Types within the Fifty Cents Party

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.

My thoughts

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.

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18 thoughts on “Types within the Fifty Cents Party”

  1. This article seems more like an excuse to label anybody supportive of the government as 五毛 and thus to discredit any voices opposing the viewpoint of the author. I know that in Western liberalism, the government is viewed as an enemy of the people that must be feared and controlled, but can you really make that assumption here?

    For example, in the genetically modified crops argument, anybody supportive of the policy is instantly labeled as a 五毛, despite the fact that no real problems have yet been discovered, and the argument involves more imagination and irrational fear than any real logical reasoning. Why is that? Is being instantly discredited as a result of being called a 五毛 any better than any form of government censorship?

    The strongest type of censorship the Chinese intelligentsia experiences does not come from the Chinese government; it comes from within, as a perceived need to oppose the government (if only because it doesn’t match up with their imaginary liberal utopia, the likes of which will never exist), regardless of the true nature of its behavior. This whole anti-establishment environment can only become a vicious cycle that will eventually lead to anarchy, but I suppose that’s exactly what some people want for China…

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  2. Great post. Interesting to know and understand just who these guys are.
    A shame, especially the educated one’s spending their time doing this instead of things that might improve rights for all Chinese. In the lead up to the Olympic Games these guys were at their peak and and I learned quickly to spend 0 time sparing with them.
    A great lesson on believing propaganda and not questioning authority. Throughout the world hero’s like Mandela, MLK, Gandhi, Wei Jingsheng and newly imprisoned Chinese Liu Xiaobo and Tan Zuoren and many others who names we will never know are the people the world respects. Not these fifty Cents who are doing nothing but working to keep an oppressive, pathetic authoritarian regime in power. I firmly believe when this regime falls, and it will, these losers will ride on the backs of all those hero’s who helped bring true freedom to China.

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  3. One comparison with the west that immediately comes to my mind is “viral marketers”, especially in the video game industry. Microsoft especially has been constantly accused of constantly hyping up its products in the comments sections of different video game sites online, especially if they can somehow bash Nintendo and the Wii at the same time.

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  4. @chaji

    “This article seems more like an excuse to label anybody supportive of the government as 五毛 and thus to discredit any voices opposing the viewpoint of the author.”

    Cannot agree more.

    Stop calling somebody 5 mao or hanjian. Use your logic and evidence, not name calling, to prove someone wrong.

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  5. [this post has been censored. In the future, please refrain from mentioning anything about my personal life or you will be banned very, very quickly.]

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  6. @ hypocritical: If you ever again mention anything about my personal life on the site, you will be banned immediately and permanently. Please refrain from bringing anyone’s personal life into what is meant to be a discussion of social and political issues. It is unnecessary, rude, and childish. Please find a more civil, less invasive way to express yourself or your right to express yourself on my site will be rescinded.

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  7. Fifty Cents do not realize that their “Patriotism” is not the REAL One. Instead it is Simply Fueled by the Government news media and those media who simply do not dare to speak ills of the Party.

    One must research independently, only then the Truth will be CLEAR and can be identified from “Facts”, if you know what i mean.

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  8. I do not want to sound like the Translation Nazi (or Translation Parti cadre in this context) but it would be more relevant to translate 元 by yuan or RNB and not dollar. Using dollar is a bit misleading and I would apply wholeheartedly to a 5 mao position if you could make 250 $ a day… (well not really but you see my point).

    Love to read this site anyway, keep up the good work!

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  9. Seems “Free Fifty Cents” is just saying I’m free to denigrade anyone I disagree with, as if their freely formed opinion isn’t valid, simply because it’s in support of the Chinese government.

    Does this mean some y’all are “Free Mei Fen”? Take the cadre thing, Don’t we have cadres in America? You bet, they are called “political appointee”. But when it comes to China, we have to use the ugliest inference possible.

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  10. Teacher in China @ 4, “fifty cent party” exist in western society too, it’s called “astroturfing”.

    BTW Andy, the comments seem critical of the OP, for example this comment by “self righteious”:

    “In a puralistic society there need to be people critical, as well as people supportive, of the government. It’s not important which point of view, which camp; what’s important is wether their point of view is rational, factual.

    Two opposing views are met thru discussion, more importantly mutual respect. Discussion should be relevant to facts and view points, not attacking other’s character.

    Some people are not tolerant of others with differing opinion and POV, instead of discussing and refuting with reason, evidence, they put “50 cent” hat on people who disagree. Does this reinforce correctness of one’s POV? Does this increase morality of one’s POV?”

    Can’t agree more.

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  11. @ChasL: Broadly speaking, all political campaigns can be seen as astroturfing, it’s an old game.

    @Teacher in China: Fair point, the only difference I find is the desired target effect.

    Which is worse, nationalism or consumerism? Maybe the worst combination is a warped adherence to nationalism together with high-ideals of consumerism.

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  12. @chaji point taken, in a social context I stand corrected, however for some reason I was thinking in a more global/ecological one.

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