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Chinese Students in Ukraine Say Anti-Chinese Sentiments on the Rise due to “Fake News”

Although the embassy first advised Chinese citizens in Ukraine to show a Chinese flag, they now suggest it is better to be careful in displaying their nationality.

Manya Koetse

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Chinese citizens in Kyiv say they are affected by rising anti-Chinese sentiments among Ukrainians who believe that China supports the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On February 24, shortly after news broke out that Russia had invaded Ukraine, the Chinese embassy issued a notice to Chinese citizens in Ukraine to place a clearly visible Chinese flag on their car if they planned to travel by car.

The idea that Chinese citizens in Ukraine should clearly identify themselves as Chinese as a safety precaution was further propagated by the Chinese state media outlet People’s Daily (in image below).

On February 25,however, the Chinese embassy seemingly changed its tune, as they posted on WeChat reminding Chinese citizens in Ukraine to be careful to reveal their identity. A hashtag page dedicated to the topic received over 820 million views on Weibo on Saturday (#在乌中国公民不要随意亮明身份#).

The sudden switch caused unrest and confusion on Weibo, where many wondered why the embassy initially seemed to suggest that the Chinese flag would offer a certain sense of security and why this apparently has changed.

 

“For the sake of your own conscience, for the sake of our compatriots in Ukraine, please mind what you say.”

 

Chinese state media outlets Global Times and People’s Daily published an interview with Chinese students living in Ukraine on Saturday. The article suggests that Chinese students in Kyev are affected by rising anti-Chinese sentiments among Ukrainians who believe that China supports the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The article claims that various Ukrainian media outlets and social media channels are spreading “fake news” about China backing Russia, leading to an increase in threats and insults directed at local Chinese citizens. One female Chinese student studying in Kyiv also shared a video of the local situation on Friday for state media outlet CGTN, saying she was also threatened (#中国在乌留学生遭恐吓跟踪#).

On February 26th, the Chinese Embassy in Ukraine issued another message urging Chinese citizens to maintain friendly relations with the Ukrainian people and to avoid disputes over “specific issues.” Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy is reportedly putting an evacuation plan into action for Chinese citizens in Kyiv and elsewhere in Ukraine.

The hashtag “Chinese Students Claim Some Ukrainian Media Are Spreading Fake News” (#中国留学生称部分乌媒正散布假消息#) had nearly 200 million views on Weibo on Saturday, with thousands of people commenting on the issue.

Most people express worry about the situation of the Chinese students and other Chinese citizens who are still in Ukraine. Some say that regardless of whether the news in Ukraine about China is false or not, nobody wants to be in a war and it is not right for common people to have to take the blame.

There are also people condemning Ukrainians, saying “China is neutral on the Russia-Ukraine conflict” and that this is just used as another excuse to discriminate against Chinese, claiming that Ukraine “has always been anti-Chinese” and “also supports Hong Kong independence.”

On Friday’s United Nations Security Council resolution, which condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and called on Moscow to withdraw its troops, eleven member countries voted in favor of the resolution while China, together with India and the United Arab Emirates, abstained.

Many on social media stressed China’s neutrality and the image below was also shared on Weibo, writing: “Chinese ≠ Putin’s ally.”

Others point out that it is perhaps no surprise for Ukrainians to get angry when in fact many Chinese people on social media express that they actually do support the Russian invasion. There are also commenters who emphasize that Chinese netizens should be more careful when expressing their thoughts on the situation since their stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine could influence the safety of those Chinese who are still there.

One popular blogging account wrote:

When society is in disorder, people go crazy. When facing a national disaster, the slightest whiff of trouble can trigger an explosion. No one wants to experience war, and no one wants their suffering to be ridiculed. Ukraine has already given guns to civilians, and at a moment that’s about life and death, it’s hard to say if people might go too far. They can’t come to China but they can target overseas Chinese in Ukraine. Russia and Ukraine have to solve their conflict themselves, we don’t get mixed up in this. For the sake of your own conscience, for the sake of our compatriots in Ukraine, please mind what you say.

On Saturday, one Chinese student studying in Kyiv shared videos from inside a bomb shelter, showing another perspective; the Chinese student could be seen interacting with Ukrainian children and cheering them up (hashtags #中国留学生镜头下的乌克兰防空洞# and #留学生镜头里的乌克兰#). The videos, shared online by various state media outlets, did not show tensions between Chinese and Ukrainian but people offering each other a sense of comfort at a time of crisis.

“The people are innocent,” a typical comment said: “But they are the ones who end up being hurt the most.”

By Manya Koetse

Featured image: https://weibo.com/ttarticle/p/show?id=2309404741232139305405

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©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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    Saga W

    March 3, 2022 at 6:20 am

    China and Russia were buddies. China wanted to use Russia for its own aims (especially oil), as China only serves China. Netizens in China were encouraged by the CCP to write pro-Russia propaganda online after the two countries made a formal agreement recently, and to write this stuff online during the Russian invasion. Now, Putin’s invasion is going wrong, and China’s yeeted its support in order to protect China and Mainland Chinese only. These kids studying in Ukraine then blame the news around them for the danger they’re in. Yes, there’s racism and prejudice everywhere against POC and therefore against Chinese, but the CCP instigated a lot of the above danger for these Chinese studying in Ukraine. The whole Putin invasion of Ukraine was meant to distract the US and the world from East Asia, so that China could finally invade Taiwan and areas of Southeast Asia. China pulls all kinds of BS and then blames the West and everyone else for doing China’s dirty deeds.

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China and Covid19

Announced Changes in Nucleic Acid Testing and Further Easing of Covid Measures Across China

Bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate.

Manya Koetse

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On Monday, directly after that noteworthy unrest-filled weekend, the hashtag “Multiple Locations Announce Nucleic Acid Testing Changes” (#多地核酸检测通知发生变化#) went trending on Chinese social media, receiving over 660 million clicks by Monday evening.

Immediately following demonstrations in Beijing and a second night of protests in Shanghai and elsewhere, various Chinese media reported how different areas across the country are introducing changes to their current Covid19 testing measures.

On Wednesday, November 30, China’s vice-premier Sun Chunlan made remarks at a meeting on epidemic prevention, underlining the importance of “constantly optimizing” China’s Covid-19 response and talking about a “new stage and mission” – without ever mentioning “zero Covid.”

This is what we know about easing Covid measures thus far:

▶ Strict lockdowns have been lifted in Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, and Chongqing.

▶ On November 28, Guangzhou announced that people who do not actively participate in social life will no longer need to participate in continuous nucleic acid screening. This includes elderly people who stay indoors for long periods of time, students who take online classes, and those who work from home. The change will apply to residents in seven districts, including Haizhu, Panyu, Tianhe, and Baiyun (#广州7区无社会面活动者可不参加全员核酸#).

▶ Guangzhou, according to Reuters, also scrapped a rule that only people with a negative COVID test can buy fever medication over the counter.

Harbin will follow the example of Guangzhou, and will also allow people who are mostly based at home to skip nucleic acid test screenings.

▶ Same goes for Shenyang, and Taiyuan.

▶ In Chongqing, various districts have done widespread Covid testing campaigns, but the local authorities announced that those communities that have not had a positive Covid case over the past five days do not need to participate in nucleic acid screening anymore. This means an end to district-wide testing.

▶ On November 30, Beijing also announced that it will start exempting some people from frequent Covid testing, including those elderly residents who are bound to home and other people who do not go out and have social interactions. This also includes younger students who are following classes online.

▶ Starting from December 5, bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate (announced on December 2nd).

▶ Although not officially announced, there have been various social media posts and reports about Covid-positive people in Beijing being allowed to quarantine at home if they meet conditions.

Chengdu Metro announced on December 2nd that it will no longer check passengers’ nucleic acid test reports. Passengers still need to scan their travel code and those with a green code can enter. Other public places will reportedly also start to accept the ‘green code’ only without a time limit on nucleic acid testing.

Tianjin metro announced that the 72-hour nucleic acid certificate check will be also be canceled for passengers on the Tianjin metro lines. As in other places, people will still need to wear proper face masks and undergo temperature checks.

▶ In Hangzhou, except for at special places such as nursing homes, orphanages, primary and secondary schools, people’s nucleic acid tests will no longer be checked in public transportation and other public places. They will also stop checking people’s Venue Codes (场所码).

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China History

Mourning Jiang Zemin, Weibo Turns Black and White

Since the rise of Chinese social media, Jiang Zemin became a recurring part of Chinese memes.

Manya Koetse

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Following the announcement that Jiang Zemin (江泽民), the former president of the PRC, has passed away, various Chinese online platforms have turned into ‘grey’ mode as a sign of mourning. Jiang Zemin died due to leukemia and organ failure. He was 96 years old.

Besides Weibo, the home page of major Chinese websites such as Baidu, Sogou, Taobao, Alipay, Xinhua, People’s Daily, The Paper, and many others all turned into black-and-white mourning mode on Wednesday.

Bilibili turns into grey mode on November 30.

Search engine Sogou also in black and white mode.

On Weibo, one post about Jiang Zemin’s passing received a staggering one million reposts and over two million ‘likes.’ The hashtag “Comrade Jiang Zemin Passed Away at the Age of 96 in Shanghai” (#江泽民同志在上海逝世享年96岁#) had received over 2,5 billion clicks by Wednesday night.

Jiang Zemin was appointed as President of the People’s Republic of China in 1993. In the years before, the former Shanghai Party chief already held official positions as the chairman of the Central Military Affairs Commission and general secretary of the Party. In 2003, Jiang Zemin retired and was replaced by Hu Jintao (Sullivan 2012).

Since the rise of Chinese social media, Jiang became a recurring part of Chinese memes. Jiang had created a wide group of online fans, who are commonly referred to as ‘toad worshippers’ as the online phenomenon of ‘worshipping’ Jiang Zemin is called mo ha (膜蛤), ‘toad worship’ (Fang 2020, 38). The entire phenomenon has become its own subculture that is called ‘mo ha culture’ (móhá wénhuà, 膜蛤文化).

What started as a joke – nicknaming Jiang a ‘toad’ due to his big glasses, signature pants, and wide smile, – became an actual online movement of people who were appreciative of Jiang Zemin.

They loved him, not only because the former leader spoke many languages and other talents, and because of his unique appearance, but mainly because he was not scared to show his emotions, was very expressive, and good at telling stories.

One famous example of this, is when Jiang Zemin got upset with a Hong Kong journalist in 2000 and told them off using three languages (link to video, also here). The much-repeated quote “too young, too simple, sometimes naive” comes from this noteworthy moment as Jiang told journalists that they still had a lot to learn, whereas he had gone through “hundred of battles,” saying “I’ve seen it all.” This also led to Jiang later being called ‘the Elder’ (长者) by netizens.

Another popular Jiang Zemin video is when he met with American journalist Mike Wallace in August of 2000 in Beidaihe. During the interview, the two discussed sensitive topics including the Falun Gong and Tiananmen protests. The interview reportedly was one of the longest ever between an American journalist and a Chinese head of state (watch here).

A study by Kecheng Fang (2020) about ‘China’s toad worship culture’ suggests that for many online fans of Jiang, the cult around him is apolitical, playful, and part of a shared digital cultural tradition.

For some, however, it does hold some political meaning to ‘worship’ Jiang, who only became a popular online meme around 2014, after Xi Jinping took power as a conservative strongman who is not as emotionally expressive. Fang describes how one meme creator said: “We couldn’t express our criticism through normal channels, so we turned to other indrect ways, including lauding Jiang’s personality and characteristics in various ways” (2020, 45).

Although Jiang became popular among younger Chinese on online platforms over the past decade, he was not necessarily that popular at the time of his leadership, and opinions vary on the legacy he leaves behind. Jiang continuously pushed for reform and opening-up after Deng Xiaoping’s rule.

As summarized by Foreign Policy, Jiang oversaw two crucial transitions that shaped and improved the lives of the people of China: “First, he peacefully guided his country out of the shadow of China’s founding revolutionaries, who had spent decades purging one another and at times caused great pain and sorrow for everyone else. Second, although hesitant at first, Jiang came to embrace the market economy.”

As various places across China have seen unrest and protests over the past few days, the announcement of Jiang’s death comes at a sensitive time.

Many on Chinese social media are burning virtual candles in memory of Jiang Zemin today. “I will fondly recall your style and manners,” some say.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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References:

Fang, Kecheng. 2020. “Turning a communist party leader into an internet meme: the political and apolitical aspects of China’s toad worship culture.” Information, Communication & Society, 23 (1): 38-58.

Sullivan, Lawrence R. 2012. Historical Dictionary of the Chinese Communist Party. Lanham: The Scarecrow Press. See page: 3-43, 208.

 

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