Chinese American
November 24, 2020 2:08 PM   Subscribe

While most Chinese Americans vote Democrat, right-wing Chinese Americans have been spreading conspiracy theories and disinformation among Chinese-language speakers (Foreign Policy), aided in part by Steve Bannon (NYT). Shen Lu reports how sites like Chinese American and North America Headlines are starting to fight back; what happens when you’re kicked off Weibo; and the new wave of Chinese-language progressive podcasts. posted by adrianhon (18 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I’ve been keeping an eye on /r/conservative in a “know thine enemy” capacity, and one thing that surprised me is how frequently their upvoted news stories comes from the Epoch Times, which apparently now has a video production wing complete with Fox News-looking white guy anchors who will tell you all about the latest nefarious Democrat attacks on Trump. The Epoch Times is the mouthpiece of Falun Gong, and I suspect this latest push into the alt-right mediascape is part of the Guo Wengui / Steve Bannon unholy alliance. This stuff is received completely uncritically by the /r/conservative crowd.

Someone near and dear to me is a Chinese immigrant who has been teetering on the edge of becoming a Republican. I got to see in real time how fast English language disinformation about fictitious voting irregularities gets translated into Chinese and posted to Chinese expat forums like 6park and mitbbs. It wouldn’t hurt for Democrats to do some pandering to this community. They feel ignored and taken for granted. Affirmative action is a huge issue that the far right has successfully used as a wedge to turn aspirational Asian immigrants against BLM and social justice, and I think this is a tragedy that Democrats could have mitigated if they paid more attention.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 3:09 PM on November 24, 2020 [19 favorites]

A month ago, free copies of Epoch Times were distributed to every household in my area. (I assume all across Canada, but don't know for certain.) I was surprised to see headlines advocating an end to Covid lockdowns, which runs across the grain in Canada and right now sounds pretty stupid. There was a column by Conrad Black, stories about Chinese hostile intent, and support for a variety of backwards-Right causes (e.g., criminalize marijuana, end the emasculation of boys, bring back chivalry, and so on). Reading it, I gained some understanding of why China hates Falun Gong.
posted by CCBC at 3:52 PM on November 24, 2020 [7 favorites]

Bannon's not too busy, what with his right-wing Catholic "academy," or his propaganda podcast, or his interview obligations, or even his own trial?
(Further investigation into that acid-etched Jacuzzi [or the spousal abuse before that] could've ended to this guy's participation in various schemes years ago.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:36 PM on November 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

... yeah. This is a thing that is happening in my family, and my brother is not having a lot of luck counteracting the misinformation my sister-in-law is picking up.
posted by suelac at 5:11 PM on November 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

As I mentioned on MeFi back in April (1, 2), the Taiwanese were aligning themselves with Trump. No amount of "let's not discuss this where the whites can see us!" would prevent this inconvenient fact from affecting the Chinese American political life.

In the same vein, many Hong Kong people support Trump, regardless of Western commentary saying it's misguided. The pro-democracy activists twisted themselves into knots between supporting BLM, their soulmate in theory, and enjoying Republican support, their backer in practice.

Political refugees from mainland China celebrated the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I can't bring myself to look up those words again. They genuinely thought she was the enemy of democracy, justice, and America. At least one high-profile Tiananmen survivor publicly endorsed Trump for a second term solely to punch China in the face.

You can never fully understand the Trumpian bullshit in the Chinese American space until you have some grasp on these major driving forces.

Apple Daily was widely lauded in Hong Kong and Taiwan for standing up to China. Apple Daily was involved in the Hunter Biden fake scandal that could have helped Trump win. This is the reality.
posted by fatehunter at 7:02 PM on November 24, 2020 [15 favorites]

The Cold War, like so many of the frozen conflicts that have tragically thawed themselves this year, never ended for many peoples. See Cuban-American and Venezuelan-American voters in Florida. Oppression and aggression can be intersectional.
posted by Apocryphon at 7:09 PM on November 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

Yep. They call AOC a 'white left'. Another insult is 'Madonna heart', as in, 'your support of BLM is just an empty display of your Madonna heart.' In their lexicon, a 'open villain' (Trump) is preferable to a 'fake nice person' (Hilary Clinton, for one.)

Somehow Trump's attempt to ban Wechat didn't diminish him in the eyes of those who happily repost pro-Trump articles in their Wechat Moments.

I've given up on people.
posted by of strange foe at 8:11 AM on November 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

This is really fascinating. Thanks for posting.

Always good to have one more thing to worry about, I guess.
posted by Mchelly at 9:17 AM on November 25, 2020

Reading it, I gained some understanding of why China hates Falun Gong.

That's a terrible takeaway. The Chinese government doesn't hate Falun Gong because Falun Gong is anti-Black in the US. They hate Falun Gong because it threatens their hegemony and because the CCP brooks no threats to their absolute, often inhuman control over China.

Kneejerk takes like this are precisely the same mechanism that cause Chinese dissidents to take pro-Trump positions out of some enemy-of-my-enemy calculus. Blindly supporting terrible people just because they hate your enemy does nobody any good.
posted by splitpeasoup at 9:20 AM on November 25, 2020 [12 favorites]

I've given up on people.

My takeaway of the past two decades is that cognitive dissonance reigns supreme, and the internet deluges everyone with information, forcing us all into different filter bubbles, which explains why polarizing norms-breaking characters like Trump are able to effortlessly become projections for people's fears- or hopes. They are Rorschach tests constructed from the overload of information, misinformation, disinformation, and strong emotions. Clouds of Sturm und Drang.

So here's the view away from the diaspora, in China itself:

The Atlantic: China Loves Trump (2018)
But just as trump is different things to different Americans—a conservative, a populist, a strongman, a clown—so, too, is he different things to different Chinese. Notably, even as Beijing delights in outwitting Trump on the global stage, many Chinese look upon the American president with sincere admiration. In recent months, I’ve heard from Chinese Trump fans of diverse backgrounds: a journalist, a rural neo-Maoist, an accomplished academic, a highly paid programmer. One pajama-clad pensioner accosted me on the street to inform me that every night he saluted a portrait of Trump he had on his wall, along with images of Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Einstein.
Sounds like ardent pro-CPC types can also be pro-Trump.
This helps explain why a portion of pro-Trump sentiment in China comes from a surprising point on the political spectrum: the nationalist extreme left, an odd ally for the capitalist billionaire. Trump’s populist rhetoric and imprecations of the global elite have crossover appeal for Mao nostalgists such as Zhang Hongliang, a firebrand writer known as the “Red Tank Driver.” As he wrote on his Weibo social-media account, “In the history of mankind, only two people have proposed that the masses must overthrow the social establishment, one is Mao Zedong, the other is Trump.”
And a more straightforward explanation:
Whether eliciting respect or scorn, Trump makes a certain intuitive sense in China. In fact, he might make more sense to the Chinese than he does to much of Washington: His unabashed nationalism; rough-hewn arriviste manners; and unapologetic mingling of family, business, and politics make him akin to some newly minted provincial tycoon. In this respect he is less shocking or threatening than commonplace: He’s simply what Chinese call a tuhao, another bumptious billionaire.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:31 AM on November 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

It wouldn’t hurt for Democrats to do some pandering to this community. They feel ignored and taken for granted.

I would like to get the Chinese immigrant community on our side too, but I’m stuck on how. As you can see, the (worst of their) values overlap with the Republicans’: selfishness, closing the door behind you, people needing to “earn” their keep. They don’t like hearing about victims.

Frankly, social justice is just not that important to many Chinese immigrants. Depending on where they live, some older Chinese immigrants can live for years in the U.S. without ever talking to a Latino or Black person.
posted by ichomp at 11:33 AM on November 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Agreed and I'm thankful for this thread; ideological ammo I can use to counter the crap my wife picks up on WeChat.
posted by Rash at 1:10 PM on November 25, 2020

The Chinese government doesn't hate Falun Gong because Falun Gong is anti-Black in the US. They hate Falun Gong because it threatens their hegemony and because the CCP brooks no threats to their absolute, often inhuman control over China

Also, they’re a cryptofascist authoritarian cult. Even Hitler thought Stalin was bad news.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:42 PM on November 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

This guy, a Chinese immigrant who says very hateful things about other immigrants, is my colleague at a college that is overwhelmingly Black and brown, with many immigrants and children of immigrants.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:53 AM on November 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

It's completely infuriating. My overseas friends and I have watched HK social media users become Trump super fans regurgitating the most outlandish conspiracy theories about millions of fake votes, and no amount of link posting/civil discussion changed that (pretty difficult when they reject all non-rightwing media and factchecking sites) - we just got called libtards. It's not like anyone knew much about the US electoral system before October anyways and everybody's suddenly experts! The hubbub has died down but I think people still believe that shit.

Last straw was finding out this weekend my mum had become a Trumpie. She actually got quite hostile when I challenged her and now the topic's off the table.
posted by monocot at 7:49 PM on November 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Although we should (or I try to) also be mindful at the same time this fervent support/beliefs amongst people in Asia are stemming from intense anxiety about the more 'accommodating' approach that they believe Biden will take. People feel that Biden/the US will be overly complacent about dealing with what is an existential threat for them.
posted by monocot at 2:08 PM on November 30, 2020

If we're going to talk about Asia in general, there was a pro-Trump anti-alleged voter fraud march in Tokyo a few days ago. Mostly Japanese, but some Chinese members of the Falun Gong present as well.
posted by Apocryphon at 5:42 PM on November 30, 2020

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