The term Little Pink originated on the website Jinjiang Literature City [zh] (晋江文学城), when a group of users kept strongly criticizing people who published posts containing negative news about China. Within Jinjiang Literature City, this group became known as the “Jinjiang Girl Group Concerned for the Country”, or the Little Pink, which is the main color of the website’s front page.
The Little Pink are different from members of the 50 Cent Party, as the Little Pink are not paid. In terms of demographics, according to Zhuang Pinghui of South China Morning Post, 83% of the Little Pink are female, with most of them between 18 and 24 years old. More than half of the Little Pink are from third- and fourth-tier cities in China.
They are primarily active on social media sites banned in China such as Twitter and Instagram. Many of the Little Pink are Chinese students studying abroad in countries which do not block access to those sites. They have been compared to the Red Guard of the cultural revolution.
The New Face of Chinese Nationalism
‘Little pink’ web users are jumping onto Twitter and Instagram to call out enemies of the state.
By Lotus Ruan
August 25, 2016, 9:51 AM
The just-completed 2016 Rio Olympics didn’t just mark the ascendance of major Chinese athletes like swimmer and internet darling Fu Yuanhui — it also showed, in real time, how Chinese nationalism can affect the global online dialogue. During the games, Australian gold medalist swimmer Mack Horton called Chinese competitor Sun Yang a “drug cheat”; in response, Chinese netizens flooded Horton’s accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram — all of which are blocked in China and can only be accessed with censorship circumvention tools — to demand an apology. (Chinese fans were in such a rush to bombard Horton’s social media presence that some of them even misspelled his name and ended up attacking Mark Horton, an English IT worker, instead.)
James Liu has always considered himself a patriot.
With a lump in his throat, he watched a military parade on National Day, China’s birthday, that showed a once backward nation that had become strong and powerful. He got goose bumps watching “Wolf Warrior 2,” a “Rambo”-like Chinese blockbuster featuring a superhero veteran who single-handedly rescues his countrymen trapped abroad.
When China came under attack online, Mr. Liu was one of the legions of Chinese students studying abroad who posted in its defense. He condemned the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, which he saw as an effort to split a uniting China. After President Trump called the coronavirus the “Chinese virus,” Mr. Liu turned to Twitter to correct those who used the term.
“I was a real little pink,” he said, using a somewhat derogatory term for the young, Communist-red Chinese nationalists who use the internet as a patriotic battleground to fight those who disparage China.
Then Mr. Liu, 21, discovered that the country he had long defended didn’t want him back.
The fresh graduate from a Midwestern university had become one of an untold number of Chinese people stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic. Flights had vanished. Tickets home were outrageously expensive. The Chinese government, fearful that people like him would bring the virus with them, restricted international flights and told its expatriates to stay put.
When overseas students went online to question why they couldn’t fly home, people in China told them to stay away. The students, they said, were spoiled brats who could jeopardize China’s success in containing the epidemic.
Mr. Liu and many other countless Chinese people stranded overseas are, for the first time, running afoul of one of their country’s bedrock political principles: National interests come before an individual’s needs. That may sound reasonable, even logical, but it differs sharply from the sentiment in places, like the United States and elsewhere, where the rights of the minority are supposed to be protected.
In this case, the stranded students and workers have become a minority group that is expected to sacrifice for the benefit of the majority. That puts them among the ranks of government critics and the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters — people they have long battled online.
Some of the little pinks are rethinking their relationship with the country — which, in the Chinese context, is the nation, the government and the Communist Party all in one.
The News Lens
China’s ‘Little Pink’ Army Is Gearing Up to Invade the Internet
China’s gradual dominance over global affairs has resulted in the economic and cultural gaps between Asia and the West starting to shrink over time. The Chinese Communist Party’s desire for total control has thus become far more attainable than it was during the Great Leap Forward. Economic policy reform and capital restructuring are at the heart of what turned the country around from what would have been a bleak future.
Chinese control, however, extends beyond the bank and into a plethora of resources, such as the accessibility of advanced technology, its 1.38 billion citizens and various online platforms, both domestically and abroad, which have become the domain of influence peddlers such as the “50 Cent Party” and “Little Pinks.”
Rise of the ‘Little Pinks’
The introduction of well-educated, internet-savvy young patriots who have cutely dubbed themselves “Little Pink,” or Xiaofenhong, have now penetrated mainstream conversations both domestically and abroad, so much so that they have become a new face of Chinese nationalism. A Peking University analytics tool reported that 83 percent of these keyboard warriors on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo identify as female, with the majority between the ages of 18 and 24, according to the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. Instagram, where the Balenciaga and Brooklyn Beckham ambush occurred, is banned in China, but international students abroad use the English-speaking platform and have publicly identified themselves as Little Pinks through online forums. This is no surprise, considering there are about 340,000 Chinese university students studying abroad in the United States and nearly 200,000 in Australia.
An army of students defending the Chinese government might sound historically familiar because it is. The Cultural Revolution employed a number of young, impressionable soldiers, the Red Guards, to carry out their attacks, specifically middle and high school aged children. Under the government’s direction, they ruined the “Four Olds,” meaning Old Customs, Old Habits, Old Culture and Old Ideas. They ruined historical artifacts, museums and cemeteries and regularly beat people to death, among other atrocious acts. These were all endorsed by Mao and their efforts were praised at Tiananmen Square.
Similarly, the Communist Party via state-run newspapers People’s Daily and Global Times has publicly praised the Little Pink members, according to the South China Morning Post, and encouraged the continuation of their verbal abuse and intimidation tactics.
On Weibo, many young nationalists such as the Little Pinks have expressed die-hard support of the regime. At a closer look, however, they are also retaliating against overt control. Their family’s homes have been ransacked, perhaps, or their favorite video game has been blocked or censored.