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China’s intellectual dark web and its most active fanatic

China’s intellectual dark web and its most active fanatic

Liu Zhongjing, together with his philosophy referred to as “Auntology,” built a reputation for himself by espousing aggressively anti-leftist and anti-progressive views. However he’s reserved his most controversial — and dangerous — opinions for the Chinese state itself: new regionalism, de-Sinification, and help of separatist movements like those in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Xinjiang, and Tibet.


Illustration by Anna Vignet

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The time period “intellectual dark web” was coined, virtually tongue-in-cheek, in early 2018 by Eric Weinstein, a mathematician, manager at Thiel Capital, and op-ed author, and was meant to recognize a community of “renegades” in academia and media who reject id politics within the identify of unhindered dialectic (“free speech”). The group consists of the likes of Islamophobic blogger and neuroscientist Sam Harris, former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro, failed libertarian comedian Dave Rubin, and Jungian clean-your-room man Jordan Peterson.

When New York Occasions op-ed author Bari Weiss gave mainstream recognition to the time period in her Might 2018 piece “Meet the Renegades of the Intellectual Dark Web,” she consists of the above names in addition to others, akin to UFC commentator Joe Rogan and Kanye confidante Candace Owens. But, as Weiss hinted, despite the intellectual dark web being represented by “classical liberals” that had “run afoul of the left,” under the average floor lurked a commentariat with a thirst for stronger stuff: white supremacy, race science, phrenology, conspiracy theories involving elite pedophile rings… Extremist figures like Sargon of Akkad, Stefan Molyneux, and Black Pigeon Speaks all wait within the even deeper shadows of the intellectual dark web, ready to snare those launched to milder reactionary politics by Rubin or Peterson.

In China, this intellectual dark web, or zhīshifènzǐ ànwǎng 知识分子暗网, has been embraced by internet users — however there are plenty of homegrown figures whose reputation rivals that of Jordan Peterson or Sam Harris. Like their comrades on 4chan, Chinese internet customers go in search of stronger stuff, too, and it typically leads them to an intellectual and blogger by the identify of Liú Zhòngjìng 刘仲敬, who made a reputation for himself in the early-2000s on social media platforms like Douban 豆瓣 and Zhihu 知乎 (China’s version of Quora). Like Sargon of Akkad or Black Pigeon Speaks, Liu lays a scholarly, scientific veil over ideas much more extreme than something found within the mainstream.

Liu Zhongjing, arguably, is the forefather of the Chinese language intellectual dark web, and presently its most notorious stalwart.

A bit on Liu should essentially begin with an argument as to why he deserves critical remedy — if the reader has heard of him, they have doubtless written him off as just one other intolerant crank, and, if the reader shouldn’t be acquainted with Auntie 阿姨, as his followers call him, it is a robust job to elucidate his relevance however perhaps even more troublesome to put out his concepts in a comprehensible and concise method.

At this level in historical past, with the intellectual dark web getting fawning profiles in the New York Occasions and 4chan being written up in the Washington Submit for changing the course of the 2016 American basic election, examples of the relevancy of extremely on-line reactionaries are straightforward to seek out. But it may be more durable to gauge what effect the Chinese intellectual dark web has on politics in China and abroad.

The parallels with Western reactionaries are clear, although. The Chinese “right dogs” 右狗 (yòugǒu) and their battle towards the “white left” 白左 (báizuǒ) is principally indistinguishable from comparable online reaction on 4chan’s /pol/, The Every day Stormer, or the darker corners of Reddit: anti-semitic smears, worry of Islamization, suspicion of liberal democracy… That is no coincidence, since plenty of the appropriate canine have — if they aren’t already abroad — jumped the Great Firewall to comply with fascist posters in the West.

Liu’s biography is tough to verify and he has never discussed his youth. Most biographies start with a 1974 delivery date and his graduation from Huaxi College in 1996, then quick ahead by means of his time with the Public Security Bureau in Urumqi to his early retirement; in 2009, he accomplished a translation of Flying Serpents and Dragons: The Story of Mankind’s Reptilian Previous by R.A. Boulay, a dead-serious explication of the idea that an alien race, the Anunnaki, visited historic Sumeria; and then he began a grasp’s at Sichuan University, learning beneath Liú Yàochūn 刘耀春, and then a doctorate at Wuhan University, the place he started work on A Chronological Historical past of the Republic of China (民国纪事本末 mínguó jìshì běnmò), revealed in 2013 by Guangxi Regular University Press.

Liu’s later publications, together with one among David Hume’s Tory revisionist The Historical past of England and a biography of Ayn Rand, acquired combined evaluations (his expertise as a translator have been referred to as out repeatedly, most notably on this piece by Méi Zǔróng 梅祖蓉 for The Paper.

Aside from those more educational works and translations, Liu was sharing this thoughts on-line, posting on Douban as Shùjuǎncánpiān 数卷残篇 (“a few tattered volumes”). He shortly gained a following for his virulent anti-leftist and anti-progressive screeds, like this piece, reduce from the collected works and reposted many occasions, on the white left, which manages to smear Oxfam as a leftist scheme, praises Thilo Sarrazin’s Germany Abolishes Itself, which is a guide concerning the risks of Muslim immigration to Germany, and explains how McCarthyism was an incredible concept but sowed the seeds for the collapse of American society by driving leftists into academia.

The posts between 2007 and 2014 have been collected and circulated on-line, insurance coverage by his followers towards potential censorship. It’s in these posts that Liu first articulated a more extreme view of the world:

[The only people that] may care about human rights are individuals on the coasts and elite capitalists, together with so-called purple capitalists. They have an curiosity in maintaining their lucrative relationship with the West, in order that they care a bit. The government officials in inland China can be better off murdering this comprador class and shutting the door to the West. Once they do this, they will behave identical to the Islamic State. That might simplify matters enormously. The higher world can be towards them, but who is actually prepared to assault the nucleus of the Islamic State? It will be a waste of money and lives.

Those posts have been shortly picked up by sympathetic online communities. It was partly on Douban’s Auntie-loving Distant Evil 远邪 discussion board that the term “white left” was popularized, based on Fāng Kěchéng 方可成, educational observer of reactionary discourse.

Liu weighed in on modern points just like the European refugee crisis, together with his pronouncements showing on a Weibo account, Dōngchuāndòu 冬川豆, run by followers. He caught the wave of Chinese on-line Islamophobia early, and has remained involved about “Islamic penetration and conquest” (“Three Pathways of Future East Asia”).

Round 2014, off the power of his extra educational work and on-line fame, Liu popped up in more mainstream retailers, including a fawning interview with The Paper’s Wú Qióng 吴琼, and an invitation to contribute to Gòngshì Wǎng 共识网 (a now-defunct attempt at soliciting opinions from intellectuals of varied stripes — pro-market liberals and Chinese language nationalists, in addition to New Left thinkers and old-school Maoists — ordered offline by Social gathering censors in October 2016). In these extra mainstream retailers, he solely hinted on the concepts he promoted on-line:

A society that has experienced Leninism cannot be unified. It will be like making an attempt to turn fish chowder back into a fish. The circumstances for constitutionalism come right down to the state of affairs in Washington. As Marx would say, they’re the large landlord, the large capitalist… It might be like Marx establishing a Jewish state on the Rhine after a Thousand-Yr Reich… The truth is that each one the methods that maintain China collectively would have to be torn aside to implement constitutionalism. To be able to perform constitutionalism, there must be an entire refutation of Leninism… Like the Israelis, the Chinese language may escape from slavery only to seek out themselves wandering within the desert.

What Liu hinted at in his writing for Gongshi and stated explicitly in his posts on Douban was that the Chinese faced imminent collapse and would be replaced by dozens of smaller states, organized around language, ethnicity, and geography.

Liu Zhongjing’s philosophy — Auntology — borrows closely from the work of Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) and other thinkers of the Konservative Revolution of interwar Germany. The important thing to understanding Liu is Spengler’s 1918 The Decline of the West, translated into Chinese language as Xīfāng de Mòluò 西方的没落. Spengler posited eight “High Cultures,” beginning with the Babylonian and ending with Western Europe and the USA. The previous seven High Cultures all went into decline and, Spengler argued, the Occident, on the time wracked by warfare, epidemics, and poverty, was on its means out, too:

At this degree all civilizations enter upon a stage, which lasts for centuries, of appalling depopulation. The entire pyramid of cultural man vanishes. It crumbles from the summit, first the world-cities, then the provincial varieties and lastly, the land itself, whose greatest blood has incontinently poured into the towns, merely to bolster them up for awhile. On the last, solely the primitive blood stays, alive, but robbed of its strongest and most promising parts. This residue is the fellaheen.

For Liu, China is not a nation, but the stays of a nation, peopled by the fellaheen — the phrase in Arabic is فلاحين‎, shut sufficient to the Chinese nóngmín 农民, or the English “peasant,” but Spengler makes use of it to check with a fallen class that has been robbed of nationwide destiny. The fellaheen (fèilā 费拉 in Chinese language) are a post-historical individuals (史后之人 shǐ hòu zhī rén), and Liu marks the top of that history around the Qin Dynasty (221 BC–206 BC).

Liu is fond of a line from Spengler’s The Decline of the West that states: “I am convinced that the nations of China which sprang up in members in the middle, Hwang Ho [Yellow River] region at the beginning of the Chou dynasty [Zhou Dynasty]…were in their inward form more closely akin to the peoples of the West than to those of the Classical and the Arabian worlds.” Whether his reading of it is right or not, he sees it as proof that the Qin wars of conquest that unified the Warring States resulted within the extinction of “cultural nations” (wénhuà mínzú 文化民族, or Kulturnation, as Spengler calls them in the unique) and replaced them with a fellaheen nation (fèilā mínzú 费拉民族), disconnected from its cultural roots.

The one future for the people who reside underneath an empire of fellaheen (fèilā dìguó 费拉帝国) is a process that he calls “ethnic invention” (mínzú fāmíng 民族发明) — principally, concoct an area Culture (capitalized after Spengler, who noticed Tradition as the seed and Civilization because the plant into which it grows). The process includes de-Sinicization and rejection of Han tradition (tuōzhī 脱支, “to escape Shina,” borrowing the derogatory archaic Japanese time period for China). The need to build new tribal nations is made all of the more urgent by Liu’s prediction of a Great Flood (Dàhóngshuǐ 大洪水), an impending apocalyptic occasion that may see a lot of the world’s central governments collapse.

This can be a large simplification, trimming Liu’s ragged bush of fascist historiography, Christian millenarianism, conspiracy concept, and anti-left extremism right into a tidy landing strip.

In a criticism of Liu, “Liu Zhongjing: the crumbs of a worthless man in the clothes of a king,” revealed on resolutely anti-progressive Chángjiāng Zátán 长江杂谈, the anonymous writer attempts to sum up Auntology this manner:

Liu Zhongjing believes that the Chinese language, starting from the administration of the Qin Dynasty, had turn into a fellaheen nation. A fellaheen empire has only population, not individuals with an ethnic id. Subsequently, there isn’t any Han ethnic group because the supposedly Han individuals are fellaheen. Fellaheen just isn’t an ethnic id, so they are merely slaves laboring beneath imperial paperwork. Also, he helps the thought of “various Chinese nations,” so in Sichuan, there’s a Basuria, in Hubei a Jingchuria, in Guangdong a Cantonia… It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? That is the sort of raving you may hear in a mental hospital.

The nameless author is considered one of many who sympathize with Liu’s attacks on progressivism but feel that the disintegration of the Individuals’s Republic is going a lot too far.

But Liu’s ideas on de-Sinicization, ethnic invention, and a coming collapse, although not all the time notably unique, have their adherents. Following Liu’s personal invented state of Basuria or Bāshǔlìyàguó 巴蜀利亚国, his followers have begun inventing their very own.


“Jacob Pius,” who goes by @Yuyencian on Twitter, just lately posted a “Map of the national independence movement in Far East” (above). The map consists of Liu’s “ethnic invention” of Basuria as well as other polities, together with Yehetland, Komeseland, Goetland, Tshiechuria, Hakkaland, and additionally East Turkestan and Tibet. For Liu and his followers, these proposed nations organized around ethnicity and language are a part of a wrestle for independence from the Individuals’s Republic of China and other states in Asia.

The map’s divisions clearly borrow from pre-PRC borders and the nation names discuss with regional titles that date back millennia. Liu’s Basuria is an attempt, at the least in identify, of resurrecting the states of Ba and Shu, both situated in what’s now Sichuan Province and each conquered by the Qin. Yuyencia (Yōuyànxīyà 幽燕西亚), which covers territory now occupied by Hebei, Beijing, and Tianjin, also refers again to 2 defunct jurisdictions, both a part of the Nine Provinces. Goetland’s Chinese language identify Wúguó 吴国 is borrowed from the Kingdom of Wu, and its English identify attempts to recreate the best way audio system of that region’s language would pronounce the primary character of the dominion.

Screen Shot 2019 02 09 at 0.51.51

These movements may be arduous to take critically — Yuyencia’s web site, for instance, describes their proposed nation as having a “unique national language,” referred to as Yenpolish, and a nationwide faith, which might be Roman Catholicism.

Yuyencian independence leader Jacob Pius is critical, though, about what he sees in the way forward for the PRC and Western liberalism.

Liu has praised regional nationalist actions on Twitter, and has also turn out to be a supporter of more authentic nationalist or separatist actions, like those in Hong Kong and Taiwan (he’s turn out to be a fan of Tsai Ing-wen 蔡英文). His views on different separatist movements in Xinjiang (and Tibet) are extra difficult and knowledgeable by his understanding of regional history:

What’s occurring in Xinjiang is a tragedy. If we take a look at things from a historic perspective, Xinjiang, since historic occasions, has had a better relationship with Central Asia and Southwest Asia than East Asia. If we go back to the earliest durations of Chinese historical past, the Zhou and Han Dynasties, for example — the ethnic composition was totally different. What is now Gansu and the Hexi-Gansu Hall was populated by individuals associated to Persians. Their language, culture, and pores and skin colour was just like Persians. There were some that even had blond hair and blue eyes. An Lushan and the 9 Tribes of Zhaowu [Sogdians] in the Tang Dynasty have been of Persian descent, too. Even mainstream archeologists say that the identify Zhaowu comes from those folks that lived in Gansu, and they might have had blond hair and blue eyes, the identical race because the Great thing about Loulan [a Caucasian mummy discovered in 1980 in Xinjiang]. They didn’t have Mongolian ancestors.

All the racial concept and shaky history apart, Liu argues that Xinjiang and Tibet are both occupied territories that can solely stay part of the Chinese empire by way of army drive. His concept of latest regional nationalist actions solves the problem, although it’s most unconcerned about each regions: these places ought to and will go their very own means, with Tibet possible turning into a separate state and Xinjiang broken up into numerous ethnic enclaves with shut ties to Central Asian and Close to East powers.

Jacob Pius shares Liu’s perception in a coming collapse and antipathy toward left-wing politics. He explained by way of e-mail that he sees right-wing politics within the West as an try and protect a civilization from decline, while “the left is anti-religious, places individuals at the center of their own world, and advocates the violent overthrow of the old regime and its replacement with a powerful state, a planned economy and personal freedoms…such as homosexuality.”

Most of the de-Sinicizers that followed Liu Zhongjing have converted to or are captivated with Christianity. In recent times, Liu has reportedly converted to Christianity, following via on his earlier enthusiasm for the church, and is probably concerned within the Shouters sect, although he has been cagey about specifics. Jacob Pius describes himself as a Catholic traditionalist. Earlier than the “ethnic invention” of Yuyencia, Jacob Pius hoped to go away the Chinese Mainland, emigrate to the West, lead a “regular life of faith,” and maybe become involved in “what you might call right-wing political movements, like French monarchism.”

For these red-pilled by Liu Zhongjing, there’s hope in de-Sinicization and the typically frivolous challenge of ethnic invention, but there’s also a wider fascination with Liu’s ideas, even among the many yíhēi 姨黑 (a portmanteau of “Auntie” and a term for “negative fans”) in the black capsule — Chinese language civilization won’t last and the West has been doomed by progressive politics. (In The Matrix, those that took the pink capsule see actuality for what it is; those who select the blue bill stay in blissful ignorance. This has turn into a cultural meme. The thought of a more excessive black capsule, which was for many who chose excessive nihilism and despair, was the invention of web posters who needed to take a step beyond a purple/blue dichotomy.)

As of late-2018, Liu had seemingly relocated to the USA, and now posts his predictions and musings to tens of hundreds of followers on his Twitter account and less-trafficked accounts on Youtube and Medium.

The rumored leap to the U.S. is a sensible move, at the least for legal reasons: what Liu Zhongjing is partaking in quantities to splittism. Leaving apart the more well-known strike-hard campaigns towards independence activists, smaller regional attempts to secede from the PRC have additionally ended poorly, together with Shí Jīnxīn 石金鑫 and his Great China Buddhist Kingdom 大中华佛国, a failed 1983 plot that saw the brand new “dynasty’s” prime minister, Lǐ Pīruì 李丕瑞, getting the demise sentence; and Lǐ Chéngfú’s 李成福 Heavenly Kingdom of Eternal Satisfaction 万顺天国, a scheme that involved separatist moles inside the PLA and a plan to stage an uprising in Beijing.

Some of his followers have made the bounce, as properly.

Comfortable New Yr(yr of pig)

— Augustus Manchurius (@1984to1776) February eight, 2019

Lǐ Shuò 李硕, who rumors recommend was harassed by the authorities after his declaration of Manchu independence, made the bounce to the U.S. a couple of years earlier than Liu and seems to be settling in nicely, regardless of earlier rumors that he was cleaning Starbucks loos. His Twitter claims: “I coined the term #Baizuo white left.” Posts range from praise of Zhao Benshan and Hitler to flicks of his gun assortment.

For Liu, it seems to have all the time been the top aim to convey his vision to the West.

He sees himself as a modern-day Ayn Rand, an ideological refugee who was welcomed with open arms in the USA. In Liu’s interview with The Paper in 2014, he made his connection to Rand more specific:

When she acquired to America, she by no means stopped preaching American values. [She was] like the barbarians that got here to Rome who had a deeper information of its achievements than the Romans themselves did and have been prepared to offer their very own lives to defend it… The things that she had been eager for for therefore lengthy, she couldn’t bear to see some savage forces destroy them. I can utterly understand that feeling.

The long-term prospects for Liu in the USA are unclear. Běidàfēi 北大飞, a New Left-type debunker of faux information, laughed uncontrollably when requested if Liu is perhaps a new Rand. He made the purpose that reactionaries like Liu are much less interested in the West than in occasions at house, echoing factors that Chenchen Zhang made in her writing on right-wing populist discourse on Chinese language social media: even jargon (like “white left”) that would appear to fit in a practice of Western right-wing populism is more about making statements on Chinese id.


— Zhongjing Liu | 劉仲敬 (@LiuZhongjing) March 1, 2019

Liu has principally stuck to his native tongue, despite taking to American social media platforms, suggesting that his Randian objectives could be lost in translation. His engagement with Twitter is usually restricted to retweets of ethnic id activists (the above tweet to the Concordia Affiliation of Manchuria reads, principally, “Basuria congratulates the people of Manchukuo in strengthening their fight to recover their nation”).

Whether or not or not Liu makes any progress in bringing the American barbarians around, his concepts and jargon stay present and potent on the Chinese language-language web. He’s principally flown beneath the radar of internet censorship, together with his collected Douban posts still circulating on the platform, by means of the Dōngchuāndòu 冬川豆 Weibo account, and there’s vigorous discussions of his philosophy on the Zhihu message board and the Zhuanlan 专栏 running a blog service. Because the discovery of Chinese troll farms churning out social media posts, it’s straightforward enough to imagine the jargon and rhetoric of the king troll of the intellectual dark web being weaponized, too.

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