Vice China Takes On Reddit's China Antagonists, CCJ2
After a bad day in China, expats usually turn to a friend as a way to make meaningful sense of cultural differences. But for those who don't want to make any sense, there's Reddit's online community China Circle Jerk 2 (CCJ2).
CCJ2 is not a place for rational discourse or for the faint of heart, but where behavior and content too extreme for the r/China subreddit gets hidden away. But for all of its antagonistic and caustic views towards China, it's clear CCJ2 users don't take themselves too seriously, something made clear by the group's name and its users' seething self-loathing.
Despite the reputation of its parent company for edgy content that no one else will touch, Vice China has engaged in populist, reactionary tabloid writing. As problematic as it is to select such a generalized topic, Liu selects fringe groups with extreme points of view like CCJ2 to present to his readers as "what laowai think about China."
Needless to say, it isn't pretty. As a fringe group, CCJ2 finds delight in the absurd and juvenile, sharing a specialized way of speaking that only regular users can understand. One example (that can be reprinted here) makes fun of the way Chinese speak into their phones, yelling "Hello" numerous times before a conversation begins.
But instead of giving a report, Liu goes out of his way expose CCJ2 members, going so far as to translate one member's username as a "Hong Kong compatriot" even though it's not there. Liu also arms his readers with an explanation of CCJ2 vocabulary so that his readers can go engage the fringe subreddit on their own.
But it's not clear how much Liu understands about the group of people he's trying to explain. Liu admits in his article that he doesn't understand what the "2" in CCJ2 means even though the subreddit's own FAQ explain that a previous version of the group had been banned. Liu also explains the CCJ2 term "Tim Budong" with explaining that it's meaning of a "clueless foreigner" comes from the pinyin of 听不懂 (tīngbùdǒng), which means "I don't understand."
Liu's suspicion that foreigners are making fun of his culture becomes flat-out paranoia when he misconstrues a popular South Park meme in the r/Chineselearning subreddit as an insult towards China, flummoxed as to why 太太 ("wife") was used:
But when Liu wasn't using the extreme opinions of fringe groups to represent average opinions, he was quoting casual responses to a casual question as a way to judge entire cultures.
Liu made a popularly-received post on r/China titled "Yo, I'm Chinese and anything to ask?" and used the responses in his article. With many Redditors choosing to poke fun at Liu for making such an open-ended question, Liu's analysis quickly spiraled out of control.
In his article, Liu said the question "Can you use knife and fork?" was "a perfect manifestation of imperialist cultural hegemony" while the question "Is hot water good for healthy?" showed that "laowai's impression of China are still stuck at the initial impressions." Liu also took the question "Do you prefer the squat toilet or the Western throne" as an example of "Western contempt."
Liu says he wants to find out what "laowai" think, but he's already made up his mind.
Right at the beginning of the article, Liu explains his reason for going online to find answers:
I have grown weary of English teachers from abroad or those laowai sitting in front of hutong bars. Aside from smiling at me with alcohol on their breath, they will never open up about their true feelings towards China.
But that's not all. In his first sentence introducing CCJ2, Liu flat-out describes them as "imperialists" while the URL of his Vice China web article reads: "I do fuck with these Reddit guys." And if Liu's grudge with CCJ2 isn't clear enough, he has posted a photo to their group showing himself flipping the bird and as well as featuring the fake CCJ2 subreddit at the top of the Vice China article.
But despite all of Liu's efforts, his adversary remains unfazed. The attention brought by the Vice China article has been warmly received by the CCJ2 community, welcoming the same people they seek to annoy, legitimized by "China Edgelord Hipsters" who had sought to expose them.
Vice China joins other media is criticizing of the anti-China subreddit. Global Times has condemned CCJ2 for its "scathing insults and mocking stories" and its "homophobic slurs," while Half-Asian has singled out CCJ2 members for "racist viewpoints ... despite the majority of their posters being married to Chinese women."
On the other hand, CCJ2 also has its admirers like Arthur Meursault who finds it "absolutely hilarious." Due to its 4chan-esque anarchic atmosphere, CCJ2 has created numerous memes that carry far beyond its community.
It's fair to say that China Circle Jerk is not a nice place, and harbor racist and hateful views towards China. But Vice China and Ricky Liu's strategy of using blind hatred to fight back is not the answer in confronting a marginalized group that craves attention.
The message of CCJ2 is one that China doesn't want to hear, but it's one that is represented by a number of people smaller than one of the country's own villages. By engaging with a fringe group, Chinese media is looking to strengthen its position by making its enemies stronger.
More stories from this author here.