The dream of a strong army by the nightmare of Chinese humor

“The party’s goal of having a strong army in the new era is to build a people’s army that obeys the party’s command, knows how to win in battle, and has an exquisite style.” Photo FB China Army

As Chairman Mao used to say, “Political power comes from the barrel of a rifle.” Since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, established thanks to the victory in the civil war, in addition to the leading role of the party and the ideology growing from the roots of Marxism-Leninism, the third pillar of the country’s political establishment has been the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

A strong military has also become one of the goals of the “Chinese dream” or the “great revival of the Chinese nation”, as current General Secretary Xi Jinping has described the program of the party and state he leads since taking office.

Listen, win and have style

With Xi Jinping’s attitude learning about socialism with Chinese features for the new era gradually took the form of easy-to-remember sentences, a strong army also became one of the eight and later ten “unambiguities”, that is, obvious and holy truths that are not discussed.

One of the first steps that Xi Jinping took after taking office on the path to consolidating his power was to strengthen control over the military. In one of his numerous speeches right in 2013 he declared: “The Party’s goal of having a strong military in the new era is to build a people’s army that obeys the Party’s command, knows how to win in battle, and has an exquisite style.”

“Style” (cuo-feng) here does not refer to perfectly fitting uniforms, as it might seem out of context. This is a “style of work”, a shortened term for party ptydepe from time immemorial. If the style of work is “excellent”, it means that it is in the spirit of the party guidelines. If not, as we know from the history of the Communist Party of China, it must be corrected with the help of political training, criticism and self-criticism, or re-education through manual labor.

As is common with such “memorable words” of the General Secretary, Chinese propaganda distilled them into a punchy slogan, rhythmic and partly rhyming, which can be translated as “Obey the party’s command, know how to win in battle, have an exquisite style”. It is used as a slogan to celebrate the military without mentioning who it is. It is a password that easily sticks in people’s memory with its creeping ubiquity.

Battle victories and exquisite style in the wrong place

This intrusiveness and easy memorability became fatal for the young comedian performing under the stage name House (also written in Latin in Chinese texts; real name Li Haoshi). In his recent improv show in Beijing, among other jokes, a joke based on the aforementioned slogan about the Chinese army slipped out of his mouth.

House told the story of how he took in two stray dogs who, he said, “when they see a squirrel, they go after it like cannonballs,” and then, after a short chat about the different relationships people have with dogs, he declared, “When I see these two dogs, I meaning, ‘they can win a fight and have great style’.”

The audience, who couldn’t help but recognize the joke, cheered made me laugh. However, not everyone was having fun. Indeed, there were also those in the audience whose patriotic feelings were apparently unkindly touched by the banter using words usually associated with the untouchable army. Therefore, some of them were not lazy and entrusted their indignation to the Internet, where the indignation of similarly attuned sensitive souls developed.

The output was also noticed by the relevant inspection authorities, who fined Hou’s agency two million yuan, and he himself had to apologize. A few days later he was banned from performing.

From patriot outrage to police investigation

But it didn’t end there. On the well-known nationalist website Kuan-ha-che, the news about the artist’s offense caused a wave of hateful comments, the authors of which were not satisfied with a fine and an apology. They demanded prosecution “according to the law” and that House should go to jail because “insulting the People’s Liberation Army may have a negative effect on society.” There was also a curious justification — if House lived in America and mocked the American army, they would also let him eat it.

In contrast, similar passions did not flare up on the server. Long comment although he condemned House for his ill-advised words, for which he “rightfully” lost his license, the author did not send him to prison. On the contrary, he opposed the unspecified opinion that such performances should be banned outright, and defended improvised performances, provided, of course, that the artists respect the rules. After all, “jokes have their limits, there are taboos that can be joked about — this is a universally known truth that must be respected.”

In the end, however, the hard line won. A day after posting a more conciliatory comment on, Beijing police she announced, that it had opened an investigation into the case of a certain Li “who seriously insulted the People’s Liberation Army”. Let’s add that in 2021, a law was passed in China that severely punishes insulting the military.

Source: Deník referendum by

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