be some superfical similarities, the forces and history pushing on young Chinese are quite unique. This is relevant, timely and interesting without needing to tie into a global shift.
posted by smoke at 4:54 PM on April 17, 2017 [9 favorites]

> did that really happen in the west to great effect?

Nope. At least, not in the Gamergate way -- it was more of a thing in the 90s, a kind of sequel to the D&D panics. But for self-identified videogame enthusiasts in the West, the "persecuted gamer" remains a compelling narrative.
posted by postcommunism at 4:55 PM on April 17, 2017

You probably need a truckload of caveats if you want to draw direct parallels between Diaosi culture and Western social ailments -- the anxiety about elder care alone is hugely different than what we see in the US/Europe -- but...

One other substantial difference I note, taking the OP article at face value, is that the population gender disparity is real and an actual consequence of government policy, as opposed to an absence of patriarchy-promised damsels throwing themselves at your feet being blamed on the insidious nature of all women and everything having to do with them. (Not that there isn't sexism in Chinese society, but the article is not attributing an abnormal amount of sexism to the Diaosi... making the absence of female voices which smoke mentions all the more unfortunate.)
posted by XMLicious at 4:59 PM on April 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

You can't tell people they have to engage in economically productive activities if there's nothing in it for them. If these guys aren't going to make a salary that lets them live the way they want to, why should they focus on work or studying instead of playing video games? They get the same outcome from both, but the video games are more fun.
posted by Anne Neville at 5:21 PM on April 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm increasingly frustrated with the peaceful centrist left for not taking this threat seriously and just laughing it off.

While I think your analysis is broadly correct, it isn't clear to me what the "peaceful centrist left" should be doing more of: more talking about the threat, more online confontation, more physical confrontation? The "centrist left" is in a bind here. OTOH, it's fun to punch Nazis; it's good to punch Nazis; Nazis shoud be punched. OTOH, the chances of building any kind of broad-based movement diminish considerably when riots start to look like the inevitable outcome of every gathering.

Same as it ever was: figure out how to keep people from joining extremist/nihilist cults and you'll have done the world a great service.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:18 PM on April 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

> Whilst there may be some superfical similarities, the forces and history pushing on young Chinese are quite unique.

Ethnic nationalism came to mind. Ethnic nationalism is a cornerstone of the Western alt-right and the emotional engine behind their fantasized/threatened/actual violence, but it seems like a moot point in the OP. Whether that's because a single national ethnicity is more taken for granted in China or just because they don't don't share the history of negotiating racial identity and purity I couldn't say. But it's a somewhat heartening difference.

On the other hand, in common seem to be failures of traditional social success and especially of traditional masculinity -- and what is alt-right racism, really, if not outraged masculinity?
posted by postcommunism at 6:42 PM on April 17, 2017

I am guessing the article didn't get into ethnic nationalism or give voice to women because the author was a foreigner and his subject was a man and they both like video games. The personal experiences he uses to color the research (or drive the research) seem to be pretty dated and I think really push a connection to gaming that might in reality be only tangential. It really was jarring to read about CS, Worlds of Warcraft and internet bars as if they are still so dominant. I would argue that women, ethnic nationalism and smart phone social media are much more important aspects of the wealth disparity in China than gaming.
posted by wobumingbai at 11:36 PM on April 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

Hu you calling a loser?

Oh, right. Never mind.
posted by some loser at 6:41 AM on April 18, 2017

Of all the loves I have won and have lost,
There was one love I should never have crossed
She was a girl in 1.3 billion, my friend,
I should have known she'd yíngdé in the end
Wǒ shì daiosi -- and I lost somebody near to me,
Wǒ shì diaosi -- and I'm not what I appear to be . . .
posted by Herodios at 7:29 AM on April 18, 2017

But for self-identified videogame enthusiasts in the West, the "persecuted gamer" remains a compelling narrative.

Eh. It's more of an institutional belief rather than any sort of actual reality, though, much in the same way that techies still like to play the "ostracized nerd" card. Of course, female gamers most definitely have claim to being "persecuted gamers", though the persecution seems to come from other (male) gamers.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:34 PM on April 18, 2017

I've just realized that a comment I wrote yesterday, trying to suggest that it might be kind of racist to associate a widespread Chinese social phenomenon with real-world extreme violence when no such association was made in the OP, was silently deleted while the response to the comment was left in place.

It may have been my fault because I conveyed this by using what I thought to be a very famous quote by an American general commanding the invasion of Vietnam, about supposedly-inherent violence and savage disregard for human life in the East and as an element of Eastern philosophy. So, I may not have been explicit enough.

There has been much discussion in recent years on MeFi about people of color and other minorities feeling reluctant about bringing up racism in threads because of push-back against it. So I may be completely wrong, but I think it should not go unsaid that there might be at least a little bit of racism going on here, to either immediately name this Diaosi thing to be a case of incipient violence or declare it merely the Chinese version of a Western phenomenon.
posted by XMLicious at 12:53 PM on April 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

Large populations of unemployed, disgruntled, socially maladjusted, hopeless young men is to me a worry no matter what country it happens in. The phenomenon in the States seems to predate the one in China, and we've seen toxic effects of it here. Diaosi might not be 1:1 with NEET but they certainly resemble each other. I'm also a person of color, so.
posted by Apocryphon at 4:23 PM on April 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

The OP article doesn't say anything about unemployment—in fact the Beijing University report characterized Diaosi as people who "work in the agricultural, service, or pharmaceutical sectors".

So much of the discussion in this thread has seemed to involve ignoring almost everything the article actually says and obsessively trying to hammer the square peg of some other stereotype into the subject.

You could say "well, being on the lower end of the income spectrum is kind of like being unemployed" but if you keep having to revise your definition of how these things supposedly resemble each other, maybe the desire to reduce them to facets of some broader thing is actually impairing the attempt to understand what the Diaosi phenomenon is.
posted by XMLicious at 5:13 PM on April 18, 2017 [6 favorites]

If you swap "unemployed" with "unemployed/underemployed", the same argument holds. The article is specifically about men with seemingly poor prospects compared to previous generations, unable to purchase property- or even a vehicle- and aspire to the family life of their parents. Doesn't seem far off from the angst of Western Gen Y to me. The angst of millennials throughout much of the developed world, really.

I've said before that this is certainly a localized variant of the same overall trend. I've also mentioned that it's quite possible that diaosi won't react to modernity with the same political radicalization as fellow travelers in other nations. But if you take the article at its word, the same three factors- masculinity, technology, and class- are echoed in all of these subcultures to some degree. Even across the article's admittedly amorphous descriptions of different definitions for diaosi.

I was not saying diaosi are worrying because they are exotic. I am saying they are worrying because they are universal.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:30 PM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

What's described is not underemployment by the conventional definition . Ability to buy a house etc is not underemployment.

I have been disappointed at how many people in this thread refuse to discuss this article in its culturally specific context. Ffs, male a thread about underemployment and young men in US if you want to talk about it.

China is not the US. What's happening there is very interesting and not part of what's happening in the states.
posted by smoke at 5:39 PM on April 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

I think the ignorance you point out is rooted in the easy assumption that the subjects of the article must be on the verge of horrific violence because they're male. Never mind that this claim is not borne out by anything in the article. I'd also note that perpetually wringing our hands at the "threat" these men pose makes it easier to avoid sympathizing or understanding the real and often quotidian frustrations they deal with in the OP, of seeing them as individuals.

The legacy of female infanticide (and its justifications) is a horror in its own right.
posted by callistus at 6:11 PM on April 18, 2017

The article is specifically about men with seemingly poor prospects compared to previous generations, unable to purchase property- or even a vehicle- and aspire to the family life of their parents.

I don't even know what to say at this point.
Talk with nearly any young Chinese man born in the 1980s and they will tell you that in contrast to their parents who likely spent their youth on communal farms harvesting produce or making cheap state-owned liquor in Communist factories, they received a world-class education and inherited an economy that had grown by around 10% per year for nearly 35 years, one of the fastest in history. The jobs that the self-defined Diaosi hold today did not even exist a generation ago.
Unable to purchase a vehicle, like their parents laboring during the Communist Cultural Revolution and its aftermath could? Deng Xiaoping, who attained power after Mao in the late 70s, promised "a Flying Pigeon in every household". As in, a bicycle.

The contrasts about buying property and vehicles in the article are to their Gao Fu Shuai peers, not their parents.

This is its own thing, not the Chinese reflection of something happening in other places.
posted by XMLicious at 6:13 PM on April 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

Ethnographing commentator, Christina Xu, comments they're more akin to '90s slackers (and not as extreme as hikkis): "To me, the rise of "diaosi" is about the natural limits of material aspirations—there's not enough to go around + having stuff isn't enough. It's the same exact cultural weather pattern that brought us Freaks & Geeks and that whole school of humor (with a lot less weed)."

Chublic Opinion covers Chinese online forum culture in "Subculture Hegemony", in which netizens of Chinese keyword-based online forum Diba launch a nationalist online campaign over a Taiwanese pop star in early 2016, and describes diaosi as fairly good-natured in self-mocking and the internet campaign as mostly harmless:
Rather than avoiding a label like this, participants, mainly young males, embrace it proudly. Furthermore, they invented a host of terms applying to the opposite social class, such as “Gaofushuai” (“tall, rich, good-looking”), with very little resentment embedded in them. Instead, self-branded “Diaosis” use them with humorous resignation, adopting a posture of self-disarming capitulation. Both “Diaosi” and “Gaofushuai”, among other Diba-originated words, have find their place in modern Chinese language, a sign of the subculture’s ability to reciprocate its influence to the parent culture.


Some people on the mainland were repulsed by the shallowness of the message sent by the young patriots. Others laughed at their lack of erudition. By reciting textbooks and acting as if they were “educating” the other side, theirs was essentially a message of rejection: refusing to understand the aspects of the Taiwan society that are simply alien to a mainland mind.


Conservatives were also busy helping the millennials fend off attacks from the liberals, who immediately dismissed the kids as online “Red Guards”. Unfortunately, the liberals, who are traditionally more internet savvy than their rivals on the left, seemed to be as confused this time. Red Guard is clearly a misnomer: there is no indication that those youngsters are violent fanatics. So is “little pink”, the supposedly derogatory term coined by the liberals to describe what they consider as “mildly and playfully red”.


Interestingly, this is hardly the first time that the Diba crowd collectively expressed their political stance through post bombardment. But their previous feats were obscured by the fact that they happened largely within the underground world of subcultures. A review of the ten-plus-year history of the forum shows that at least in 11 previous cases, they “carpet bombed” other forums for views they did not approve. Nationalism, albeit an unsophisticated version, underlines 4 (out of the 11) such campaigns. In one case, they paralyzed a Tieba dedicated to a Taiwanese pop star for her disrespect of Nanjing massacre victims; in another, they overwhelmed a Korean singer’s forum because he allegedly beat up a Chinese pregnant woman. One analysis attributes this spontaneous airing of nationalism with the forum’s soccer origin. It is said that modern sports, particularly soccer, is closely associated with nationalistic sentiments. As Orwell once famously put, “There cannot be much doubt that the whole thing is bound up with the rise of nationalism — that is, with the lunatic modern habit of identifying oneself with large power units and seeing everything in terms of competitive prestige.”
Kaiser Kuo writes in "Do we really need to worry so much about Chinese nationalism?" that Chinese nationalism is essentially "not comparable in any meaningful way to what we’ve witnessed in recent years in Russia, in India, in Hungary or Poland, in Greece — or even, arguably, in Trump’s United States. It simply lacks that virulence." And- I'll spare you all more block quotes- that while diaosi are "men of ressentiment", and share many characteristics with populist nationalists- 'misogynistic, opposed to so-called “political correctness,” intolerant, and admiring of authoritarianism' - nationalism in China lacks the potency of other countries, since it has no overarching movement or ideology, its sentiments has been channeled by the CCP to Party-approved projects, the economic boom saps anger of its power, and culturally the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution and everything that came before it got rid of the idea of traditionalism with which to build a nationalist project upon (except, he notes, ironically for the neo-Maoists).

Ah, today's mixed up youth.
posted by Apocryphon at 6:24 PM on April 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

but I think it should not go unsaid that there might be at least a little bit of racism going on here, to either immediately name this Diaosi thing to be a case of incipient violence or declare it merely the Chinese version of a Western phenomenon.

I've been re-reading this thread, and my statements and opinions and parts of them could be equally problematic or misconstrued.

I want to follow up and re-affirm that my tangential, related and orthogonal fears aren't racial or even overtly nationalistic. I'm not afraid of Diaosi and the many different and complex variations around the world, and I'm not afraid of China as a people.

The root of my fears is the very generalized, global power of feeling powerless and loneliness and how these frustrations have generally lead to some pretty terrible things and moments in history.

And when large segments of any given society start identifying by the nickname "stray pube" there's something horribly wrong and my heart hurts. I feel the same way about the unactualized or realized persons of all identities struggling with what are social and psychological problems.

The part that I fear isn't racial, or the individuals that are hungry for social community, for health personal fulfillment in their lives.

It's the people who would use and harness mass hunger and helplessness for war that I actually fear.
posted by loquacious at 7:55 PM on April 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


These men aren't really disenfranchised. I think that is where this phenomenon aligns with those of men in Japan and the West. These men are by all means relatively successful. They aren't destitute, at least. I would call poor people without a dry home in rainfall disenfranchised.

What these men don't have is social capital, and a particularly nasty kind. I think that is what we are experiencing here in North America and Europe. Young men learn through ambient popular culture and the common values of older generations that controlling women, dominating your social subordinates, and selfishness are true power. These are the things that they lack, and subsequently, why they resent others.

You work hard, you get a decent job and a clean apartment. You have friends, maybe even a girlfriend. You can afford to participate in your hobbies and you derive enjoyment from it. That isn't enough. It's not power. It's not what society tells you will make you a man. You are comfortable but unimportant.

That is the problem. We need to deprogram these men.
posted by constantinescharity at 11:25 AM on April 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I use terms like disenfranchised or underemployed in this conversation, I essentially mean petit bourgeois. Maybe not under strict Marxist economic definitions of the term, but the general social outlook of a dispirited, dissatisfied middle class-types that have some but not enough. Your emphasis on social capital seems to be the right approach.

Based on my further readings, I was hasty to label the diaosi as a potential force for great calamity- though if things suddenly were to go belly-up in China, some of them seem like likely foot soldiers for such a movement- but there's definitely commonalities between them and western NEETs and Japanese hikkis in terms of social alienation related to consumerism. And the escape to virtual spaces, waging conflicts in multiplayer video games or online tomfoolery.

Elsewhere, one article equates diaosi to chavs, and another mentions the term in the context of a different hipster subculture - wenyi qingnian - so there's probably a lot of variation involved. If most diaosi are more like Gen X slackers than /pol/ posters then it sounds like they're pretty chill.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:55 AM on April 19, 2017 [4 favorites]

If the conclusion in the OP pull quote from Analysys International (a marketing consultancy, it sounds like? "A leading Internet based provider of business information about technology" according to their press releases) is correct that there are upwards of half a billion people who self-identify as Diaosi, some people who describe themselves this way (or did in 2013 at least) are probably going to be involved in just about anything that happens in China, calamitous or otherwise.

The same report appears to be described in a 2014 Economist article thusly:
Last year Analysys International, a research company in Beijing, asked a broad cross-section of office workers if they saw themselves as diaosi. More than 90% of programmers and journalists and about 80% of food and service industry and marketing workers said they did. Those surveyed who least identified with being losers were civil servants, working for the government or the Communist Party.
As loquacious points out it's a bit weird to call yourself a "stray pube" but maybe the English term "underdog" seems strange in a similar way to speakers of some other languages, that someone would refer to themselves as a dog.
posted by XMLicious at 2:07 PM on April 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think the original article and many others are heavily colored by the biases that the authors bring with them. Unfortunately, many English language explorations of modern Chinese culture are written by people from similar demographic backgrounds. Many times I think I learn more about the authors than their subjects when reading them. The above point about the difference in attitude toward slang in different cultures is excellent. The word dog when used to describe people in China can actually be positive or negative depending on where you are in China. I would equate the Diaosi phenomenon to the early somethingawful goon squad: primarily in it for the laughs and many identifying with the term but not really active about it. The connection to online gaming I think is really tenuous. I wonder how many answered that they were online gamers were actually referring to Chinese versions of candy crush, FarmVille, etc...

Finally Kaiser Kuo is probably the most trustworthy author linked in this thread in my opinion. He too has biases but is fairly forward in pointing them out.
posted by wobumingbai at 3:16 PM on April 19, 2017 [5 favorites]

The curious rise of the ‘white left’ as a Chinese internet insult
If you look at any thread about Trump, Islam or immigration on a Chinese social media platform these days, it’s impossible to avoid encountering the term baizuo, or literally, the ‘white left’. It first emerged about two years ago, and yet has quickly become one of the most popular derogatory descriptions for Chinese netizens to discredit their opponents in online debates.


Although the emphasis varies, baizuo is used generally to describe those who “only care about topics such as immigration, minorities, LGBT and the environment” and “have no sense of real problems in the real world”; they are hypocritical humanitarians who advocate for peace and equality only to “satisfy their own feeling of moral superiority”; they are “obsessed with political correctness” to the extent that they “tolerate backwards Islamic values for the sake of multiculturalism”; they believe in the welfare state that “benefits only the idle and the free riders”; they are the “ignorant and arrogant westerners” who “pity the rest of the world and think they are saviours”.

Apart from some anti-hegemonic sentiments, the connotations of ‘white left’ in the Chinese context clearly resemble terms such as ‘regressive liberals’ or ‘libtards’ in the United States. In a way the demonization of the ‘white left’ in Chinese social media may also reflect the resurgence of right-wing populism globally.

However, Chinese netizens’ fierce attacks against the ‘white left’ seem curiously devoid of experiential motivation, since all these problems that conservatives in the west are concerned about – immigration, multiculturalism, minority rights, and affirmative actions – are largely unknown to Chinese society. This is not to say that discrimination against women and ethnic, religious and sexual minorities do not exist in China. They are no less serious or structural here than in any other societies. But cultural and identity politics has never gained much salience as political issues under an authoritarian regime, although feminist activists have received increased attention recently. Overall, there has been ‘too little’, rather than ‘too much’ political correctness as perceived by conservatives in the west.
Another trend to examine.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:34 AM on May 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older Happy Birthday, Madame Bovary   |   My first love will always be Collembola Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments