A pop duet taking aim at China’s army of nationalistic “Little Pink” commentators and trolls has garnered nearly 10 million views on YouTube after the singers’ accounts were blocked on Chinese social media and their songs removed from online platforms.
In the official video for “Fragile,” Malaysian singer Namewee and Australian Kimberly Chen sing repeated apologies to a dancing panda, who lives in a hobbit-style house and waves a flag bearing the online insult “NMSL,” frequently used by Little Pinks to wish death on the mothers of those they believe have insulted China or hurt the feelings of its people.
China frequently demands apologies from companies and celebrities if they use sensitive words not in line with Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda, including the idea that Taiwan is a sovereign country that has no interest in being invaded or ruled by its larger neighbor.
The song video starts with a message: “Warning: be cautious if you are a fragile pink,” as the camera focuses on baskets of cotton, in a reference to Uyghur forced labor in the northwestern region of Xinjiang, and teddy bears resembling Winnie the Pooh, a satirical reference to CCP general secretary Xi Jinping that has now been banned from China’s tightly controlled internet.
“You never want to listen to people, but just launch constant counterattacks,” Namewee sings. “I’m not quite sure how I’ve offended you.
“You always think the world is your enemy.”
Namewee and Chen, who are based in democratic Taiwan, which China has threatened to invade if it doesn’t accept CCP rule, then sing together: “You say I belong to you, and that I should come home,” adding “you are unreasonable … you want me to affirm that we are inseparable.”
“Sorry that I hurt your feelings,” the pair sing, amid the sound of breaking glass. “I hear the sound of fragile self-esteem breaking into 1,000 pieces.”
Winnie the Pooh
The song also references Xi Jinping’s “common prosperity” slogan and “poverty alleviation,” taunting the panda for having to gather “honey” for Winnie the Pooh, and showing it hurt and shocked when a stuffed toy bat is served on a dish, in a reference to the racist bat soup meme suggesting a Chinese origin for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taiwan rapper Dwagie and singer Chen Chia-hsing both welcomed the song for speaking out against CCP-backed online trolls, known collectively as Little Pinks, or the 50-cent Party.
Chen Chia-hsing told Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA) that the slang phrase “Chinsult” is used to refer to anything China finds insulting, saying that living in Taiwan is enough to make CCP supporters feel you have insulted their homeland.
“Being alive is a Chinsult too. … If you want to be a free person, you will inevitably Chinsult, and as time passes, you get used it, therefore the earlier you Chinsult, the earlier you begin to enjoy the freedom,” he told CNA.
Dwagie told the agency that “Fragile” taps into a seam of public anger and irritation in the region over the public face that the CCP and its supporters present to the world.
Both Kimberly Chen and Namewee’s accounts on the Chinese social media platform Weibo were blocked after the song was released, while their music has been taken down from online platforms like QQ Music and Tencent Video.
Namewee said on his Facebook page that he had made no mention of China in the entire song, “yet you think every word and phrase is an insult directed at you.”
Ban underscores fragility
Pop culture expert Chuang Chia-ying, associate professor of Taiwanese Language and Literature at National Taiwan Normal University, said the incident showed that music is politics.
“Little Pink-style, nationalistic consumer identity has always been ubiquitous in global pop culture circles, resulting in the collective bullying of others,” Chuang told Radio Free Asia, a sister entity of BenarNews.
“It looks as if their [output] is now being taken off the shelves, and Weibo’s reaction is par for the course.”
He said Namewee’s work has always been highly political, touching on racial and religious tensions in Malaysia, and criticizing the school system.
Kong Ling-hsin, who heads the journalism department at Taiwan’s Ming Chuan University, said the song would become a self-fulfilling prophecy where China is concerned.
“If China bans [the song], then it will have shown its fragility for all to see,” Kong told RFA. “But the way it was shot, it will have to ban it, because it presses all of their buttons.”
Taiwan-based labor union official Sun You-lien, who hails from Malaysia, said Namewee and Chen have clearly made peace with the loss of access to the Chinese market.
“A lot of people are willing to give up [creative freedom] to keep the Chinese market, and avoiding offending people in a system they know is unjust,” Sun said.
“This song is saying very clearly that [China’s] world isn’t my world … and it’s getting that message through to even more people that pop artists can play their part [in resisting China],” he said.