Journal of Contemporary China 30 (127):85-101 (2021)

Authors
Yao Lin
New York University, Shanghai
Abstract
This article examines the puzzling phenomenon that many Chinese liberal intellectuals fervently idolize Donald Trump and embrace the alt-right ideologies he epitomizes. Rejecting ‘pure tactic’ and ‘neoliberal affinity’ explanations, it argues that the Trumpian metamorphosis of Chinese liberal intellectuals is precipitated by their ‘beacon complex’, which has ‘political’ and ‘civilizational’ components. Political beaconism grows from the traumatizing lived experience of Maoist totalitarianism, sanitizes the West and particularly the United States as politically near-perfect, and gives rise to both a neoliberal affinity and a latent hostility toward baizuo. Civilizational beaconism, sharing with its nationalistic counterpart -- civilizational vindicativism -- the heritages of scientific racism and social Darwinism imported in late-Qing, renders the Chinese liberal intelligentsia receptive to anti-immigrant and Islamophobic paranoia, exacerbates its anti-baizuo sentiments, and catalyzes its Trumpian convergence with Chinese non-liberals.
Keywords Chinese liberalism  intellectual  Trumpian metamorphosis  baizuo  political beaconism  political pilgrimage  civilizational beaconism  civilizational vindicativism
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