A Handy Loan-Word From Chinese: “Baizuo”, Meaning “White Left”


Everybody and his brother have emailed in to me with a link to this article from the webzine OpenDemocracy.

The curious rise of the ‘white left’ as a Chinese internet insult

Meet the Chinese netizens who combine a hatred for the “white left” with a love of US president Donald Trump.

If you look at any thread about Trump, Islam or immigration on a Chinese social media platform these days, it’s impossible to avoid encountering the term baizuo, or literally, the “white left.” It first emerged about two years ago, and yet has quickly become one of the most popular derogatory descriptions for Chinese netizens to discredit their opponents in online debates.

So what does “white left” mean in the Chinese context, and what’s behind the rise of its (negative) popularity? … A thread on “why well-educated elites in the west are seen as naïve ‘white left’ in China” on Zhihu, a question-and-answer website said to have a high percentage of active users who are professionals and intellectuals, might serve as a starting point.

The question has received more than 400 answers from Zhihu users, which include some of the most representative perceptions of the “white left.” Although the emphasis varies, baizuo is used generally to describe those who “only care about topics such as immigration, minorities, LGBT and the environment” and “have no sense of real problems in the real world”; they are hypocritical humanitarians who advocate for peace and equality only to “satisfy their own feeling of moral superiority”; they are “obsessed with political correctness” to the extent that they “tolerate backwards Islamic values for the sake of multiculturalism”; they believe in the welfare state that “benefits only the idle and the free riders”; they are the “ignorant and arrogant westerners” who “pity the rest of the world and think they are saviours.”

Apart from some anti-hegemonic sentiments, the connotations of “white left” in the Chinese context clearly resemble terms such as “regressive liberals” or “libtards” in the United States. In a way the demonization of the “white left” in Chinese social media may also reflect the resurgence of right-wing populism globally.  [The curious rise of the ‘white left’ as a Chinese internet insult by Chenchen Zhang; OpenDemocracy.net, May 11th 2017.]

One of my readers sent in the link with the comment: “As America’s most famous reactionary Sinophile, I knew you would get a kick out of this article.”

Two others wanted to know the correct pronunciation of baizuo.  It’s “bye-dzwaw,” approximately; first syllable a high pitch with rising contour — like an abrupt “Yes?” — second syllable low pitch, contour falling a bit then rising like a hesitant question: “Ye-es?”

Another reader wanted to know the Chinese for “LGBT.”  Answer: “LGBT.”  It’s right down there in the Chinese text, if you scan.

Am I really “America’s most famous reactionary Sinophile”?  I wouldn’t refuse the cup, if it were awarded to me.

My Sinophilia comes with qualifications, though.  When you read those Chinese websites (which you can without knowing Chinese:  Google Translate is pretty good now with the colloquial language, though Classical Chinese needs work) there’s a lot of nasty arrogant stuff in there, carefully nurtured of course by the Communists to keep anti-foreignism alive and themselves in power.

The notion that you can love your own country without hating others — even while admiring and respecting some of the others — is not much in evidence on Chinese comment threads, any more than it is in the effusions of our own left intellectuals, though the conclusions drawn in the two cases are different.  This could be a real hindrance as we get the Arctic Alliance up and running.

Still, even with those elements of arrogance, ignorance, and insecurity, Chinese attitudes overall are healthier than the pathological altruism and sickly ethnomasochism of our CultMarx elites — the baizuo.

You can never have enough scornful terms for your enemies.  I hope baizuo will take off among English-language users.  We have way too few loanwords from Chinese, most of them from coastal dialects (sampan, ketchup).  Heck, if they can borrow “LGBT,” why can’t we use baizuo?

Cultural appropriation? Ptui, I spit.

(When mentioning loanwords, by the way, I can never resist adding that “loanword” is a loanword: from German Lehnwort.  Wikipedia splits hairs and says it’s actually a calque, a loan translation, so only a sort-of loanword … but the hell with Wikipedia.)