‘Get off Pelosi’s plane’: Chinese react to Taiwan visit online
Chinese rhetoric was so hot ahead of Nancy Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan this week that many people watching the historic moment live on state-controlled websites were surprised when her plane landed at Songshan Airport in Taipei.
Why, some have wondered, didn’t the People’s Liberation Army Air Force force the US House Speaker’s plane away from the island? autonomous, which the Chinese government claims as its sovereign territory?
“[The government] only chants loudly while greatly disappointing the public with their real actions,” one person wrote on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
On Tuesday, as Pelosi landed in Taiwan, Chinese censors raced to catch up and suppress those nationalistic reactions — as well as posts expressing a desire for cooler heads to prevail.
Several state media workers told the Financial Times that they had been told to contain jingoist sentiments on social media platforms.
They are now closely following the tone of media coverage by mainstream media outlets, such as People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China, and China Central Television. These reports largely reproduce expressions of umbrage from senior Chinese officials and the official Xinhua news agency.
“We have to toe the official line on how to express our patriotism,” said a Beijing-based media official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to speak to foreign media.
A Beijing scholar who advises government officials on Taiwanese policy-making said the initial divergence between brash social media commentators and mainstream media had been “too extreme”.
“There was a lack of top-down coordination on how to convey China’s initial message about Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan,” the university adviser said. “As a result, people feel like we’re bluffing.
“The Chinese government will be much more careful in handling messages related to Taiwan,” the academic added. “There will be less tolerance for warmongering expressions that do not match the official tone.”
This weekend, Hu Xijin, a former editor of the nationalist tabloid Global Times, wrote on Twitter and Weibo that the PLA Air Force would have the right to shoot down Pelosi’s plane if it crashes. was approaching Taiwan with American fighter escorts.
“I waited until 1am last night to see our Air Force shoot down Pelosi’s plane,” a Weibo user wrote on Wednesday. “All I could see was a repeat of harsh words from the Chinese government and random cannon fire funded by taxpayers’ money. So disappointing.
The Chinese military began conducting serious live-fire drills on Saturday, relatively far from Taiwan. On Thursday, with Pelosi’s delegation to South Korea, he began exercises in six areas spread around the island. Three of the areas are within 12 km of the Taiwanese coast at their closest points.
Ren Yi, an influential blogger who writes under the nickname Chairman Rabbit, wrote that the extreme sentiments expressed by Hu and others were “completely unreliable”.
“People will feel confused and disappointed if they don’t see the follow actions,” Ren added in the post, which received more than 24,000 likes before it was also deleted.
Chinese social media has also been flooded with photos of tanks and other military vehicles moving slowly through the streets and beaches of Xiamen, a coastal city from which the Taiwan-controlled Kinmen Islands are easily visible.
Pelosi arrived just a day after the Aug. 1 anniversary of the PLA’s founding, which is traditionally accompanied by a nationalist propaganda blitz. In one such celebratory Weibo post, sent before Pelosi’s trip was confirmed on Monday night, the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command boasted that it was ready to “bury any invading enemy.”
In addition to targeting expressions of patriotism deemed too bellicose, censors have also cracked down on dovish comments.
“In times of war, there are no winners,” read one such post before it was deleted. “It will only hurt normal people.”
“Certainly not everyone I talk to is enthusiastic about anything war-related,” said a Shanghai-based technology manager. “They seem scared and don’t want anything to happen, but they also seem resigned to the possibility of conflict.
“I think everyone is just trying to keep their job, provide for their family and figure out how [to navigate Covid controls] to travel from Shanghai to Beijing and other places for business and other trips,” they added.
Additional reporting by Xueqiao Wang in Shanghai