Last month, Xiao Han, an outspoken intellectual at the Chinese Politics and Law University, wrote a piece which classifies China’s Fifty Cents Party into different types.
Fifty Cents Party is now a well-known satirical term for online commentators employed by the government to guide public opinion. In an article written last week, Xiao further classifies the Party into three types according to income and professional standing. Below are some translated extracts.
Type 1: New-Rich Fifty Cents
This type of fifty cents usually appears university professors, experts (like legal experts and economists), researchers, media professionals and political commentators. They have good image and usually appear on TV, newspapers and headlines of official websites. Their arguments are full of concepts and seem logical, but with only one aim: to prove that the government actions are correct, legal or great, even though they are often unjust, unfair and inhuman. Their opinions enable them to get rich within the establishment; what they receive far exceed fifty cents per comment. Therefore they are the most expensive type of fifty cents; they are the new-rich. They can further be classified into two types: academic (represented by university professors), or popular (represented by political commentators and media professionals).
Type 2: Occupational Fifty Cents
This type of fifty cents, with lower IQ and abilities, would be very satisfied if they get the job of ‘internet commentators’. Everyday they roam around the major forums, criticizing anti-government comments once they see them. Their major task is to use rude languages to condemn anti-government opinions; those more professional would call on the public to love the country and the party, i.e. to be patriots. Every time they submit a comment, they will accumulate their income: fifty cents, one dollar, one dollar and fifty cents, two dollars, two dollars and fifty cents…… Each day they can earn two hundred and fifty dollars if they submit over five hundred comments. As a result, they can sustain a good monthly salary. However, the reward for each comment has recently been reduced to ten cents, multiplying their workload. Very hard work, God bless them.
Type 3: Free Fifty Cents
For some reasons, the education system does not destroy the talents of all students. As a result, they are good in some respects. Many of them become bachelors, masters or PhDs; some even study overseas. But after all, they are under a spoon-fed system, which means their thinking is dysfunctional in some ways. Their qualifications enable them to get well-paid jobs. However, once the discussion involves politics, they always stand on the side of the government, whether it is logical or not. This is almost a knee-jerk reaction when they see a critic of the government. But because their reaction purely comes out of loyalty and ignorance, their comments are more persuasive than those of the occupational fifty cents.
The author goes on to discuss the logics used by these fifty cents, similar in tone to the Fifty Cents Party Training Manual. To be fair, the phenomenon of Fifty Cents Party is not limited to China. Noam Chomsky has long exposed the responsibility of intellectuals and mainstream media groups in Western democracies for their tendencies of self-censorship. Whether democratic or authoritarian, people rationally invest in the political institutions as long as they last. The Occupational Fifty Cents party is a crude form of manufacturing of consent, while the other two types are probably more ‘successful’ products produced under the education system or vested interests. To different degrees, dissent voices are harmonized (to use the popular Chinese term) in all societies. But one important difference is that in free societies you can speak what you want, while in China you risk yourself being imprisoned.