Let go of "WuMaoDang" and "50- cent Party"
11:13, May 23, 2011
By Li Hongmei
WuMaoDang (0.5 RMB Party) is Chinese vocabulary for Internet commentators Or Wu Mao (something of 50-cent in English) Internet commentators, people hired to post comments favorable towards the government policies in an attempt to shape public opinion on various Internet message boards. The commentators are said to be paid for each pro-government posting WuMao (0.5 RMB). On the flip side, there is another Internet jargon, WuMeifenDang (50-cent Party) to describe those, inspired by Western values and even sponsored by some anti-China forces abroad, posting comments to vilify and demonize China.
These two newly coined terms in the Internet age are so popular that they have spurred a lively discussion at the just concluded Sino-German Media Forum in Berlin.
Admittedly, these years have indeed seen the phenomenon that in order to visualize "a good deed" or just to polish the public image, some local authorities try to attract high-sounding words online with rewards like paying "WuMao" or higher for each sweet-mouthed posting. Henan Province, for instance, is said to have issued a notice to all its local universities, requiring the universities to train the recruited internet commentators for their job and - in order to have them do a good job - to reward them according to their performance.
In the Western countries, there are also some anti-China organizations funding those who are willing to throw mud at China. In 2010, just cite one example, some anti-China congressmen of the U.S. State Department called a group, the Global Internet Freedom Consortium (GIFC), offering it US $1.5 million.
GIFC is an organization run by elements of the Falun Gong cult, which is bent on vilifying the Chinese government with fabricated lies, undermining Chinese social stability and sabotaging China-U.S. relations. But those China-phobia U.S. politicians would like to provide whatever assistance to such any anti-China force.
That said, public opinion gleaned from the Internet should be very carefully weighed and selected before acting on them and making decisions by them. Even worse, the so-called Internet Public Relations firms have mushroomed in these years, and for profit, they would hire and train "cyber mercenaries", misleading the public by fabricating stories, distorting facts, posting one-sided comments and producing false opinions online. This has undoubtedly further poisoned the online social mood and discredited public opinion in its real essence.
Once these false cyber opinions are pounced on by some ill-intended predators abroad, they would become a handy tool to churn up a sweeping tumult. The ongoing upheavals in North Africa and West Asia will never be special cases, and already a harsh reality now.
Hence, it is high time we endeavored to build up a sound online environment by sharpening eyes to screen and examine the online information, enhancing the ability to resist the false, and more important, cultivating a mature mindset to face up to all the online roguery at a time when we are almost immersed in a sea of information.
It is of no taboo to say---Yes, Chinese society is far form perfect, and malpractice indeed exists in governments at varying levels; and yes, if one day Chinese authorities' performance and their administrative capabilities no longer need WuMaoDang's meticulous make-up and refinements, China will have the courage to present itself to the public as it really is, and the ill-intended "Fifty-Cent Party" will be unable to manipulate public opinion simply by tarnishing China's image.
As a matter of fact, a real power, strong and prosperous, should have the confidence in its capability of resisting foreign disturbances, and have no fear of being finger pointed and lambasted. And it is also a fact that with China's growing strength and confidence, its people will be growing stronger than ever to guard against "sugar bullets" of various kinds----"Fifty-cent Party" will die out of itself.
The articles in this column represent the author's views only. They do not represent opinions of People's Daily or People's Daily Online.
After 19 years working for China Daily and its website, Li Hong moved to english.people.com.cn in March 2009.
Li has been a reporter and column writer, mainly on China's economy and politics.
He was graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University, and once studied in University of Hawaii and the Poynter Institute in Florida.
John Milligan-Whyte and Dai Min, the executive producers and co-hosts of the Collaboration of Civilizations television series adapted by the eight books they wrote in the America-China Partnership Book Series published in English and Mandarin in 2009-2010 that created the "New School of America-China Relations." They founded the America-China Partnership Foundation and Forum in 2008 and the Center for American-China Partnership in 2005, which was recognized in 2009 as "the first American think tank to combine and integrate American and Chinese perspectives providing a complete answer for America and China's success in the 21st century."