HONG KONG – Western media has fabricated a lot of alternative Chinese “leaders” in the past, mostly useful dissidents and little helpers to the Western cause -morally and politically. But forget for a moment his Holiness the Dalai Lama, nude artist Ai Weiwei, blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng, and activist Liu Xiaobo, and welcome China’s “new” most powerful leader (after its real leader and the country’s president Xi Jinping): the teenage hero Joshua Wong Chi-fung.
If this sounds like dream fabric, that’s because it was carefully designed that way:
“…the 18-year-old Wong doesn’t look like Hollywood’s idea of a charismatic rebel leader. But…” (Fortune Magazine[i])
…BUT he doesn’t have too, as a recent opinion piece by Alex Lo in the South China Morning Post suggests.[ii] It’s like trying to demonstrate that the 14th Dalai Lama is NOT an eternal, reincarnated Bodhisattva: We can’t prove a negative. We can’t possibly show that Joshua Wong is NOT a global leader after Fortune magazine made him out to be one -the No 10 in the world to be precise, only four slots behind Taylor Swift, the #blessed and #flawless singer of ‘Call Me Maybe’.
It gets better. But first, don’t get me wrong on this: It’s all gold for Joshua. Other Hong Kong people worked and organized equally hard, but Joshua was chosen to personify the ‘Umbrella Movement’ (yes, we are talking about “in Western history books”). Still, if it looks like Western make-belief, it probably is Western make-belief. Fortune magazine has this to say:
“His nonviolent protest message and energetic idealism galvanized crowds that, over months, numbered in the hundreds of thousands.”
It makes the young man appear to be the spiritual leader of hundreds of thousands, doesn’t it? Well, he clearly wasn’t, says Alex Lo. Most self-respected university students in Hong Kong who participated in the protests, if they believe in self-determination, would probably resent the idea of being put into the brackets of some superimposed, manufactured Western personality cult (or wouldn’t they?). But that’s all irrelevant now, because the Western media wants Joshua Wong to be the leader of that movement, and desperately so. You could well see this episode coming in previous reports from The Economist[iii] and NY Times,[iv] among others. And here is why:
Some top tier China-watchers –the likes of Gady ‘Shady’ Epstein, Chris ‘Buckfast’ Buckley, and Michael ‘the Knife’ Forsythe, etc.– probably decided that “This Joshua is epic material; we hold him up there against Evil China and the Communist Party.” (They mostly coordinate their output.) Which reminds me of a recent popcorn movie, ‘Exodus: Gods and Kings’, in which director Ridley Scott and his writers decided to have Our Lord speak through a boy angel, Malak, who orders Moses to lead God’s favorite people (the Jews) out of Egypt. The name and moniker “Joshua” which Wong Chi-fung goes by in Western media, need I say this, is borrowed from ‘The Book of Joshua’ of the Hebrew Bible where Joshua, a former spy for Israel, eventually became the leader of the tribes.
So there you have it. The “news” of the coming of a new leader, or angel, or God’s messenger (known to Christians as the ‘Trinity’), quickly trickled down to second and third tier media organizations. No investigation, no fact-checking. Just mindless repetition. I know because I see the same stories, translated and paraphrased by the so-called ‘China Experts’, over and over again all over the world. And if some commentators complain about the propaganda, naturally they just add to its publicity. It’s free advertisement.
This drama of reliving the ‘exodus’ of our ideological enemies over and over again is, I claim, brought to near perfection in the West. We call it “creativity” [a divine inspiration] and often blame Asia for the lack of it. To be sure, it makes the West unpredictable to foreign governments; yet the unpredictability obviously has system: You look at Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ and asked “Why him?”, or Van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ and go “Really?”. From Jesus Christ “I am the king of Jews and the son of God” to modern saviors -like Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, or Mark Zuckerberg: It’s all irresponsible idol-worship, designed to disrupt the lives of as many people as possible.
You have to admire Western boldness but, seriously, in this case scholarship has a better word for it: It’s imperialism. China was awarded a new “global leader,” molded in propaganda, superimposed by a foreign power. Joshua has been hijacked and shamelessly exploited by a Western biblical narrative and sense of mission to civilize China. And if China doesn’t comply, according to The Book of Exodus the land will be visited by “ten plagues.” Good times for journalism.
I’m fine with it, I am from the West; but the formula terrifies me: “Joshua’s leading his people away from slavery – China; and into the promised land – America.” It’s a universal metaphor. We can pull this trick on any other nation we don’t like, really.
Of course Fortune magazine is roping Hollywood into it. At the back of the stage, however, as Mr Lo’s article reminds us, there are just lies and deception. It proves one thing, and perhaps one thing only: that Western media is full of s**t.
[i] Fortune, The World’s 50 Greatest Leaders, Joshua Wong, Activist, Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Movement, New York
[ii] South China Morning Post, Fortune article on Joshua Wong Chi-fung in the top 10 for errors, March 30, 2015, Hong Kong
[iii] The Economist, Hong Kong’s youth activists, Lessons in dissent, Jul 4, 2014, London
[iv] The New York Times, Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution Isn’t Over Yet: A democracy movement ponders its next move, Feb 18, 2015, New York
Thor Tukoll is a pen name of Thorsten J. Pattberg, a German writer and cultural critic. He is the author of The East-West Dichotomy, Shengren, and Inside Peking University.
2016 (c) Thor Tukoll