Who are the Allies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)? Neologisms, Netizens, and Nationalisms 

Written by Hsin-I Sydney Yueh.

Image credit: We need help! by Monkai Chen/ Flickr, license: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Recently, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense rejected a Japanese news report suggesting a widespread tendency among retired Taiwanese military officials to “sell out” their country. Wu Sz-Huai, a retired lieutenant general and incumbent opposition KMT party legislator, was among those who denounced this allegation.  

“Are we Chinese spies (共諜)?” Wu angrily asked this rhetorical question during a session of the National Defense Committee at Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan on March 2, 2023. While Wu denied being a Chinese spy, Taiwanese netizens teased him by sharing a photo of Wu and other retired Taiwanese military officials attending a CCP-hosted event, where they had sat attentively and listened respectfully to China’s leader Xi Jinping in 2016. Wu’s use of the term “Chinese spies” reminds us of another similar expression in Mandarin Chinese: “allies of the CCP” (中共同路人). This expression has recently gone viral in Taiwan’s online communities, used for self-mockery and as an attacking label.  

When writing my chapter “Vernacular Collaboration: In Search of a New Taiwanese Identity through ‘Worshipping Japan’ and Resisting China” in Resistance in the Era of Nationalisms: Performing Identities in Taiwan and Hong Kong (2023), I noticed that many pro-China netizens attempt to defend their position by posing such a rhetorical question in the following format: “Am I becoming an ‘ally of the CCP’ if I conduct an act of X?”  

For example, a netizen nicknamed “King of War” triggered a controversial dispute in an online discussion forum when he criticised the movie Detention as “nonsense,” and “not a horror movie at all.” Against the backdrop of 1962 Taiwan, ruled by the authoritarian KMT government, Detention tells the story of a boy and a girl trapped in their high school and their experience of encountering ghosts. Among all the comments on memories of the White Terror period, King of War posted an irrelevant message that blamed Japan for its colonisation and the atrocities it committed against the Chinese and Taiwanese.   

While King of War expressed his dislike of Japan, other netizens found fault with his contradictory actions: “Look at how many Japanese characters you have used in your account! You Japan worshipper!;” and “If you don’t like Japan, go kiss China’s ass!” After receiving numerous labelling and bickering responses, King of War commented: “Am I becoming an ally of the CCP if I do not like the movie Detention?” 

Whether “Chinese spies” or “allies of the CCP” is used to compose this rhetorical question, people like the King of War might expect a “no” response from other netizens to deny their association with the CCP; yet they resist a Taiwan-centred historical narrative. King of War’s interference amid the discussion about Taiwan’s past demonstrates those pro-China Taiwanese people’s identity contradiction and discontent. Moreover, I find that two other terms: “worshipping Japan” (哈日) and “kissing China’s ass” (舔中), also frequently appeared in these controversial posts relating to individuals’ identity, in Taiwan’s online forums dedicated to Japanese pop culture.  

The term “worshipping Japan” was invented in the 1990s to capture the explosive growth of the Taiwanese infatuation with Japanese pop culture. On the other hand, it is hard to trace exactly when the term “kissing China’s ass” became common in Taiwan. One notorious controversy related to the term occurred in 2016, when Huang An, a pro-China Taiwanese celebrity, accused a young Taiwanese singer, Chou Tzu-yu, of being a pro-Taiwanese independence dissident.  

Chou went to South Korea to develop her K-pop music career and gradually attracted international fans. However, Huang’s report on her waving a Taiwan flag caused angry Chinese netizens to leave cursing messages on Chou’s social media and forced her to respond with an abject videotaped apology. Since then, Taiwan’s media has labelled the “whistleblower” Huang as a celebrity that “kisses China’s ass.”  

Witnessing a pro-China netizen leave malicious messages and accusing others of being “Japan-worshippers,” in many Japanese pop culture-related online forums is not uncommon. In response, those “Japan-worshippers” fight back by calling the troublemaker’s action “kissing China’s ass.”  

However, the name-calling, self-despising, and building connections with like minds in the online space are not a conflict between Japanese culture and Chinese culture. In fact, the appreciation of Japanese pop culture has been interwoven into Taiwan’s identity negotiation. It reveals a choice of national identity, a perspective for interpreting Taiwanese history, and an attitude toward China—namely, whether to resist or not. 

If all political belief systems are partially about creating a sense of longing and identification with a positive self, which is then countered by a sense of disassociation from and even hostility toward some negative other, then the neologisms I identified in my chapter work together, driving Taiwan’s emerging sense of national identity. I argue that the competing discourses that appear in the online Japanese pop culture forum epitomise the identity struggle in current Taiwanese society. 

Today in Taiwan, the KMT party still insists on a Chinese orthodoxy in its vision of the nation, and the KMT-promoted China-centric historical narrative still influences the Taiwanese general public in identifying who they are. What’s worse, the KMT perspective has become convergent with the CCP’s propaganda, resulting in bad-mouthing Taiwan’s democracy and achievements.  

Taiwanese people’s admiration of Japanese culture demonstrates a form of resistance to the dominant China-centric narrative; the Japanese cultural elements thus offer a resource for building a Taiwanese cultural identity. 

Wu Sz-Huai, his party, and its followers have refused this national identity change in Taiwan. They might also feel they have been wronged. I place their behaviours and rationale in the context of the unsolved traumas and contrasting memories caused by colonialism and authoritarianism in Taiwan.  

Even after the process of Taiwanisation and democratisation, these people resisted a popular Taiwanese identity. Their national identity is not necessarily aligned with the PRC but involves the KMT-version of the Chinese historical narrative. Ironically, the Chinese heritage this old guard tried to defend no longer exists in CCP-ruled China, either.   

The PRC has been expediting its agenda to annex Taiwan after its leader Xi Jinping seized power in 2013. This unabashed ambition has put the KMT in an awkward predicament. On the one hand, most loyal KMT supporters live in the nostalgia constructed by the KMT’s Chinese historical narrative. But, on the other hand, facing an increasingly hostile threat from the PRC, the KMT cannot propose a China policy that convinces Taiwan’s voters; some KMT leaders’ wishful accommodation or obeisance to China makes them look even more like Chinese spies or allies of the CCP.   

With the growing threat of war from China, Taiwan is strongly influenced by disinformation and a target of information warfare. Evidence for this can also be found in how many messages now attempt to whitewash and distort the meanings of the term “allies of the CCP” from its original signified groups.  

Who, then, are the allies of the CCP? Maybe the first question we must explore is why so many pro-China politicians and opinion leaders in Taiwan resist this label. While they accept China’s preferential treatment, build an alliance with the CCP, and repeat the CCP’s propaganda to the Taiwanese, how do they make sense of their behaviour? Aren’t they the “allies of the CCP”?  

The issue of “Chinese spies” and “allies of CCP” is a serious problem in today’s Taiwan. It not only divides in politics but also hinders everyday identity discussion as a democratic practice, which I named “vernacular collaboration” in my chapter. Further discussion of how Taiwanese netizens use the term “Japan-worshipping” to negotiate Taiwanese meanings and express their resistance to China can be found in my chapter in Resistance in the Era of Nationalisms: Performing Identities in Taiwan and Hong Kong.     

Hsin-I Sydney Yueh is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Missouri, Columbia, U.S.A. She is the author of Identity Politics and Popular Culture in Taiwan: A Sajiao Generation (Lexington Books, 2016). In addition, she serves on the board of directors (2020–2023) for North American Taiwan Studies Association (NATSA) to promote Taiwan studies in North America. 

This article was published as part of a special issue titled “Resistance in the Era of Nationalisms.”

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