Thirty-two years ago, tens of thousands of young people raised their voices in Tiananmen Square for their ideals, demonstrating and protesting for dozens of days before being violently suppressed. 32 years later, China has undergone radical changes, the economy has taken off at a rapid pace, but freedom of expression has suffered an unprecedented crackdown, the June Fourth Incident is no longer mentioned, and the online world seems to have become a “pinko” world. The Internet world seems to have become a world of “pinkies. The “Little Pink” is a synonym for a group of young people who have emerged on the Chinese Internet in recent years to defend China’s way of ruling and discourse, and to be vigilant and rebellious against Western values. They consider themselves to be on a mission to defend the sovereignty and dignity of the motherland and to resolutely defend the Chinese government’s “war-wolf diplomacy. Although several analysts do not believe that the Pinkies are representative of mainstream youth in China today, they are certainly a notable force on the rise in the online world.
The June 4 Incident is no longer talked about in China
Gao Mei and Li Liang were not yet born in the early hours of June 4, 1989, when the tens of thousands of students and people who had occupied Tiananmen Square for nearly 50 days were subjected to a sudden and violent crackdown.
Thirty-two years later, China has changed dramatically, leaping to become the world’s second largest economy.
In the past 32 years, China’s leaders, from Jiang Zemin to Hu Jintao to Xi Jinping, have continued to enforce the gag order on the Tiananmen Square incident, and discussions of the June 4 Movement and the forceful crackdown have been completely blocked from all official media and social media platforms. Every year around June 4, internet administrators often work overtime to delete posts on major social media platforms and forums in order to avoid any possibility of evoking memories of that period in history.
Wang Dan, a student leader for eight or nine years and now living in the United States, does not believe that Chinese people today have completely forgotten June 4. He told Voice of America, “Most young students are aware of the June 4 incident. What he may know is misinformation, information instilled by the government, he may not know clearly, but you say people who are completely unaware that something happened in China in 1989, I think it’s a minority.”
Gao Mei (a pseudonym) is one of the majority of young people who Wang Dan says know about June 4.
Gao Mei was born in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, in 1992. As an only child, she grew up with excellent grades and completed her undergraduate degree in Hong Kong before moving to the United States to earn a master’s degree in international politics at a university in New York.
As a student in Hong Kong, Gao Mei was able to browse the Internet without censorship in mainland China, saw the documentary “Tank Man” about June 4, and discussed with her parents and teachers the historical event that changed a generation of Chinese youth.
Gao Mei does not believe that violent repression is the right solution, and she feels that in some cases the military is not able to control behavior rationally. She told Voice of America, “When you have a riot, your people are already mixed with the mob, and how do you differentiate. Military technology is not the same now as it was then, but probably in the original time, [violent repression] was also a last resort.”
Gomez considers herself a moderate pinko. To her, pinky is synonymous with the younger generation of patriots in mainland China. “If I hear the word pinky, I think it means that I like Chinese culture more, and then a little bit to the left, and then more supportive of the current regime or leadership, and then other social security or whatever, I think it is quite supportive. I think our generation of young people should be more patriotic.”
The original source of the word “pink” is explained by Baidu and Wikipedia: the name “pink” first appeared in the Jinjiang Literature City forum, from the site’s pink color scheme and the high proportion of female users. At first it was sexist and used to describe young women with simple minds and impulsive personalities. Pinky later became a neutral term and now refers to young nationalists in China who are active on the Internet and are highly aligned with the official attitude of the Chinese government.
“Maybe at the beginning, say five years ago, eight years ago, nationalists might still be an object of ridicule by many people, but in the past few years it has been increasingly seen that the official media is encouraging this kind of nationalist expression when all other voices have been eliminated,” Fangcheng, an assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, told the Voice of America.
The “Dibao March” and the Rise of Pinky
In late 2015, Taiwanese artist Zhou Ziyu waved the Republic of China flag during a variety show in South Korea, triggering anti-Taiwan independence sentiment and boycotts among mainland netizens, who were later mocked by Taiwan’s Sanli News for “breaking the glass hearts of strong nationalists again,” sparking further discontent. On the night of January 20, 2016, at the suggestion of the “Li Yi Bar” (also known as Di Bar) online forum, a group of mainland netizens used wall climbing tools to flock to Facebook, leaving numerous messages and using emoticons on Sanli News’ homepage, Apple Daily’s homepage, and Tsai’s personal homepage. According to statistics, the number of Facebook messages on Sanli News that night was more than the usual number of messages in a year.
During this incident, many Internet users emerged in mainland China who defended the Chinese government and criticized the “Taiwan independence activists” on social media, with a large proportion of young people, especially men, skilled in using the Internet. They have gradually inherited the label of “pinko” and are becoming well known.
Li Liang (a pseudonym), who was born in Zibo, Shandong Province in 1998, was part of the army that went over the wall. He has also left messages under Tsai’s Twitter account, which he sees as a way to express his patriotism.
Li Liang told the Voice of America, “Back then, the emperor’s bar went out because we did not have the right to speak in our own hands. We could only prove our patriotism and strength in a certain area through some spontaneous actions of the people.”
After studying electrical engineering for four years, Li Liang is now about to graduate from university with a bachelor’s degree and has found a job in a high-tech company in Shandong. He occasionally goes over the wall to read foreign media reports on major events, but in his mind, the most credible ones are Xinhua News Agency and CCTV.
Like Gao Mei, Li Liang doesn’t mind being called a pinky: “Pinky was once a derogatory term we used to describe people who were brainlessly patriotic and called him a pinky, but nowadays, it’s not so deliberately derogatory to look at the word. So we generally don’t care anymore. Because for everyone, patriotism is inevitable for the citizens of every country.”
Official support and encouragement for the pinkie community
In April 2016, Chinese actress and director Zhao Wei, while filming the movie “No Other Love,” was pointed out by netizens that the movie’s lead actor, Taiwanese actor Dai Lijin, had participated in the “Sunflower Movement,” the “Anti-Curriculum Movement “He was suspected of being a Taiwan independence activist. An army of pinkies swept through the microblogging platforms of Zhao Wei and Dai Lijin, demanding clarification and apology. The film makers denied this, but it did not calm things down.
On July 6, the official microblog of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League released a long article, “‘No Other Love’ why it was universally condemned by netizens for boycotting,” illustrating dozens of pages and digging up Dai Liren’s past support for the Occupy Central Movement in Hong Kong and the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan The “black history” encourages netizens to “look not at what he said, but at what he did”.
Afterwards, the official microblogs of the “Ziguangge” magazine of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and the “National Research Center for Cultural Security and Ideological Construction” forwarded the article, continuing the hot debate on the topic and topping the public opinion index for 10 days. The public opinion index topped the list for ten days. A large number of netizens criticized the lead actor, Dai Liren, for “coming to the mainland to make money even though he sang a contradictory tune”, until July 15, when the film’s cast was pressured to issue an apology and replace the film’s lead actor, Dai Liren. The campaign was won by Pinky with the full support of the officials.
Yang Jianli, who returned to China from the United States 32 years ago to join the student movement, witnessed the violent crackdown in Tiananmen Square. Now he is back in the United States as the founder of Citizen Power. He has observed the surge of nationalist sentiment in China, but does not believe that the pinkos are representative of the mainstream younger generation.
Yang told Voice of America, “Many people say that the pinko phenomenon in China is very serious, and it is very serious, but don’t forget that the current information environment in China only allows the pinko voices to come out, and we can’t see or hear the other voices. So in the end, what is the ratio of the little pink and those voices we can’t hear, no one can make a prediction.”
2019 is full of anniversaries of various historical events in China. patriotic fervor jumped to its peak with the grand military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the country on Oct. 1. According to CCTV, there were more than 50 Weibo-related topics with over 100 million readers on October 1, including #NationalDayParade with 7.65 billion readers, according to CCTV. Before that, Hong Kong people have been insisting on the “anti-China” parade for several months, which made many young people on the mainland feel angry and incomprehensible, shouting to give Hong Kong people a lesson in patriotism, and the ranks of the pinkies on the Internet have never been bigger. The CCTV news broadcast specifically praised the “rice circle girls”, “Di bar netizens” and “overseas students”, saying that they “have gathered into a powerful positive They have “gathered a strong positive energy to protect and support Hong Kong”.
Li Liang described his mood when watching the parade: “For us Chinese, seeing the strength of our country’s weaponry and national defense force means that we are capable of defending our country and the common interests of our nationals from infringement, so it creates a feeling of pride.”
The tightening of speech space and unprecedented nationalism
In Wang Dan’s view, the emergence of the pinkies is normal: “The current generation of pinkies, they grew up in an environment that did not experience the Cultural Revolution. They have not experienced the June 4 Incident, and they are experiencing the era of China’s economic growth. So what they see is really an aspect of the country’s progress. At least in their view, it is an aspect of progress. So of course they love this country and support this party. From this point of view, I think it is completely understandable. They grew up in a different environment than we did.”
The tightening of the space for speech is not something that has just happened in the last few years; the vestiges of the outspokenness that existed in the 1980s fell away after June 4 with the Communist Party’s post-accusation. Yang Jianli says, “The biggest harm of June Fourth was that it killed idealism. People became very cynical.” The rise of the Internet at the beginning of the 21st century had bred a large number of predecessors of self-media, and although blogs, BBS, forums and other forums for the exchange of ideas were popular for a while, they could not escape the fate of being shut down and taken down, and in recent years, the popular social media platforms such as microblogs and weibo have been censored and blocked.
In the past few years, Western accusations against China have increased in the wake of the Chinese government’s detention of Uighurs in Xinjiang and its crackdown on the Hong Kong protest movement, as well as the new epidemic sweeping the world. The Chinese government has countered with tough “wolf diplomacy,” and in the domestic public opinion space has focused on criticizing the Western mainstream media for its “unfair coverage” of China.
As a moderate pinko, Gao Mei said she does not go on the Internet to shout and scream, but thinks the West is stretching its hands too far in China’s affairs. She said: “In our country, because of the political system, which is commonly known as the one-party system, sometimes it may be at the expense of democracy, but it just improves efficiency. This system in the West is indeed democratic, but it is easy to pull the wool over the eyes and inefficient. I think the epidemic control is a perfect example.”
Li Liang expressed his full support for the Chinese government’s “war wolf diplomacy”: “Because the right to speak in the country is based on the promotion of strength. If we are not strong enough, we will not have the so-called war wolf diplomacy today …… So I very much hope that our national news media can take a tough approach to express our own position and opinion in the face of public opinion in other countries in the future, and fight to regain our right to speak in the world.”
Pinky generation may not represent the future of China
As to whether the little pink group is the mainstream force of young people in China, Fang Fangcheng of the Chinese University of Hong Kong believes that most people in the world do not have a firm or obvious political stance, and the same is true of the post-1990s post-1990s in mainland China. “If we simply divide people into two sides, nationalists and liberals, I think there may indeed be more nationalists. But not to such a disproportionate extent that we see on social media now.”
Tao, who was also born in 1992, grew up thinking Chinese official propaganda was too false, jokingly describing himself as “a product of failed Communist brainwashing.” Now living in the United States, he has a YouTube channel called “Strong Nation Against Thieves” that has reached 30,000 subscribers in his spare time. He describes his program as “a self-media channel that exposes the problems in China, pursues freedom, democracy and the rule of law, and makes an effort to push the wall and democratize China.
Tao doesn’t think pinkies are the majority of young people in China. “Most people are quiet in their years, shopping, ah, entertainment, ah, and they are not that concerned about politics. These people are more representative of the mainstream”, as for the proliferation of small pink in the online world, it is the visible result of official control and guidance. And people who go over the wall to see the world, Tao thinks there are actually not many.
Tao told Voice of America that for the future of China, he is not worried about pinkies taking over the world, he is more worried about the omnipresent control of the Communist Party: “The Communist Party only allows one voice. Those younger than me, post-zero, even post-zero-five, really haven’t heard another voice. This is a very scary thing, and it’s only when this goes on that China will have no future.”
As the 32nd anniversary of June 4 approaches, Tao plans to launch his latest installment, an overview of the June 4 incident, telling people who don’t yet know the truth about what really happened that day.
Wang Dan doesn’t think it’s necessarily true that China’s younger generation won’t rebel in the future; he believes the possibility is always there. “The Chinese Communist Party has relied on two things for so many years, economic growth and nationalism, to maintain the legitimacy of its rule. But now the pillar of economic development is faltering, so it has put all its strength on maintaining stability and nationalism. Then, of course, this nationalist indoctrination and mobilization of the younger generation has been intensified. This I think is one of the profound reasons behind the little pink phenomenon in the past few years.”
On this, Li Liang and Gao Mei do not agree: they both believe they can represent the majority of young Chinese today. They also agree that China, at the moment, is in its strongest period ever, and is still developing and renewing itself and moving forward.