Angry Youth, Petty Bourgeois and Commercial Bloggers

The following is a translation of an article by Jiang Xun (江迅) in Asia Weekly (Yazhou Zhoukan, January 15, 2006 issue).

The Interaction among Angry Youth, Petty Bourgeois and Business People

CCTV Economic Channel producer Hu Yong (胡泳) has been called an "Internet pioneer" on mainland China.  Hu Yong said: "Concerning the Internet in China, there are usually two popular views in the west.  One of them consists of unreasonable optimism, for the belief is that western thoughts and ideas, commercial forces or technological advances will cause rapid changes in China.  The other consists of blind pessimism, for the belief is that China has not changed under a totalitarian regime which prevents the people from having any freedom of speech.  Both these views are wrong, and they merely expose the na´vetÚ of westerners."  Hu Yong is the author of the "Ruling the Internet", the first book about the Internet on the mainland China.

Hu Yong thinks that the development of the Internet in China is complicated.  Hu Yong said: "This is not say that people outside of China have no right to talk about China.  But outsiders do not usually have the keen insight as those who are inside.  But the insiders and outsiders need to interact frequently and argue with each other.  The matter of Chinese bloggers should be examined through such interactions."

Hu Yong believes that the Chinese bloggers can be classified into three types: angry youth, petty bourgeois and commercial bloggers.  He admits that this classification is not rigorous, but it is convenient for clarifying the problem.

Angry youth (憤青) are the angry young people on the Internet.  He said: "Actually, the definition of 'angry youth' is very broad and complicated.  I believe that 'angry youth' refers to young urban intellectuals with a sense of social justice.  The 'angry youth' knows how to be angry, they have certain knowledge and they are just not young people who only know how to release their emotions and pick fights for no apparent reason.  These other people may exist, but they are definitely not mainstream."  For example, when an elementary school in Shalan (Heilongjiang) was overrun by a flash flood that caused the deaths of more than one hundred school children, the government ordered the media to stop news coverage.  A reporter at Southern Weekend wrote a report that was suppressed, so he posted it through an Internet blog to point out that the Shalan incident occurred due to negligence by local officials who attempted to cover up with lies afterwards.

Hu Yong said that according to research studies, the Chinese netizens are more interested that those in other countries to discuss political, military and social problems.  Compared to traditional media, the Internet is a better outlet for expressing views on those types of topics.  Under the current political climate in China, the Internet-based platforms contain mostly viewpoints about foreign relations, the Taiwan issue and the protection of the weaker social groups.  For the "angry youth" bloggers, the good thing is that it opens up new vistas for political participation in Chinese society but the bad thing is that there is a huge amount of puerile and extreme ideas.

As for the petty bourgeois bloggers, Hu Yong said that there are many white collar urban youths who have certain economic means with which to pursue material and spiritual enjoyment.  This is a manifestation of the progress of China.  Without the diversity in society and an urban consumerist culture, such a group could not have emerged.  Hu Yong believes that many of the values that have long been cherished by the Chinese are being lost, for those ideals are scorned at by the petty bourgeois.  The petty bourgeois are more interested in fashion and lifestyle, whereas the angry youth are interested in speech and thought.  These characterizations are not absolute, as both the angry youth and petty bourgeois can easily change.  "Muzimei was probably the first famous blogger in China, followed by Zhuyingqingtung, Furong Jiejie, Liumangyan, Juhua Jiejie and others.  The petty bourgeois bloggers have developed to a stage in which they have the value such that they are testing the limits of tolerance of society with respect to their narratives."

The third type is the commercial blogger.  Certain big websites have received venture capital investment.  One or two even intend to have public offerings in 2008.  The commercialization of blogger is a hard-to-stop trend.  The commercial bloggers must try to get the angry youth and petty bourgeois bloggers on their side.

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