Who is Daniel A. Bell? The answer may seem simple at first: Daniel A. Bell is Daniel A. Bell.
But you would be wrong. Imagine a young man born and brought up in the UK, a man who later moved to China and who also happens to have many of Daniel A. Bell’s physical and emotional traits: a skinny build, a fondness for black rimmed glasses, and lurid fantasies that somehow involve the Chinese Communist Party being a meritocracy worth emulating. My real name might not be Daniel A. Bell, but I sure as hell like to tell people it is. I even wear traditional Chinese clothes when I’m with Chinese people dressed in suits.
Why can’t I be Daniel A. Bell?
Let’s reconsider my case. Like Daniel A. Bell I have Caucasian physical features, I have lived and worked in China for more than two decades, I speak the Chinese language, I identify with Chinese culture and I also have written complete and utter nonsense online. But almost no one considers me to be the real Daniel A. Bell. When I tried to enter Daniel A. Bell’s office in Tsinghua University I was rudely grabbed by the collar and thrown out onto the street.
Instances like these point to the difficulty with a view that is deeply ingrained in media outlets like The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times and at least implicitly endorsed elsewhere: That only Daniel A. Bell can be Daniel A. Bell.
I have tried to feel welcomed and loved since I based my whole identity around Daniel A. Bell fifteen years ago. His wife is Chinese, and I’ve done my best to stalk her since the Bells arrived in China in 2004. One night, when Daniel A. Bell was out on the international lecture circuit talking about “Chinese Exceptionalism”, I broke into their house, put on Daniel A. Bell’s pyjamas, and crawled into bed next to Mrs. Bell. But before I could even warm her up by stroking her hair and telling her about the limits of democracy, she had called the police and once again I was rudely grabbed by the collar and thrown out onto the street.
Some people try to help. My British friends sometimes tell me that I am being a “Bell-end”. It’s meant as a compliment, but the implication is that I’m only a “bell-end”. I don’t want to be a bell-end. I want to be Daniel A. Bell.
The obstacles are not insurmountable. I moved to Montreal so that I could claim the same Canadian citizenship as Daniel A. Bell then later devoted my life to writing fawning articles about the Chinese Communist Party. It has been said that Daniel A. Bell brown-noses the Party leadership so much that “When Xi Jinping farts, Daniel A. Bell sneezes.” I am determined to do the same – and more. When Xi Jinping farts, I want to be covered in shit.
My failure so far to be recognised as the real Daniel A. Bell certainly isn’t due to any lack of commitment on my part to imitate Daniel A. Bell. I’ve been working on slagging off freedom and democracy for many years, and it inspires the way I lead my life. Every time my wife asks if she can leave the house I slap her round the face and tell her that freedom of movement is unnecessary within my meritocratic household. I’m told over and over that my commitment to being Daniel A. Bell is more “Bellish” than Daniel A. Bell himself. At conferences in China, I often find myself the only person who is willing to share a stage with Eric X. Li.
I understand Daniel A. Bell’s fear of other people claiming to be Daniel A. Bell. During my research on Daniel A. Bell I discovered that he was relentlessly bullied at school by bigger kids who would steal his glasses, put them on, and chant “I’m Daniel A. Bell! I’m Daniel A. Bell! I like Confucianism and I smell like hell!” Such bullying must have left deep mental scars for life.
But I also learnt that there have been times when Daniel A. Bell was more welcoming to others claiming his name. A close relative of his – who I now have tied up in my basement – related to me the tale of when one of Daniel A. Bell’s cousins bought him a beautiful golden bell for Christmas. Daniel A. Bell christened the bell “Daniel”, and when I once parked my car outside Daniel A. Bell’s house at three o’clock in the morning I saw through his window that he still possesses his treasured bell and has engraved upon its surface – “Daniel: A Bell.”
Despite these ups and downs, Daniel A. Bell has come through it all and stands today as the respected author of such great political books like the catchily-titled Confucian Perfectionism: A Political Philosophy for Modern Times. It is time he put the past behind him and accepted that other people also wish to be Daniel A. Bell… like me. Slicing off his skin and wearing it as a macabre “skin-suit” should not be punishable by the law, as I explained to the Shandong police just last week. It is unacceptable that in 2017 when so many victories have been won for people of colour, our LGBTQ allies and those that identify as gender-fluid, that nobody will recognise me as “Trans-Bell”.
Daniel A. Bell describes his view of the perfect government to be “meritocratic”. Perhaps it is time for Daniel A. Bell to heed his own advice. If other people are better at being Daniel A. Bell than Daniel A. Bell, then why shouldn’t they be Daniel A. Bell? That is my modest dream: to be viewed as Daniel A. Bell not just in my own mind but by the people responsible for payroll and salaries at the Wall Street Journal.
— Dr. Daniel A. Bell is dean of the school of political science and public administration at Shandong University and a professor at Tsinghua University. His most recent book is Party Members.
Note: If you are confused as to what the hell this post may be talking about, perhaps this might help.