“A Democracy Advocate’s Training Manual”

A few days ago we published a translation of the satirical Fifty Cents Party Training Manual. In the interest of fairness and at the request of some Anti-CNN commenters, we now bring you a translation of this, a similar sendup of democracy advocates.


First item: This egg tastes great, because it is a democratic egg.
Second item: All democratic eggs taste good, there is no such thing as a bad-tasting democratic egg.
Third item: Undemocratic eggs are definitely disgusting, because they are undemocratic eggs.

A: This egg tastes great.

B: Why does it taste so good?

A: Because it is a democratic egg.

B: Democratic eggs are definitely good?

A: Of course! Please see the second item [above].

B: So how is it that the eggs of democratic India taste bad?

A: Well…you’re making a messy comparison there.

B: But India’s eggs really do taste bad.

A: I’ve already told you, please see the second item: All democratic eggs taste good, there is no such thing as a bad-tasting democratic egg. Even if it did taste bad you can’t say it tastes bad, making comparisons with India is messy, you should make comparisons with America, remember political correctness.

B: So democratic American eggs definitely taste good?

A: Of course! Because they’re democratic eggs.

B: But democratic America also has some bad tasting eggs.

A: Please refer to the second item [above].

B: I think Chinese eggs also taste good.

A: Please look at the third item [above], undemocratic eggs definitely taste disgusting, and even if they taste good you can’t say they taste good, please remember political correctness.

B: So what must Chinese eggs do to become good?

A: Become democratic.

B: And what is “democratic”?

A: Democracy is one-man-one-vote elections, separation of powers, the right to own guns, etc.

B: If there were elections, would everyone choose you to be the president or a legislator?

A: Well…hmph! I don’t have that much money, and I don’t have a grip on public opinion, so they can only choose someone else. Whoever has the most money, the most speeches, the most honors, and the fewest scandals will be elected.

B: So do you understand the person you want to elect?

A: For that all you have to do is watch the media.

B: Who is qualified to be a candidate?

A: That’s not for me to worry about, those capitalists and financial groups will pick two candidates and the public will select one of them.

B: So you’re saying you can only choose your own boss from the representative agents chosen by financial groups. How is that democracy? It’s clearly just choosing your own emperor.

A: #$#@%

B: Those three items you said are definitely correct?

A: Yes of course, I learned this in America, the media is always howling about democracy, people are always talking about democracy, and the internet is also influenced. There is no need to doubt the correctness of those three items, if anyone raises doubts about their correctness then they are anti-democracy.

B: Fuck….

Netizen Comments

[Since this one was a little shorter anyway, a few comments from netizens on Anti-CNN. There aren’t many comments on the post yet, and most of the replies are more in the way of personal conversations between forum members than direct replies to the topic, though]

The original poster [i.e. the person who wrote the dialogue] is an idiot. Just some mental ward patient jacking off?

[In response to the above commenter] As soon as you see the word “democracy” you’re always the first to rush out. In the future, be a little bit more restrained.

This kind of summarizing post should be often reposted, let everyone see clearly the face of democracy mongers!

My Thoughts

Obviously, both this and the Fifty Cents Party Member’s Training Manual are attempts at satire and thus, to some extent, attacking a straw man. Obviously, the “democracy” described in this post isn’t democracy at all, and arguing that China shouldn’t be democratic because India is a mess makes about as much sense as arguing that China shouldn’t be Communist because the Soviet Union collapsed. What both authors are satirizing (and, ironically enough, also engaged in) is the other side’s refusal to see reason and their stooping to straw-man tactics in arguments.

The difference, of course, is that the Fifty Cents Party is, by all accounts, a real thing. Where democracy advocates are perhaps just zealous and unwilling to admit democracy’s flaws, Fifty Cents Party members are literally being paid to deflect criticism (of course, not everyone accused of being in the Fifty Cents group actually is).

The whole democracy or not argument is irrelevant until both sides are willing to actually consider the truth. There are good and bad things about democracy, and both sides could stand to learn from the lessons democracy has taught us throughout history: the good and the bad. Characterizing it as either the best thing since sliced bread or a chaotic mess controlled by “the media” to give power to corporations serves no one.

Although I suppose it does serve as an opportunity for young men to vent their frustrations by cursing at strangers over the internet. And who am I to get in the way of that?

On an unrelated and narcissistic note, check out this article on China bridge blogs in the AFP (via ESWN). It talks extensively about ChinaSMACK, which both Max R. and I also write for, and also mentions ChinaGeeks (although for some reason they didn’t put a link). The author interviewed Fauna (of ChinaSMACK), who is insightful and humble as always, Kaiser Kuo, who I should probably be thanking for mentioning this site because he is awesome, and Shaun Rein, who I have called “extremely pedantic” and once suggested should be replaced in his post at Forbes by an empty beer bottle. So, all in all, a good mix!

0 thoughts on ““A Democracy Advocate’s Training Manual””

  1. Reading this sure makes me think…

    Centuries ago, the church prosecuted the un-Christian just because.
    Today, the world denounces the undemocratic just because.
    I see no difference.



  2. @ikins has a (bit of a) point there, in that there are certainly people who campaign for democracy not because they understand the history, nuances, and many forms of the idea but just because it’s something they’ve come to think is synonymous with “good.” At the end of the day, “democracy” is just a word; it’s the ideas behind it that are important.

    Personally I prefer the term “Liberalism” because it encompasses the broader set of concepts that go into democracy. There are a number of principles that need to be culturally rooted in a country, like transparency, rule of law, separation of powers, free press, and an educated middle class, in order for democracy to work well. I think too many people, in both the undemocratic and the democratic countries of the world, think that if you just have elections then suddenly the kind of civil society that Europeans and North Americans take for granted will spring up over night.

    I agree with @Custer about this particular post. It’s a perfect example of a seemingly common habit of turning critics of the CCP or China in general into fallacious strawman equivalents of the thing they’re trying to criticize. I’m surprised the netizens haven’t picked up on the Biblical passage about picking the fleck out of one’s own eye before telling your neighbor about the log in their eye.


  3. One of the first things I noticed on that AFP article was the fact that of the three extra websites mentioned, yours was the only one without a link. Completely sucks, although congrats on the mention anyway.


  4. It’s not reasonable to define someone as a 五毛 or 美分 at all. Well, somehow the German media come up with such a word which is just replace the word submission because they don’t dominate “political correction”…


  5. To date, though the existence of the 五毛党 is confirmed (official announcements by several localities), not a single post has ever been identified as characteristically 五毛. This raises problems, because the more radical posts are always labelled as 五毛, when it could simply be someone pissed off at the anarchist/extreme liberalist tendencies of forums such as Tianya and Mop.

    Which is unfortunate, because it’s used as a tool to discredit any logical arguments made to defend the government, even if the government really isn’t at fault.

    And while the 美分党 isn’t officially recognized, given American operations like the so-called 黄雀行动 (their participation in which they still deny for some reason), it’s impossible to discount the existence of such propaganda efforts by Western intelligence organizations.

    This man makse an interesting argument for the existence of the 美分党.

    Let’s see if html tags work…


  6. Hmm, 美分 has always seemed unlikely to me. Living in the West I see most Westerners don’t care much about “internet opinion”, at least not as much as China does. And the odds of hiring enough Chinese living in China willing to spread anti-Chinese propaganda also seems slim, not to mention the huge publicity risk if one of them were to “defect”, so to speak.

    As for 五毛, there probably aren’t as many as people think. I think most can be identified with poor, nonsensical posts and the tendency to post over and over in the same thread. High quality posts are rare, and probably more likely to be written by some angry “patriot”, of which there is no shortage. And not to mention a good number of 五毛-ers are not really paid to be “anti-foreign” but more pro- whoever paid them; be it a local official, some company’s products, etc.


  7. @ shuaige: I agree about the 美分党. What the author of that post chaji linked doesn’t consider is that, unlike the Chinese government, “Western” governments would presumably have to pay a LOT of money to “美分党” members because of the risk involved. For one, they don’t want anyone to switch sides and report the operation exists (I think the US gov’t would be more embarrassed by this than the CCP are), but more importantly, the consequences for a Chinese netizen who was discovered accepting money from the CIA to spread American propaganda online….yeah, I’m guessing very few Chinese would be willing to take that risk, and if they were, they would be charging pretty substantial fees.

    The 五毛党 on the other hand, really runs no risk except the risk of being slightly embarrassed if found out. But there’s no criminal liability or treason accusations.

    Plus, what does the CIA care what Chinese netizens think. There’s obviously some interest in delegitimizing the communist regime, but they don’t want to to just topple either, or for China to devolve into chaos, as that would be pretty terrible for the US economy at this point. So I would expect they would shy away from such an imprecise method of undermining the CPC…


  8. but more importantly, the consequences for a Chinese netizen who was discovered accepting money from the CIA to spread American propaganda online….yeah, I’m guessing very few Chinese would be willing to take that risk,

    If there are, I believe most of them living in West, and FLG members.


  9. The two extremes, wumao and meifen parties, are not really my concern. The number (or influence) of these party members are hugely exaggerated IMO and the vast majority in the between are treating the debates between them as just another Internet spectacle like that happened between Han Han and Liu Qian – It’s a great fun to watch them fighting each other.


  10. Dude, my German sports car needs super unleaded, which is over $3 a gallon in Seattle. Is there a “500 Dollar Party” I can join?

    As to 美分党, pretty much every Chinese democracy heros on NED’s payroll qualifies. I’d even consider democracy advocacy outsourced to corporate idealogues like George Soros’ OSI, part of it.

    But seriousely, what has all these democracy money buy us? IMHO nationalistic back lash from Chinese citizens and suport for the Chinese government.

    I think my tax dollar can be better spent on helping Haiti (in case anyone still remember these poor souls.)


  11. I’d surprised if the US had no propagandistic efforts in this area. After all, the most commonly seen software used to bypass the GFW was made by FLG, a quasi-religious movement with obvious US government and “N”GO backing. Add to that the efforts of VOA, RFA, etc, it would be rather hard to believe that the US government has never made an attempt at spreading propaganda over the internet.


  12. Spreading propaganda over the internet, of course. But arguing with netizens on Chinese BBS forums? I highly doubt it. For one, they don’t have enough people that can actually speak Chinese well enough.


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