How does the German national flag relate to China today?

Images of the German national flag have gone viral amid China's ongoing debate on legalising prostitution

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 11:15am
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 12:08pm

Images of the German national flag, a tricolour consisting of three equal horizontal bands of black, red, and gold, have gone viral in China’s social media amid an ongoing national debate on the legalisation of prostitution triggered by a crackdown in China’s “sex capital” Dongguan.

Sympathetic web users who said the government had bullied a vulnerable class of people in taking a supposed moral high ground argued that the three German national colours seamlessly matched China’s social realities and mirrored the communist party’s mentality.

One theory held that as the top black colour (meaning “corruption” in colloquial Putonghua) could refer to the corrupt nature of the ruling elite, the middle red colour indicated how the middle class was “bleeding” in paying a heavy price for a life without privileges .

Although the bottom colour on the German flag is actually gold, many said it could pass for yellow, the colour being a euphemism in China for prostitution. It was further argued that this colour referred to the lowest class in China as being so desperate that they have to sell themselves to make a living.

Another popular theory said the flag summed up the most high-profile campaigns the Communist Party has waged in recent years: the heavy-handed crackdowns on crimes and mass campaign to spread “red songs” in Chongqing, both launched by the now disgraced politician Bo Xilai, as well as the recent prostitution bust in Guangdong, often referred to as “sweeping yellow” in Chinese slang.

Microbloggers trying to associate the German national flag with Chinese politics also argued that the Chinese translation for Germany “De Guo,” which literally means “the country of virtues,” also matched up with former president Jiang Zemin’s call to “rule by virtue.”

As of Thursday morning, photos of the German flag had been reposted thousands of times by microbloggers and influential opinion leaders on Chinese social media. The official weibo account of Beijing News, a liberal newspaper in the Chinese capital, also used the photo in one of its weibo posts on Dongguan.

As scholars waded into the debate of legalising the sex trade in China in the wake of the bust, People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the Communist Party, sternly defended the crackdown in its editorial on Thursday.

“How can the practice be ‘reasonable’ if it violates Chinese law?” the editorial argued, accusing critics of speaking without “common sense”.

“If voices on the internet fail to guard the bottom line of human laws and morals, this kind of online opinion is really worrying,” it added.

The Global Times, an outspoken conservative daily, had also argued in its editorial on Tuesday that legalisation would not eradicate the sex trade.