Christmas is approaching but instead of feeling joyful, many in mainland China have expressed frustration over China's ideological campaign against Christmas as a Western festival.
In 2017, the Communist Party of China's central committee and state council issued an official document entitled "Suggestions on the implementation of projects to promote and develop traditional Chinese culture excellence." They outlined a cultural revival project that lists Chinese festivals like the Lunar New Year and the Lantern Festival, among others, as cultural conventions worthy of celebration.
To implement this policy, Chinese authorities have launched a series of ideological campaigns to crack down on non-Chinese celebrations. This year, just before Christmas, authorities in some cities such as Langfang, in Hebei province, have demanded shops to remove Christmas decorations on the streets and in window displays.
Anti-Western festival commentaries have flooded Weibo, China's popular social media platform, making Christmas celebrations a difficult choice for some who feel they must keep their joy a secret.
Weibo user Long Zhigao screen captured his WeChat newsfeed to reveal aspects of the debate.
Headlines show that festivals celebrations have become a political issue:
1. Western festival is approaching. To celebrate or not, that’s the question. 2. I am Chinese and I don’t celebrate Western festivals. 3. Say no to the celebration of Western festivals on the school campus. 4. The party-state has banned Western festivals.
In addition to Christmas, the list of Western festivals also includes Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween, among others. A majority of the commentaries define Western festivals as “cultural invasion” or “national humiliation."
For example, a widely circulated one said:
The commentary references the history of the Eight-Nation Alliance, a coalition formed in response to the Boxer Rebellion in China between 1899 and 1901 when Chinese peasants rose up against foreign, colonial, Christian rule and culture. It further argues that the birthday of Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People's Republic of China, should be treated as China’s Christmas:
But many on Weibo found these arguments illogical. One commentator said:
Social pressure, self-censorship
The flood of anti-Christmas comments on social media has generated pressure for some social media users to self-censor. A Weibo user expressed frustration:
Pressure goes beyond social media platforms, extending to institutions such as schools and corporations.
Some Weibo users have shared school notices that were distributed to students. One of the notices (right) refers to the “Suggestions” mandate and urges teachers and students to resist Western style celebrations.
It also demands students to spread anti-Western messages to friends and family members on Wechat and other mobile messaging applications.
One mother was surprised to find her child rejecting her offer of a Christmas gift. She wrote on Weibo:
However, high school and college students were more critical. One student questioned school policy on Weibo:
Some have chosen to celebrate the festival in secret. A Weibo user said:
Another Weibo user expressed his view with a Christmas wish:
Oiwan Lam is a contributor with Global Voices.