Chinese Blogger Addresses Weibo’s “Elephant in the Room”
Recently, a post by one popular Weibo blogger has attracted the attention of Chinese netizens.
On June 6, blogger ‘V2’ [alias], who often changes Weibo accounts, wrote about censorship on Chinese social media and ‘the elephant in the room.’
The post started making its rounds this week shortly after a severe crackdown on Chinese social media during the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen, while protests in Hong Kong over the extradition bill were also taking off.
The poster, who has over 12270 fans on Weibo, wrote the following post [translation by What’s on Weibo]:
“The intellectual density on Weibo is getting lower and lower. Scrolling through my timeline has already become somewhat worthless. One reason for that is temporary. This month they started to close down on overseas IP addresses, for example.
Another reason is more long term. Intellectuals around the world are increasingly focusing on China issues, from international relations scholars to economists to lawyers. There are already enough discussions about China to fill entire libraries with, and it’s rapidly increasing; this period is a happy time for China watchers, with new reports and comments coming out every day.
But all these hot issues (including the Belt & Road Initiative, the modernization of the army, the future of Taiwan, IP theft, and the China-US trade war) are like an elephant in the room on Weibo.
We can’t watch them, we can’t discuss them. But because this elephant is getting bigger and bigger, ignoring its presence in this room is getting increasingly strange.
This strange feeling reached a peak these days [addressing June 4th, the commemoration of Tiananmen]. The whole world was discussing China, but China was like a tranquil lake. The top trending topic here was Produce Camp 2019 [a Chinese reality show]. Some people, including me, were silenced, while the rest was excited to talk about celebrities smoking, getting married, getting divorced or cheating – pretending that these topics are really worth discussing.
The truth is, that these are the only topics that are allowed to be discussed.
Reviewing the parallel world of millions of people, Weibo has become a crowded place within a tiny snail shell.”
Since its publication on June 6th, this post received more than 22700 shares, 15500 likes, and hundreds of comments, with the post especially gaining traction since June 10.
“I want to see more, I want to think more, I want to express more.“
Among hundreds of commenters, many people agreed with ‘V2,’ writing: “Even the early rulers in Rome knew that if they’d give the people enough bread to eat and the entertainment of an arena, they wouldn’t be bothered about the rest.”
Others commented: “Actually, people do want to discuss these issues, but how can we when the news sources are blocked?”
“This has really become more of an entertainment app. It’s no longer a place to share news and knowledge, nor a place for open debate.”
“I want to go to a wider place, I want to access more information, I want to see more, I want to think more, I want to express more,” one commenter from Beijing writes.
“Not everything you read outside of the wall [Great Firewall] is true and Western media have been demonizing us for quite some time. But inside the wall, young people only pay attention to who is marrying who and who is divorcing now and this kind of entertainment news. They are numb; the intellect of the people is not developing.”
“We’re pretending everything is going well,” another person says: “and [we’re] creating a utopia that is isolated from the world.”
“Just because it doesn’t exist on Weibo, doesn’t mean it’s not there.“
But some also disagreed with the critical post.
“Why don’t you see that Weibo is just a small part of life?”, one commenter writes: “Just because it doesn’t exist on Weibo, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Don’t Chinese intellectuals pay attention to the issues you just mentioned? Weibo’s audience is really wide, but it is also quite narrow.”
Other commenters also suggest that the author’s expectations of Weibo are “too high”:
“Weibo was meant for entertainment, it’s not necessarily a news platform. The news about Hong Kong [protests] was reported on various websites. What is this blogger talking about, and then all these strange comments? As if we’re just foolishly spending our days on Weibo without having any other information channels; as if all the people in this country are locked in a dark room? Stupid.”
“It’s not the room that’s dark,” one person writes: “It’s the people who are blind.”
“Viewing the sky from the bottom of the well.”
There are also commenters who defend the strict control of Chinese social media, writing: “China has the largest population in the world. Think about it. Public opinion is really important. Isn’t a stable popular sentiment more important than confronting people with terrible incidents? If 1.3 billion people don’t trust their government, what kind of chaos do you think the country will end up in?”
Others jokingly say: “You can discuss these taboo topics all you want, I still am more interested in the latest celebrity divorce!”
One Weibo commenter uses a Chinese idiom to convey his thoughts, writing: “I’m just viewing the sky from the bottom of the well here.”
Despite the critique of the blogger on the decline of more intellectual discussions on Weibo, their post shows that there still seems to space for some deeper discussions on Weibo. At the time of writing, the post has attracted over 4000 comments and counting.
Update June 11, 2019:
As some commenters in the thread already feared, this post has now been deleted.
Featured image by 广博郝. Featured image not related to the blogger in this article.
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