Brexit, Donald Trump elected as US President, fake news running wild on social media… It seems that the year 2016 is destined to be a culmination of decidedly volatile situations. While many observers are deeply concerned that the world is now living under a cloud of post-truth politics, in China, contrastingly, there emerges an oddly sanguine view regarding how well the country may profit from such a muddle. “China may be the biggest winner” has become a formulaic headline in Chinese mainstream media, and now some self-aware netizens are making fun of it.
It seems that China may become the winner of EVERYTHING.
Below are some examples of how China’s local media reported influential international issues:
“The US quits TPP, China may be the biggest winner”
“US”s scheme falls apart, China may be the biggest winner” (the scheme refers to TPP)
“China may be the biggest winner, can yuan devaluation save the economy?”
“Trump elected to be US president, China may be the biggest winner”
“OPEC plans to save oil prices, China may be the biggest winner”
“Britain leaving the EU, China may be the biggest winner”
Even headlines from a couple of years ago:
“China may be the biggest winner from Ukraine Crisis”
“China may be the biggest winner from the US-Iraq War”
Even though it is not easy nor impossible to determine who is the “biggest winner” from these complex international affairs, the trend is now followed by thousands of Chinese netizens who parody it in a variety of contexts, which gives nuances to the proud-sounding formula.
Bizarre versions have appeared on China’s microblog Weibo, such as “strong winds sweep across the country, China may be the biggest winner”, “earthquake hits Japan again, China may be the biggest winner”… Chinese netizens have surely “won” the fun out of this word game.
The nuance is more evidently felt in the Chinese people’s reaction to US fake news crisis. As a surge of falsehoods during the US presidential election have been recently disclosed, the Western society has called for an overhaul of online information sources to stop the spreading of such rumours. Some Chinese netizens applaud it and jokingly conclude that, “China may be the biggest winner,” implying that now it is time for the freedom-chanting Western society to draw experience from the Chinese authority’s strict infliction on the internet.
After all, the country is notorious for its rumour control and media propaganda, and the people understand how they should behave online. This is why the “biggest winner” cliché may spell a satirical note. China has long been accused by the West for its stringent control of the internet and curb on freedom of speech; and US internet companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter are all currently blocked in China due to their “unpredictable” political risks, according to China’s state-run news agency The Global Times. China has also launched its fight a few years ago to clamp down “online rumours”, with measures ranging from administrative regulations on online information issued a few years ago to the recent release of the new cybersecurity law.
The reason why the “biggest winner” statement has become popular deserves investigating. For mainstream media, as some Chinese media experts suggest, the cliché conveys a message symptomatic of the psychology of self-victimisation and a hankering for recognition from others. It is because one perceives himself as being segregated from and antagonistic to the rest of the world that one sees benefits from others’ crisis. As many media adopt the formula in their headlines to grab attention, it reflects an unfavourable stance that intends to deepen conflicts regardless of the closer ties that countries share with each other.
Others point out that it might suggest the mainstream media in China have run out of words to cope with the never-ending global uncertainties.