After What’s What on Weibo – The Lay of the Land, Tea Leaf Nation brings you the main characters involved in the War of Wordcraft in China’s social media. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to suggest a new term to add to the list.
To understand why there are two cute alpacas on this picture, please see our next installment.
五毛党 (wu mao dang) = Fifty Cents Party = Defenders of the Chinese government and/or the Communist party
“Pump Up the Regime or Die Tryin’” may be the motto of this fearsome army of online commentators, conjured by “relevant departments” of the Chinese government to “guide public opinion” and battle all possible “subversive elements” online. They are reportedly paid fifty Chinese cents (about US$0.08) for every post that either defends the government’s stance or disputes countervailing viewpoints. The term has been expanded to include all defenders of the regime, whether or not there is any evidence of them being in the government’s pocket. See, e.g. Tea Leaf Nation’s coverage on Who’s Who’s on Weibo – Conservatives.
公知 (gong zhi) = Public Intellectual = Vocal writers, academics, journalists, lawyers, and social critics
The advent of social media in China has freed a small fellowship of (mostly liberal) public intellectuals from the shackles of traditional press and publication censorship techniques. They have blossomed into important opinion leaders online through their attention to hot-button social events. They are the mortal enemy of the Fifty Cents Party, who sees these public intellectuals as unpatriotic elitists out of touch with Chinese realities, and uses the term as a pejorative. See, e.g. Tea Leaf Nation’s coverage on Who’s Who’s on Weibo - Writers and Economists and Academics.
围观者 (wei guan zhe) = Onlooker = Social media users who actively opine on a certain event
Armed with the slogan “onlooking is changing China,” many netizens are fond of gathering around the proverbial water cooler to discuss events of the day. Such topics sometimes go viral and may affect the authorities’ handling of an issue. With so many events competing for onlookers’ limited attention span, however, many issues quickly fall into the unforgiving cycle that Tea Leaf Nation has outlined. On the other hand, onlookers can reach from cyberspace into the real world and subject the individuals involved to mob justice.
酱油党 (jiang you dang) = Soy Sauce Party = Apathetic onlookers
A netizen is said to be “getting soy sauce” if she expresses indifference to an issue, either out of true apathy or mere frustration stemming from her powerlessness to change the state of affairs. For the etymologically curious, the origin of this phrase dates back to the infamous Edison Chen photo scandal.