Lamenting China’s 2021 Cancel Culture, A Personal View
Man Tianmai (漫天霾) reflects on what China lost in 2021.
View from China with an Austrian School of Economics Perspective
Readers who have not yet read Part I may want to read that first for context.
I hadn’t shed a tear for at least a decade. As my experience expanded, and my awareness of economics grew, I came to conclude that in the past, I was often moved by things which were cheap and naïve, by grand narratives and superficial phenomena not worth my attention; by contrast, those matters truly worthy of concern had frequently escaped my notice.
But at the end of this bone chilling year, I am full of tears. Because this year, there were too many goodbyes.
I suddenly thought of Dr. Li Wenliang1, and saw many netizens leaving New Year’s wishes on his Weibo account, an account which will never again be updated.
I wrote to him:
“Dr. Li, it's been two years, and people hardly remember you at all. Instead, they keep asking for ever more state intervention. Why can’t the state do more? The state does more, and the situation deteriorates further.”
“Things keep getting worse, and in the end, others will be silenced just like you. You saw this all clearly, yet people have failed to learn a lesson from your fate.”
“For the most part people feel that somehow in your case, wrongs were committed.”
“And yet, they were so forgiving that they chose nonetheless to maintain their faith in their religion [of state]; as long as it’s a different place, a different person, a different way, then all the more wholeheartedly and unquestioningly.”
People seem to remember him and the many others who perished in this disaster, but they don't know what to learn from it. On the contrary, the epidemic seems to have reinforced their religious identity in every way. Little did they perceive the causal link between their strong faith and the loss of life and the continued deterioration of their situation.
This year the situation took a sharp turn for the worse.
Meituan (美团), which created countless jobs and brought endless convenience, was transformed into an unscrupulous enterprise squeezing its delivery drivers2.
Lenovo, which fought its way to the top of its industry worldwide, netting the state as one of its investors an exponential return, was turned into a "traitor".
[After the state destroyed New Oriental’s education business in July 2021, CEO Yu Minhong paid off all suppliers and staff in full, and returned all prepaid tuition to students. New Oriental’s share price fell by 85%; yet Yu Minhong did not give up, and decided to work towards transitioning the business into online product promotion for agricultural products. All of his 80,000 designer school tables he donated to schools in remote villages, with a value in the hundreds of millions of yuan.]
In return, a witch from the Economic Daily (经济日报) jeered at him for pursuing “quick money” by going into the product promotion business.
At the same time, the iconic "Papa Ma" [Jack Ma] became a “bloodthirsty demon”, while Tencent’s online games were transformed into "spiritual opium" for children .
All these changes seemed to happen overnight; yet in reality they were the result of the explosive release of a long simmering resentment of wealth3.
Creating a few world-class enterprises was hard enough, but now their founders have become street rats to be chased off, never to be heard from again. In reality this was a goodbye.
“People actually forget to think about the simplest questions: Who creates the wealth? Who drives economic progress? Who arranges employment? Who pays the salaries? Who finances charity?”
Now that they are they are gone, the people shouting to hang them from the lampposts, did it work out for you?
At the end of this coldest of years, she – Wei Ya – too said goodbye, in her most reluctant manner.
In November 2020 Wei Ya made a speech on the Xinkong Speech platform. After the government canceled her earlier this month, I watched this 2020 video twice, each time with tears in my eyes. I seemed to see through her heart. “I can cede my place and let someone else take it. I will not complain; I can always start again,” she said.
Now it would seem there is no longer a chance of that.
“When people need something, I find it. It feels so good to be needed. Satisfying my fans is what gives me my greatest satisfaction and sense of accomplishment. What is the essence of promoting products? It’s to introduce them to people who need them. Fans nicknamed me [the Japanese manga character] 'Doraemon'. Whatever people need, you have to find a way to conjure it up!”
What is this? This is the essence of how exchange creates value for the benefit of both sides; this is the market economy and the “customer is king” mentality.
Only in a market economy do entrepreneurs produce goods to fulfill the desires of consumers, supplying them to the public at the lowest possible price. Without a market economy, your wishes are worthless: The producers are then no longer the servants of the consumers, but rather the lackeys of those who distribute the orders, while the consumer becomes a slave at the feet of those who decide on the allocation of ration cards.
Why do we want to destroy this? Do we really have to wait until the day we actually lose it to appreciate its value?
Wei Ya sells rice. She sells soy sauce. And she sells vinegar. When one of her fans needed an electric two-wheeler for her mother, Wei Ya had her team research the market and hunted down 2,000 of them at an extremely attractive price. The rice, the vinegar and the salt, these are all essential parts of the human fireworks, real everyday life.
On the ‘presale day’ for China’s version of Black Friday – October 20th, 2021 – Wei Ya’s total sales were approximately $1.3 billion4.
Why should we oppose the free market? Why should we destroy our own lives with our own hands?
Commerce is not just a way of obtaining goods. It also brings companionship, joy and healing. It helps us to express ourselves and nurture our individuality in the sea of choices it provides.
She [Wei Ya] went to remote mountainous areas to help promote goods for farmers, “selling 1.3 tons of Yunnan coffee in two seconds,” thus bringing an awareness of their products to a high end market they had previously struggled to tap into. One broadcast was the equivalent of an entire sales team scattered across the country. Moreover, by promoting these products, she [and her team] drove an entire supply chain.
When Wuhan was down and out in 2020, she helped kick start work and production, donating the proceeds to scores of needy schools. Good charity should necessarily be like good business, serving its end users.
Free and open markets are most friendly to the poorer classes, and business is the most efficient and accurate charity in existence. The goal of this charity is not to satisfy ourselves, but rather to satisfy others.
Don't we know that every time the market is devastated and business is hit, this impacts the people's well-being? Those who sneered at Wei Ya and spoke ill of her, may I ask you what you have done?
How beautiful, humble, confident and peaceful, and how intelligent, brave, pragmatic and hardworking she is! Those are the qualities that only a first-class entrepreneur possesses. She said she was merely lucky to have stumbled across this windfall. The windfall was there waiting; why did it just happen to cross her path? It’s because she is a visionary, a risk-taker, an entrepreneur who is willing to invest her life in the future, a promoter of economic progress and a source of human welfare.
So am I really in mourning for her?
I am in mourning for the people who said goodbye like her, for ourselves, for the masses.
Much of society claims to despise them and cheers their downfall. What a failure of economics education! What is taught in schools is anti-economics; the general perception in society is anti-market. Yet the market economy is a matter of life and death for mankind, and they do not know that they are actually opposing mankind and committing chronic suicide.
What a failure! In a matter of life and death, we are making a big mistake by choosing an erroneous concept. Disaster is about to strike, and people are still frivolously reveling in it.
It’s conceivable that we may never return to the past. So this may not only merely be a farewell to some people, but possibly a farewell to a bygone era.
So what kind of New Year wishes can I send to my readers?
As you can see, the title of this article is a tribute to the Southern Weekend weekly - they also said goodbye long ago. They wrote “sum up 2021 in one word,” and I remembered the word ‘hammer’ offered to Yu Minhong, which was quite fitting. I can only wish all of my readers less hammering.
I also wish myself to be hammered less often. One day, I do not know when, I can only guess that my blog will run afoul of the canceling machine. Then I will no longer be able to say my goodbyes.
Hang in there, friends, in this cold winter! Those fatally conceited social engineers think their thundering hammer is a force to be reckoned with. That's not strength; it’s fear and cowardice, incompetence and barbarism. These hammers cannot compete with the majestic power of the market-driven economy to change the world.
This power belongs to each of us. For each person who embraces the market, the force leading to prosperity is upped a notch. If you and I change, the world will change. Let's join hands and "don't bow down to evil. Rather, gather your courage and continue to fight against it"5!
The Chengdu doctor who attempted to alert colleagues to the outbreak, an effort for which he was rebuked. He died shortly thereafter.
Meituan is China’s #1 food delivery service, akin to DoorDash in the United States. 2020 sales were approximately$17.6 billion, 6 times the size of DoorDash. It also delivers a variety of other products. Meituan was heavily criticized by both official media and social media for refusing to pay social security payments for its drivers.
This is a reference to the government’s “共同富裕” slogan advocating wealth redistribution.
Readers wishing to learn more about Wei Ya and her rise to fame can check out this 5-minute mini-documentary with English subtitles on Youtube (Youtube locator Ao5mpDhXOKo):
This is an allusion to Ludwig von Mises’ family motto “Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito!”