On the morning of US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the packed subway cars of the Shanghai Metro, usually silent, were abuzz with vitriol aimed at Pelosi. The cybersphere, too, was a hive of activity, with instant messaging chat groups full of rumors of an impending strike on Shanghai or US sanctions.
That evening, there were videos of people living in rural areas outside the city preparing first-aid kits and crowding into the village squares, worried that once the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) drills started at 10:30pm, missiles would begin to rain down.
Unskilled workers, who have limited access to information, did not for one moment believe the PLA would be able to defeat the US military, while the more nationalist “little pink” netizens felt it could at least deter the US Navy from entering the region.
After China’s “bandit army” later that evening announced it would hold military drills in Fujian Province’s Pingtan County, I had a sleepless night, worried that the stock market would experience another fall when it opened in the morning.
I had no idea that the mood had changed: It was as if the entire country had descended into a funk of doom and gloom, convinced that China was about to be destroyed. People were pouring out their thoughts and emotions on social media while the censors were sleeping.
In the online discussion forums, the “wolf warriors” were nowhere to be seen. Instead of excitement or national pride, the overriding sentiment was one of anxiety. When reality bites, it seems that the Chinese public are acutely aware of their own sense of mortality, and understand who the real boss is in this world.
I am an engineer by profession, and most of the online discussion forums that I visited that night were related to real estate. They have a distinctly middle-class flavor to them and are relatively free from the stench of “50 Cent Army” government stooges.
In the discussion forums frequented mainly by Shanghainese, the overwhelming consensus was that China’s leader was in way over his head. People were posting satirical jibes at the “little pinks” and poking fun at the hazmat-clad “big white” health officials and their draconian “zero COVID” rules and regulations.
One person wrote: “When US soldiers enter the city’s epidemic zones, will they be asked to do an on-the-spot quarantine?”
The harsh lockdowns imposed on the city have left Shanghainese seething with anger. When the government announces that it is sending soldiers to an area to provide assistance, we know this really means that they will help the “big whites” to beat up people and occupy their homes. When we were locked inside our homes, lacking medicine and food, China’s “army of sons and brothers” behaved like common thugs.
The hearts of Shanghainese are now like blocks of ice: We know that when the “bandit army” is deployed to the city, it is not to “save Shanghai,” but to suppress the population and keep them fenced in within the city.
The last thing the Shanghai government wants is angry residents running off to Beijing and annoying their “dear leader.” Even those people who prior to the lockdowns still cleaved to foolishly naive notions about the “people’s army,” have had their illusions irreversibly smashed after being left destitute and starving for two months.
Frankly, most ordinary Chinese are basically concerned with their own situation: “Liberating” Taiwan is not exactly a top priority. After all, how would annexing Taiwan materially affect their lives? What benefits would it bring to the average Chinese citizen?
Who knows whether the “communist bandits” will govern China for another 70 years or even 700 years, but as long as they hold on to power, the result will be the same: dystopian totalitarianism.
Things have gotten so bad that surrendering to the US is an appealing prospect. Even if the government that replaced the Chinese Communist Party turned out to be rotten and corrupt, at least people would have the means to throw them out.
If my fellow countrymen stopped to think about it, they would realize that supporting Taiwan’s independence and autonomy is actually in their best interest.
When I was a young child, my father often said to me: “When America trembles, the world convulses; when America sneezes, the world catches a cold.”
Even before Pelosi arrived in Taiwan, she had already shattered the party’s fabricated image of itself. During Pelosi’s visit, party cadres were reduced to squawking on the sidelines like castrated cockerels, their wings clipped and hopping around in the dirt.
It was a delicious diplomatic victory indeed, a victory worth its weight in gold — or at least five precious bowls of rice.
Zitu Kinosita is the pseudonym of a Chinese engineer who previously attended a university in Taiwan.
Translated by Edward Jones
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