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Following the Elections in the West – Chinese Reactions on Wilders and “The Rise of the Right”

Weibo users are closely following the new political trends in the West, with a recent focus on populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

Manya Koetse

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With Trump as the new US president, and popularity of right-wing politicians rising in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, Weibo users are now following the new political trends in the West with a recent focus on populist Dutch politician Geert Wilders. While Chinese state media write about the dangers of the “rise of the right,” many Chinese netizens express their appreciation of Wilders.

On Weibo, the topic ‘following the elections in the West’ has recently become increasingly popular. “The American elections have ended, and Trump is now running the country via Twitter. The French and German elections are coming up next,” – an account named “Following The Elections in the West” (hashtag: #关注西方大选#) says.

Besides the elections in Germany and France, the Dutch elections are also a topic of discussion. Dutch politician Wilders, called Wéi’ěrdésī (维尔德斯 or 威尔德斯) in Chinese, has become a recurring subject in the Chinese media, that represent the results of the Dutch elections as the precursor for the other elections of Continental Europe.

Geert Wilders is the leader of the Dutch right-wing Freedom Party (PVV), which is expected to win many votes in the upcoming elections in the Netherlands. With his plans to “de-Islamize” the Netherlands and his anti-EU and anti-establishment stance, Wilders is winning over voters who feel alienated from the ruling political class.

 

ALL EYES ON EUROPE

“This Dutch man, who is crazier than Trump, wants to change Europe.”

 

“Why do we need to closely follow the Dutch elections?”, one Shanghai media source recently wrote on Weibo: “Because after the shock of the 2016 Trump election and Brexit, all eyes are now on Europe. And on the one hand we have Le Pen (勒庞), the leader of the right-wing National Front (FN), and on the other hand, we are now approaching the Dutch elections where we have the Dutch right-wing party of Wilders, who just might become the next prime minister.”

The heightened media attention for European politics with a current focus on the Netherlands and Wilders is noticeable in Chinese state media, with official media such as Global Times and Xinhua writing about it.

In late February, Chinese state tabloid Global Times featured a column about Wilders, which was also shared on Chinese social media platforms Weibo, Baidu forum, and on WeChat. It is titled: “This Dutch man, who is crazier than Trump, wants to change Europe” (这个比特朗普还要疯的荷兰人要让欧洲变天了).

“These days, the whole western world is focused on the Netherlands like never before,” the article starts: “Because within a month the big elections will take place and the potential big winner is an unusual political party that opposes practically everything that mainstream European thinking stands for.”

Photo (size adjusted) by David Sedlecký.

The article quotes Wilders in saying: “The Islam is not a religion – it is an ideology that has sprung from a backward culture. And this ideology might be scarier than Nazism, as the Koran is even more violent and more anti-semitic than Mein Kampf , and it needs to be shut out.”

 

STRONG ANTI-ISLAM STANCE

“If Wilders’ Freedom Party really wins the Dutch elections it will be a worse nightmare for the EU and Europe than Brexit was.”

 

The Global Times article argues that if Wilders’ Freedom Party really wins the Dutch elections, “it will be a worse nightmare for the EU and Europe than Brexit was.”

One of the reasons mentioned why it would be “nightmarish” for Wilders to win, is because of the Freedom Party’s strong anti-Islam stance and its proposals to shut down mosques and stop serving halal food in the canteens of Dutch schools.

The Global Times explains this by writing: “They think that Islam is the greatest threat to Western civilization. [They think that] If you let Islam take root in Western countries, then Europe will be Islamized decades later, and Western civilization will be completely destroyed.”

The article continues: “Of course, their stance has greatly angered followers of Islam all across Europe, but when these religious people fight back, they actually precisely do what the Freedom Party expects. Like in 2009, when Geert Wilders came to England for an interview and over 40 Islamic people went to the streets carrying banners that said that ‘Islam will dominate the world.'”

Tweet above: the image as used in the Global Times when mentioning the protest by Muslims outside Geert Wilders press conference in central London in October 2009.[/caption]

The article argues that Wilders “represents himself” as a “victim of Islamic violence” – as he cannot leave his house without bodyguards by his side – but that his provocative way of speaking has also led to him facing legal actions within the Netherlands. He was found guilty of inciting discrimination when he asked a roomful of Freedom Party supporters if they wanted to have “more or fewer Moroccans” in the country.

 

RISE OF THE RIGHT

“The Dutch Freedom Party is not alone, but is part of the rise of other far-right political parties across Europe: this is their year of patriotism.”

 

Besides his strong anti-Islam stance, another reason why the article says a win by Wilders would be disastrous to Europe, is because of his anti-EU position. This stance comes from the belief that the corrupt nature of the EU organizational structure and the incompetence of the ruling authorities in Brussels have led to the immigration crisis and the financial crisis in Europe.

The column points out that the Freedom Party has greatly gained in popularity in the Netherlands since its establishment in 2006. The Greek debt crisis, the refugee crisis, as well as last year’s Brexit and the election of Trump, have all contributed to its popularity.

The Global Times finally argues that the Dutch Freedom Party is not alone, but is part of the rise of other far-right political parties across Europe, such as the National Front in France. “This is their year of patriotism,” they write.

Embedded tweet: Geert Wilders, left, Frauke Petry, Harald Vilimsky, Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini at a meeting in 2017.

“The current mainstream media are worried and anxious about the rise of the right-wing forces, but they can only pray that the Europeans won’t be as stupid as the Americans,” the column concludes, also adding: “We the Chinese people just want to say that whatever American, UK, or even French, German, Dutch, or Russian drama, etc., there is, let’s not make this a drama that includes China.”

 

THE WILDERS EFFECT

“It is relevant to note that the Netherlands can be regarded as the leader of European political trends.”

 

Besides Global Times, Chinese media outlets Xinhua News and Sina recently also wrote about Wilders. China’s Sina News published an article on March 1st titled “Is Holland the first domino stone to collapse on the European continent?” (荷兰 欧盟倒下的第一张多米诺), and Xinhua‘s article is titled “The Dutch elections are nearing, will populism win?” (荷兰大选在即,民粹主义会得势吗).

Sina News (March 1st): “Will Holland be the first domino stone falling on the European continent?”

Both articles suggest that parties such as the Freedom Party win support because of their anti-immigration and anti-EU tendencies, but that voters of Wilders do not necessarily want him to actually lead the country: “People may vote for Wilders as a protest vote,” they write.

They emphasize the role of the Netherlands on the European continent: “It is relevant to note that the Netherlands can be regarded as the leader of European political trends,” Sina News says, looking back at political trends in the 1960s and 1990s.

Xinhua also brings up the so-called ‘Wilders Effect’ (威尔德斯效应). The ‘Wilders Effect’, also mentioned by Tom-Jan Meeus on Politico.eu, implies that the harsher Wilders is criticized (e.g. by the mainstream media or ruling politicians), the better his chances of winning are.

Even if Wilders comes out as the big winner in the upcoming elections, the chances of him forming a governing coalition are slim as few other parties are willing to govern alongside Wilders after the elections. However, it is precisely the rejection of Wilders that testifies to his accusations that “the political elites disregard the will of the people.”

Although Chinese state media emphasize the dangers of Wilders’ popularity and “the rise of the right,” Chinese responses on Weibo and other social media platforms reveal that many netizens seemingly support the far-right Dutch politician.

 

CHINESE NETIZENS RESPOND

“Supporters of Islam need to reflect on why it is that all over the world in developed nations people like Trump are receiving the support of the people.”

 

On Weibo, one Chinese blogger recently wrote about Wilders: “The populist Geert Wilders promises (..) to make the Netherlands ‘great again.’ His ‘Freedom Party’ (自由党) might win more seats than ever before. He is often called the “Dutch Trump”, as he is just as opposed to muslim immigration as the new American president. He also has no trust in the media and loves to send out tweets.”

The post continues: “This ‘Dutch Trump’ wants no more acceptance of immigrants or refugees from muslim countries, as Holland is becoming ‘Islamized’, [he wants to] prohibit the wearing of Islamic headscarves in public places (..), to let the Koran classify as a banned book, a closure of mosques and Islamic schools, the Netherlands should get out of the EU, criminals with a dual citizenship have to be deported, income taxes have to be reduced, people should receive pension at 65 (..).”

In response to this post and the state media articles, many netizens write that they agree with Wilders’ ideas about Islam and that it can be viewed as an ideology, saying: “Isn’t he right about this?”

One Weibo user (@乡梦天地) writes: “Is Islam still a ‘religion’? Perhaps it has deteriorated and has become an ideology that serves a religion. In a normal country, religion is often used as a way to serve the ruling class. But now, it seems that the ruling class is serving religion instead.”

Other Chinese commenters say that “the religion of Islam is an obstruction to the development of society.”

“I have been to Holland and the streets are very ‘green'”, one person says (‘green’ being slang to refer to ‘islam’). “Europe has reached a crucial moment of life or death, turning right is a final opportunity to save themselves,” one commenter (@传捷天下) writes.

Embedded: Wilders cartoon (same image republished in Global Times).

“Supporters of Islam need to reflect on why it is that all over the world in developed nations people like Trump are receiving the support of the people,” another person responds.

Several netizens say: “There is nothing wrong (没毛病) with what [Wilders] says, it is the truth.”

One person even says: “It would be a blessing for the Netherlands if he were to be elected.”

People responding to the post on Weibo say they look forward to him winning the elections: “I support Wilders becoming the prime minister of Holland!”, one Guangdong-based English tutor writes.

 

WHAT’S THE FUSS?

“Europe is like a domino game. When one right-wing party comes up, others will follow. When one country leaves the EU, others will also leave the EU.”

 

But there are also netizens who worry about the rise in popularity of politicians such as Wilders: “Hasn’t the rise of populism already entered a point of no return?”

Like the Global Times column, they also see the rise of right-wing parties as a global trend rather than a European one (“全球右转是个趋势”). Some of them write that “the rise of the right” is a “dangerous trend.”

One France-based Weibo user (@欧洲行-私人订制) writes: “Europe is like a domino game. When one right-wing party comes up, others will follow. When one country leaves the EU, others will also leave the EU.”

But precisely this anti-EU stance is what many other netizens also appreciate in Wilders. When Wilders announced that a Dutch ‘Nexit’ referendum would follow after the Brexit, some Weibo commenters said: “Getting out of the EU might be the only way to save yourself,” although others said that organizing a referendum over such a crucial issue is “much too risky.”

There are also many commenters who do not understand what the fuss is all about: “Holland is such a small country,” a Baidu user writes. One Weibo commenter (@TOAac) also says: “So what, Holland? What will happen in Germany and France is what really matters.”

According to the latest polls, Geert Wilders has now fallen behind the conservative VVD party of Prime Minister Mark Rutte for the first time since November 2016. But until the results come out of the Dutch elections of March 15, nothing is sure.

“In the end, this all is a choice that has to be made by the Dutch voters,” one Baidu netizen concludes.

– By Manya Koetse


Chinese (state) media about Wilders:

Global Times (环球时报). 2017. “这个比特朗普还要疯的荷兰人要让欧洲变天了 [This Dutch Man Crazier Than Trump Wants To Change Europe]” (In Chinese). Global Times, February 21 http://global.sina.cn/szzx/article/20170221/00bf33efd2851000.html [2.3.17].

Sina News (新浪). 2017. “荷兰 欧盟倒下的第一张多米诺 [Is Holland the first domino stone to collapse on the European continent?]” (In Chinese). Sina News, March 1 http://finance.sina.com.cn/stock/usstock/c/2017-03-01/doc-ifyavwcv9263847.shtml [2.3.17].

Xinhua (新华). 2017. “荷兰大选在即,民粹主义会得势吗? [The Dutch Elections Are Nearing, Will Populism Win Power?]” (In Chinese). Xinhuanet.com, February 16 http://news.xinhuanet.com/world/2017-02/16/c_129481542.htm [2.3.17].

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.


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©2017 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    cool

    March 2, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    no wonder many people Chinese came to support Wilders due to his anti-Islam stance because religion as whole is often taught hindrance to development in the Chinese state media and educational institutes. One most striking observance I noticed that no one among them thought about western role in middle east which brought extremist threats worldwide.

    • Avatar

      Joey

      March 5, 2017 at 8:42 am

      It’s more about Chinese netizens believing that a unicultural (or even uniracial) society as a prosperous one. They see multiculturalism as a sickness that has overtaken the West, and a component of its decline.

  2. Avatar

    Speakthetruth

    March 6, 2017 at 9:55 am

    Geert Wilders MUST win the election if Europe wishes to regain her sanity and her sovereignty she had lost from decades of neglect from past leaderships.

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China Insight

“Support Xinjiang MianHua!” – China’s Social Media Storm over Xinjiang Cotton Ban

The hashtag “Wo Zhichi Xinjiang Mianhua” – “I Support Xinjiang Cotton” – received over 6 billion views on Weibo.

Manya Koetse

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Western brands faced heavy criticism in China this week when a social media storm erupted over the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and its brand members for no longer sourcing from China’s Xinjiang region. The ‘Xinjiang cotton ban’ led to a major ‘Xinjiang cotton support’ campaign on Weibo, and a boycott for those brands siding with BCI.

In 2019, an extensive brand ‘witch hunt’ took place on Weibo and other Chinese social media networks in light of the protests in Hong Kong, with international fashion and luxury brands, from Versace to Swarovski, getting caught in the crossfire for listing Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as separate countries or regions – not part of China – on their official websites or brand T-shirts.

Now, another brand ‘witch hunt’ is taking place on Chinese social media. This time, it is not about Hong Kong, but about Xinjiang and its cotton industry.

H&M, Uniqlo, Nike, Adidas and other international brands have caused public outrage for the stand they’ve taken against the alleged use of forced labor involving the Muslim Uyghur minority to produce cotton in China’s western region of Xinjiang.

The social media storm started earlier this week on Wednesday, March 24, and is linked to H&M and the ‘BCI’ (Better Cotton Initiative), a Swiss NGO that aims to promote better standards in cotton farming.

In October 2020, H&M shared a statement on its site in which the Swedish retailer said it was “deeply concerned” over reports of forced labor in the production of cotton in Xinjiang, officially Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR).

H&M stated that it would no longer source cotton from Xinjiang, following the BCI decision to suspend licensing of BCI cotton in the region.

 

BCI and its Suspension of Activities in Xinjiang

 

The Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) is the largest cotton sustainability program in the world. It practices across 23 countries and accounts for 22% of global cotton production. The governance group was established in 2005 in cooperation with WWF and leading retailers, with the aim of promoting the widespread use of improved farm practices.

While H&M is a ‘top member’ of the Better Cotton Initiative (link), many others brands such as IKEA, Gap, Adidas, Nike, Levi’s, and C&A are also brand members.

January 2020
In January of 2020, the BCI was slammed by Dr Adrian Zenz, a senior fellow with the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington DC, for its refusal to pull out of the Xinjiang region. At the time, 20 percent of its ‘better cotton’ was sourced from Xinjiang, which is China’s largest cotton growing area.

According to a 2020 report by EcoTextile, the BCI maintained that its implicated council member, the yarn producer Huafu, denied the allegations and that an independent audit of the company’s Aksu facility in Xinjiang had failed to identify any instances of forced labor. An earlier report by Adidas from 2019 also stated that their independent investigations found no evidence of forced labor.

March 2020
In late March of 2020, the BCI reportedly did suspend activities with licensed farmers in the Xinjiang region for the 2020/21 cotton season while also contracting a global expert to conduct an external review of the Xinjiang situation. Chinese state media Global Times later reported that despite suspending its licensing activities, the BCI would remain committed to cotton farming communities in Xinjiang and would continue to engage in activities in the region.

July 2020
The pressure on BCI and other brands to stop sourcing from Xinjiang was heightened when a coalition of civil society groups raised concerns over the treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority in China and the “grave risk of forced labor.” Reuters reported that more than 180 organizations urged brands from Adidas to Amazon to end sourcing of cotton and clothing from the region and cut ties with any suppliers in China that would benefit from the alleged forced labour of Uyghur other Muslim groups.

October 2020
In October of 2020, the Better Cotton Initiative announced it would cease all field-level activities in Xinjiang with immediate effect because the region had reportedly become “an increasingly untenable operating environment.” The aforementioned statement by H&M came out in the same month.

March 2021
By late March 2021, various Chinese state media reported on the BCI suspension. These reports came days after a coordinated effort by the United States, the European Union, Britain and Canada to impose sanctions on Chinese officials over China’s alleged human rights violations and abuses in Xinjiang, something which was called a “concerted effort to slander China’s policies in its Xinjiang region” by Global Times. The news outlet linked these “anti-China forces’ efforts” to the BCI decision to suspend its Xinjiang activities.

 

A Social Media Storm over Xinjiang Cotton

 

The news developments were followed by a wave of social media boycott movements and Chinese brand ambassadors cutting ties with international brands, with H&M being the main target over its Xinjiang statement.

Chinese e-commerce platforms Taobao, JD.com, Pinduoduo, Suning.com, and Meituan’s Dianping on Thursday all removed H&M from their platforms, with Chinese Android app stores also removing H&M. On Thursday, a search for “H&M” came up with no results on these sites (see images below).

Two of China’s largest online maps also removed H&M from its systems.

No H&M on these maps.

On Thursday, virtually all topics in Weibo’s top trending lists related to the Xinjiang cotton ban (see image below), with Chinese famous influencers and celebrities one by one announcing they would terminate their contracts with international brands related to the Xinjiang cotton ban.

The storm became so big this week that some people on social media even commented that “if you’re a Chinese celebrity and you don’t have any contracts to terminate now, you’re not doing so well.”

After H&M, an entire list of brands was targeted, including Adidas, Nike, Calvin Klein, New Balance, Tommy Hilfiger, Uniqlo, Converse, Puma, Burberry, and Lacoste.

In light of the heated discussions and calls for boycotts, there was also another hashtag that popped up on Weibo, namely that of “don’t make it hard for the workers” (不要为难打工人). The hashtag came up after some Chinese staff members at Nike and Adidas stores were scolded on a live stream, with netizens calling on people to stay rational and not let the boycott turn into personal attacks on people. But another popular video showed a man in Chongqing calling customers out in an H&M store for buying their “trash.”

Another hashtag gaining many views, 520 million in total, was that of two ‘girls from Xinjiang dancing outside H&M’ (#新疆小姐姐在HM门店外跳新疆舞#) – it was linked to a video that showed two women performing outside of a H&M store in Chongqing.

Meanwhile, some brands, including Chinese company Anta Sports and the Japanese Asics, reportedly announced they would leave the Better Cotton Initiative in order to continue sourcing cotton from Xinjiang.

The discussions on Xinjiang as Weibo saw this week are unprecedented, as ‘Xinjiang’ was previously a sensitive topic on Chinese social media and was barely discussed in political contexts. The last time Xinjiang became a big topic of discussion on Chinese social media was in 2018, when CCTV aired a program on the region’s “vocational education programs” in Xinjiang. That media moment triggered mixed reactions on Weibo, with some commenters wondering what the difference between a ‘re-education center’ and a ‘prison’ is.

 

Chinese State Media and the ‘Xinjiang Cotton Ban’

 

While Chinese netizens and celebrities play a major role in the storm that erupted over BCI, H&M, and Xinjiang cotton, the role of Chinese state media is pivotal.

Over the past week, various state media outlets posted strong messages regarding the ban in various ways, the most noteworthy one being People’s Daily‘s “I Support Xinjiang Cotton” (#我支持新疆棉花#) hashtag, which had garnered six billion views by the weekend. “The H&M Group released a statement that sparked outrage among netizens. Let’s pass it on together: Support Xinjiang Cotton,” the tagline of the hashtag page said.

The message came with an image saying “Xinjiang Mianhua” (Xinjiang cotton) in a similar font to the H&M logo, the “H” and “M” within ‘mianhua‘ being identical to the H&M letters.

The image and post by People’s Daily was shared over 36 million times.

A message by People’s Daily: those who slander China are not welcome.

Another image by People’s Daily published on March 25 said that the Chinese market does not welcome those who slander China.

The Communist Youth League also contributed to the online storm by posting about H&M, writing: “On the one hand they are starting rumors and boycotting Xinjiang cotton, on the other hand they want to make money in China. Dream on, H&M!” That post received around 430,000 likes.

Various official media, including Global Times and China Daily, posted about cotton production in Xinjiang. Besides refuting the forced labor accusations and accusing Western players of hypocrisy and ulterior motives, a recurring issue stressed is how 42 percent of Xinjiang’s cotton is harvested by machines. Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng was quoted as saying that “the so-called forced labor in Xinjiang is nonexistent and entirely imaginary. The spotless white Xinjiang cotton brooks no slander.”

This image was posted by China Daily USA.

On March 27, People’s Daily posted a rap video by ‘Xinjiang Youth’ (新疆青年) on its official Weibo channel (video below) that included some tough lines attacking Western powers, companies, and media.

Also noteworthy in this propaganda campaign is how the Canadian YouTuber Daniel Dumbrill got caught up, as what he said in one of his videos was quoted by Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying (华春莹) on March 27 during a press conference, with his video being screened before the conference.

In this video, that was part of a larger panel on Xinjiang, Dumbrill responded to the decision-making process on how China’s treatment of Uyghurs is called a “genocide.”

Recently, a number of countries and parliaments including the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands have declared that China’s crackdown on the Muslim minorities amounts to “genocide” in violation of the U.N. Genocide Convention. Dumbrill talks about why the Xinjiang narratives matter to both the foreign and domestic politics of the US and other Western countries, with Dumbril claiming it “isn’t really about human rights and a care for overseas Muslims” but about other political goals. Dumbrill’s video was praised by authorities, state media, and by Chinese netizens.

“We have to push for the truth to come out,” some netizens commented. Others wrote: “But we’re only allowed to discuss it from within [the country].”

Meanwhile, while many companies are seeing sales falling, there are also many who are benefiting from the current developments. Some sellers on Taobao have found another way to attract customers, promoting their products as being made with “100% Xinjiang Cotton!”

As this is an ongoing topic, we will report more later. Meanwhile, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

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China Media

About Yang Jiechi’s Instant Noodle Lunch at the US-China Talks in Alaska

Chinese state media want to make sure that you know that top diplomat Yang Jiechi had instant noodles for lunch during the top-level US-China talks in Alaska.

Manya Koetse

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A 12-second video in which top diplomat Yang Jiechi said he had an instant noodle lunch became a topic of discussion in China, where one hashtag on the issue attracted over 270 million views. It’s about more than noodles alone.

The high-level talks between U.S. and Chinese officials in Alaska concluded on Friday. While international media describe the talks as “tough” and exposing the “depth of tensions” between the United States and China, many netizens also focus on the smaller events that occurred during the talks.

Besides the cool and collected way in which Chinese interpreter Zhang Jing (张京) went about her job, the fact that Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi (杨洁篪) had remarked he had instant noodles for lunch also triggered discussions on Weibo.

Chinese state media outlet CGTN published a short video showing how Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) and Yang walk to enter a session of the high-level talks, with Wang asking Yang “Have you had lunch?” Yang then answers: “Yes, instant noodles.”

The topic was discussed on Weibo in multiple threads and under the hashtags “Yang Jiechi Had Instant Noodles for Lunch” (#杨洁篪午饭吃泡面#) and “The Instant Noodles Yang Jiechi Had for Lunch” (#杨洁篪午饭吃的泡面#). The latter received had 270 million views on Weibo by Sunday evening.

Noteworthy enough, the hashtag page “Yang Jiechi Had Instant Noodles for Lunch” was initiated by Party newspaper People’s Daily. Together with the video published by CGTN, this shows that state media are purposely bringing ‘noodle gate’ to the attention of readers – both inside and outside of China.

Some Chinese news outlets reported that no formal dinner was arranged for the Chinese diplomats at the strategic dialogue due to COVID19, and that their lunch apparently consisted of simple noodles.

On Twitter, Christian Goebbels (@Chri5tianGoebel), Professor of Modern China Studies at the University of Vienna, commented: “My first thought when seeing this was: this is a complaint that the hosts didn’t even serve their guests a proper lunch, which Chinese viewers (and the guests!) would consider incredibly rude. If they wanted to create a good atmosphere, they should’ve served up a banquet.”

Jonathan Sullivan, Associate Professor of Contemporary Chinese Studies at University of Nottingham, called the noodle incident a “meaningful detail” on Twitter (@jonlsullivan), writing: “It fits the narrative that the US is inhospitable & disrespectful, incapable of treating China as a power of equal standing.”

Many netizens on Weibo take a similar stance, writing: “The American etiquette is unsatisfactory,” and: “Let’s not pay attention to food, they completely lack etiquette.”

“Jeez, these Americans don’t even care about food,” others wrote.

“It’s extremely insulting,” one blogger wrote: “This is a superpower, their strategy is despicable, to send our diplomatic staff off with a bucket of noodles!”

On Twitter, George Washington University Law Professor Donald Clarke called ‘noodle-gate’ a “non-story,” saying: “A reliable source tells me that China agreed on no joint meals for Covid reasons. Thus, no big banquet. If someone wants to order noodles instead of a proper meal from room service, they can do that, but it’s their choice, not something forced on them.”

But meanwhile, on Weibo, commenters are adding that plenty of restaurants in Alaska are still operating, suggesting that there would have been options to socialize safely.

In Chinese culture, it is a custom to hold a banquet for business, diplomatic, or even trivial events, with meal gatherings being used as a social lubricant; a way to build and maintain relations.

With food and meal gatherings being such an important part of communicative practices in relationship-building in China, Yang Jiechi having instant noodles by himself for lunch is much more than just that. From the perspective of many Chinese, it shows little consideration for the Chinese cultural background and not a lot of hospitality from the Americans towards their Chinese guests.

The fact that the US-China talks were icy does not help. State media outlet Global Times said that American National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken “unjustifiably attacked and accused China’s domestic and foreign policies” and “seriously prolonged its opening remarks.”

The Chinese delegation blamed the Americans, who invited the Chinese to Anchorage to have the strategic dialogue, for lacking “hospitable [and] good diplomatic etiquette.”

The noodle incident already led to one Guancha blogger coining the term ‘noodle diplomacy’ (“泡面外交”).

“The decline of the US starts with a bowl of instant noodles,” some said on Weibo.

“Let’s at least hope it was a ‘unifying’ beef noodle that he had,” some on Weibo jokingly commented.

Although many see the noodle lunch as a symbol of American inhospitality, there are also many commenters who see it as a practical and safe way to have lunch: “It’s good this way – at least nobody can poison him.”

“I want to know which brand [of instant noodles] he’s having, I want it too!”

By Manya Koetse

Featured image by Miguel Andrade.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2021 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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