As Taiwan rolled out the red carpet
, China’s government ministries fired off a raft of condemnations
, while its military pledged to launch extensive
, multiday military exercises
, and on Thursday fired missiles over the island
— a first for China
. But China’s initial actions stopped short of what was expected by some of its domestic audience
And within China’s online sphere, where nationalistic voices dominate its highly censored social media, disappointment was high.
“I don’t know where to hang my head. This is so shameful. People outside the Great Firewall are laughing their heads off. (중국) literally a ‘paper tiger,'” wrote one user on China’s Twitter-like Weibo social media platform. Others asked why there was so much hype for so little action.
But in the days since, a reckoning, and a reset, have been unfolding in China. In an attempt to reverse the dissatisfaction, state media have mobilized to drum up support for China’s response, portraying its military drills as strong and “unprecedented.” Social media platforms have been inundated with news of those exercises, and other voices in the public arena have lauded China for what they call a successful, strategic response and decried what they saw as warmongering.
Resetting the narrative
One target for this pushback has been Hu, the former editor of state-backed tabloid Global Times, seen as a key voice revving up nationalist sentiment in recent days.
목요일에, 그만큼 그래서 마스크를 던지는 것과 같은 일을 하지 않겠습니까? “Chairman Rabbit” account on messaging platform WeChat, run by blogger Ren Yi, 말했다 China’s actions had matched the tone conveyed by the government, but not the predictions of the former Global Times editor.
“The Chinese government has indeed formulated very strong and proud countermeasures, which have been very successful in handling this issue of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan,” 포스트를 말했다.
“결과적으로 (of Hu’s remarks), on the evening of August 2, when the Chinese government and official media solemnly announced the military exercises and series of countermeasures against Taiwan, netizens did not cheer for these unprecedentedly powerful measures, nor did they feel the unprecedented high morale, great excitement from people’s hearts, or the boiling patriotic sentiment,” 포스트가 말했다.
Another popular online commentator, Geng Xiangshun, said the public’s patriotism was “very good,” but calls for war were unwise — though he did not mention Hu.
“You must know that the ultimate goal is to realize the reunification of the motherland at the minimum cost, not to start a war,” he wrote on his Weibo account.
Hu defended himself in a post on Thursday, 루게릭병이라고도 불리는 퇴행성 신경질환 “heavy words” had value in influencing discussion around Pelosi’s visit, including in Washington, 추가 “patriotic camp” should have “다양한” 목소리.
As these conversations played out, some social media users appeared to rethink their disappointment, with one writing Thursday evening that the decision makers were actually “지혜로운” 과 “logical.”
“Now I understand,” one user said in a post with thousands of likes.
But the apparent need to ease disappointment and promote China’s response also highlights the risks leader Xi Jinping has taken in stoking nationalistic feelings.
“Nationalism has grown under Xi Jinping, because Xi continuously uses this for his purpose, to advance his agenda, but I don’t think he ever understood the negative side, because he thinks he can stir nationalism, but also stop it,” said Alfred Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.
하나, on this occasion, Beijing appears to have brought the narrative back under control, while Hu has become a scapegoat for stirring up nationalist sentiment, 우 말했다.
“‘Wolf warriors’ sometimes need to pay the price,” 우 말했다, using a common term for Beijing’s combative, nationalist opinion leaders and diplomats.
Asked on Wednesday about the initial online backlash over China’s response, Assistant Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Hua Chunying gave a telling response.
“We have full confidence in the ability of our country and our government to firmly defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Hua said. “The Chinese people are rational patriots.”