October 1, 2013, China’s National Day and also the day when the US federal government began systematically shutting down operations for the first time in nearly two decades. How the Chinese people, more specifically, Chinese social media users, react to the coincidence?
Many people’s first reaction is making jokes about the act being a way for the US government to honor the 64th birthday of the Chinese government. For example, netizen 宇文馳 asked jokingly: “Do American people celebrate China National Day, too?” Another netizen 土豆怒了 pointed out: “What shutdown? It’s the US adopting our week-long National Day Holiday.”
These jokes, however, are more than carelss sarcasm. For a long time after 1949 when the current “new” China was founded, the US has been described as a primary ideology rival, if not enemy, in official rhetoric. Even today, it’s still not uncommon to see official media using the US as the comparison to emphasize why the political, economic and social systems in China work better and more efficiently.
The image of the US being the evil imperialist and capitalist country whereas China being the superior socialist country has gradually flipped in recent years as more and more Chinese people, especially the urban young, start to view the US as a role model worth looking up to. The US middle class lifestyle is what many of China’s nouveau riche aspire to.
Nevertheless, Chinese netizens didn’t hesitate a second to use the stereotypes to make fun of the current events. In response to the shutdown news, one netizen 叶落如初 commented: “There is such a severe lack of ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ at this evil capitalist county.” Another netizen 樱桃肉丸子的冬天 commented: “The US government shuts down on China’s National Day, I feel like my world view has been put upside down. To beat the US – what we learned on Maoist Theory classes is no longer a day dream.”
Jokes aside, most people expressed disbelief. A government shutdown will never happen in China, at least not under CCP rule. Like in many other cases, Chinese netizens couldn’t help but ponder on what if the same thing happens in China. And the conclusion is that the US has a much better-functioning government. Why? Because the country runs normally even when government operations are shut down.
One netizen 怒一代 commented: “The system in the US is indeed superior. Their government can be shut down without causing any chaos in the society.”
Compare to a hypothetical similar scenario in China, the impact of a US federal government shutdown on the lives of its ordinary citizens can be said to be minimum. After all, as one netizen 段郎说事 commented: “The job of the US federal government is to serve, not to dictate.”
If the Chinese government shuts down, as one netizen 喵煮席爱大金链子 imaged, “the Chinese people won’t survive long.” Another netizen 西水东渐 chimed in: “The US government isn’t an omnipotent government. A shutdown won’t cause social unrest and instability. The Chinese government is an omnipotent government. A one-day shutdown would lead to a paralyzed society.”
“The US federal government shuts down. It’s a price of democracy check and balance. It will bring inconvenience to a lot of people, but I believe, between an inefficient government and a government without check and balance, most Americans will choose the former. This is the 18th times when the US federal government was shut down. No major social chaos occurred during the precious 17 times. A mature society can afford to have its government shut down.” Netizen 王冉 commented.