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From ‘Starting a War’ to ‘Just for Show’: Chinese Social Media Views on Pelosi’s Potential Taiwan Visit

Some voices say that regardless of a Taiwan visit by Pelosi, US-China relations have already reached one of the lowest points in decades.

Manya Koetse

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On Chinese social media there are different views on what a potential Taiwan visit by Nancy Pelosi might mean for China, the U.S., and Sino-American relations. But whether she might actually visit Taiwan or not, virtually nobody seems to be looking at the latest developments with rose-colored glasses.

She is called ‘the American Old Lady’ and ‘the Old Witch’ on Chinese social media. Nancy Pelosi, or Pèiluòxī (佩洛西), is all the talk on Weibo this week since reports came out that the U.S. House Speaker is planning a visit to Taiwan.

It is the second time this year a potential Pelosi Taiwan trip raises U.S.-China tensions. Earlier this year, there were also reports that Pelosi would lead a delegation to visit Taiwan on April 10. But just days before, on April 7, news came out that Pelosi had tested positive for Covid-19 and her Asia trip was postponed.

In July 2022, although not officially announced, reports again came out that Pelosi might visit Taiwan during her rescheduled Asia trip, during which she is planned to visit Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan (no mention of Taiwan as of July 31st). If she would also land in Taiwan, she would be the first House speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years.

There have been several hashtag pages on Weibo dedicated to the topic of Pelosi’s alleged Taiwan visit. One of the hashtags popping up on Chinese social media on July 25 was “Pelosi Visiting Taiwan” (#佩洛西访台#). By July 30, there was the CCTV-initiated hashtag “If Pelosi Visits Taiwan, China’s Military Will Not Sit Back and Watch” (#若佩洛西访台中国军队绝不会坐视不管#).

On the same day, there was the Global Times-initiated hashtag “Trump Slams Pelosi’s Possible Visit to Taiwan” (#特朗普抨击佩洛西可能访台#), and “If Pelosi’s Visit Happens, Mainland Will Take Decisive Taiwan Measures” (#佩洛西若窜访成行大陆将对台采取断然措施#), hosted by the official account of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). And then there was the “Geng Shuang Says Involved Countries Should Not Play With Fire” hashtag (#耿爽说有关国家不要玩火自焚#), referring to an address by China’s deputy permanent representative to the UN. On July 29, Geng Shuang highlighted the apparent hypocrisy of individual countries repeatedly stressing the principle of sovereignty when it comes to Ukraine, while challenging China’s sovereignty when it comes to the Taiwan issue – and in doing so, “deliberately creating tensions.”

On Sunday, the hashtags “Pelosi” and “Pelosi Sends Our Four Messages without Mentioning Taiwan” (#佩洛西发文4条没提台湾#) (referring to these tweets by Pelosi) both went trending, receiving 110 and 270 million views respectively within one day.

What would Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan mean to mainland China? Chinese state media outlets are clear about China’s official stance. China Daily (Global Edition) headlined “Xi: No Room for interference on Taiwan question” on its newspaper frontpage on Friday. The English-language Global Times published a statement via Twitter, saying: “We have ways to raise the risk of Pelosi’s “performance” through the visit, greatly increase the cost of her performance, and boost the price she has to pay. Let Pelosi deeply realize that Taiwan island is not a place where she can run wild.”

In light of a two-hour telephone conversation between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden on July 28, there were also some softer stances. The Chinese-language People’s Daily published an article suggesting that Sino-American relations should focus on strengthening communication to avoid misunderstandings and promote further cooperation between the two countries.

Meanwhile, there are many netizens and bigger bloggers discussing this issue on Chinese social media. Combing out all the posts on Pelosi flooding Weibo these days, there seem to be three main views shared by the majority, which we will further detail below.

 

VIEW 1: PELOSI’S VISIT MEANS THE U.S. SUPPORTS TAIWAN INDEPENDENCE (AND THAT MEANS WAR)


 

A common stance on Chinese social media regarding Pelosi’s visit is that it would mean a U.S. recognition of Taiwan as an independent state, which is a direct provocation of mainland China.

One popular blogger (@封起De日子) writes:

“If Pelosi really visits Taiwan, it actually means the U.S. approves of Taiwan independence. Taiwan has then become de facto independent. Pelosi would be the third U.S. government person to do so, which is extraordinary. Taiwan is Chinese territory, and if we ignore such an undertaking, we would deny that foundation ourselves. This is a serious provocation. We have so far lacked a strong voice and statement, and the central government and the Central Military Commission and other departments should declare that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan means a war provocation! If Pelosi’s plane enters China’s airspace and territorial waters of Taiwan, the armed forces of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army have the right to decisively shoot down (kill) it at any time! This position would be the right one for any sovereign country.”

Another commenter writes: “If Pelosi visits Taiwan in the next two days she’ll cause a war. If the country needs donations, I, as an ordinary Chinese citizen, am willing to donate to my country, and I would even be willing to sacrifice my life.”

“If a U.S. Army Aircraft dares to enter Taiwan, it is an invasion, and we can shoot it down,” an influential gaming blogger (@老刀99, over 2 million fans) also wrote.

This kind of reasoning follows that of the influential Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进), who suggested that a Taiwan visit by Pelosi would be a clear provocation, giving the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “good reason” for “waging a war.”

One of Hu’s tweets, in which he voiced the view that U.S. military planes escorting Pelosi to Taiwan could potentially be shot down, was deleted from Twitter. He reported about this on his Weibo account.

Hu Xijin tweet which was deleted by Twitter on July 30.

In another post on July 31, Hu warned Taiwan leadership that by agreeing to a Pelosi visit and “seeking ‘international support,'” they are “forgetting that their fate is in the hands of the mainland.”

Some commenters said they actually hoped Pelosi would go to Taiwan in order to let the real conflict begin: “I hope Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan will succeed,” one Weibo user wrote: “These years, I’ve heard too many forced righteous words, I don’t know where our bottom line is anymore, I just see the non-stop favors, while they’re snickering and looking down on us. It’s no use when it’s all talk and no action and it’s ineffective to keep on crying wolf. Pelosi, come on!”

“If the day Pelosi visits Taiwan is the day we recover Taiwan, should we still prevent her from visiting?” another Weibo user wonders.

On July 28, Fujian’s Pingtan Maritime Safety Administration issued a navigation warning that there would be live-fire exercises on July 30 in the waters near Fujian, opposite Taiwan. On Weibo, the live-fire drill also became a topic of interest (#福建平潭部分海域实弹射击训练#), with many applauding the exercises.

“We must resolutely defend national sovereignty and defend our territorial integrity,” one commenter wrote.

 

VIEW 2: IT’S ALL JUST FOR SHOW (AND TAIWAN IS A POLITICAL PLAYFIELD)


 

Another view expressed on Chinese social media is that a potential Taiwan visit would be just for show, and that neither Pelosi nor the U.S. truly have Taiwan’s best interests at heart.

According to some, a visit to Taiwan would be nothing more than a political “fashion show” for Pelosi, since this might be the last big Asia trip for the 82-year-old politician. “It’s just a superficial performance,” one military blogger wrote. There are more people agreeing with this stance. “This is to show off her courage and guts as a way to end her term of office,” author Zhang Huilin writes (over 2M followers @张慧林).

Others also suggest that China would not start a war over such a move. Keluo Liaofu (@科罗廖夫), an author on military affairs with over 6 million fans, writes:

“If Pelosi really visits Taiwan, the mainland will certainly be furious, and there will be fierce retaliation, including military-diplomatic and economic retaliation such as halting certain Sino-American cooperations, expulsion of diplomats, and other punitive sanctions. Then, as things go, this will be forgotten after a few months.”

Another blogger describes Taiwan as a political play field, literally a ‘chessboard’, that is used by the big ‘chess players’ – China and the United States – who are also surrounded by other supporting players. Taiwan is just a “gambit” and it is not about Taiwan itself, the blogger suggests: the Taiwan issue is just a strategy for the U.S. to “suppress China” and the moves made by both the U.S. and China regarding Taiwan are ways to test out each other’s “red lines.”

“It’s all just bluff. She won’t even dare to visit,” another person writes.

 

VIEW 3: U.S.-CHINA RELATIONS ARE ALREADY BAD REGARDLESS IF SHE VISITS OR NOT (AND THINGS WILL NOT CHANGE)

Another view on the potential Taiwan visit is that whether Pelosi actually visits or not, reports about the trip have already brought China-U.S. relations to a new low point.

“Regardless of whether Pelosi visits Taiwan in whatever way, the political basis for U.S.-China relations is already severely broken, [because] it means that the national will of the United States does not take [our] relationship seriously at all,” one Weibo blogger writes: “No need to harbour any illusions.”

Some netizens express that China always has to be the ‘reasonable voice’ that is ignored by an obstinate and provocative America.

Weibo vlogger Yuanzhezhi (@袁者之) writes:

“As just one web user, and as a Chinese, I would like to express my personal voice. The U.S. side should stop obstinately persisting in making things go the wrong way, to insist on creating global unrest. Can they only be happy when there are regional tensions? If Pelosi ignores the voice of the Chinese, the consequences and responsibilities will be borne by the U.S. side. I hope that the U.S. can listen to some of the domestic and international voices of reason, and that they can stop obsessively making the same mistakes over and over again, resulting in an irreversible situation, moving further and further away from the U.S.-China relationship!”

Another popular educational blogger (@才疏学浅柏拉图, over 1M fans) writes:

“My guess is that America is not prepared, and that we’re not prepared enough either. But our public opinion is already shaped and fixed in place. It makes me think of how Zhuge Liang used the empty city to scare Sima Yi (t/n: reference to ‘Empty Fort Strategy‘, reverse psychology to scare the enemy). Maybe the American Old Lady ends up going to a third-party location where she’ll invite Taiwan leadership, so she can express the American support [for Taiwan] without making us lose face, but the struggle between the U.S. and China remains the same.”

Just before Sunday midnight, news blogger Dayue Chuqing (@大越楚卿) asked his followers what the motive might be for Pelosi to visit Taiwan.

While some say she is doing for herself and others suggest it’s U.S. power politics, there are also those who consider an entirely different motive: “Maybe she just really feels like eating Taiwanese cuisine.”

To read more of our articles on Sino-US relations, click here.

By Manya Koetse

 

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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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    Matthew Campbell

    August 1, 2022 at 4:38 pm

    It’s so said that the majority of netizens see this as a furthering of tensions rather than a chance at dialog. The US is always going to defer to Taiwan on it’s path for the future and the only way the Taiwan crises gets solved peacefully is communication. That means China shouldn’t be afraid of the de facto status that Taiwan is independent. They should be trying to woo Taiwan, not threaten them.

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China and Covid19

The End to Zero Covid: China’s New 10 Covid Rules Are Here

“Everyone is really happy but there is a black cloud heading our way.”

Manya Koetse

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Over the past few weeks, China’s Covid measures have seen gradual changes, and various places across China have eased local rules regarding nucleic acid testing and the accessibility of public transport and venues. Now, central authorities have announced more measures that basically end the ‘zero Covid’ policy as we knew it. The ‘ten new rules’ became top trending on Weibo.

Just a month ago, on November 11, Chinese central authorities released a set of twenty new rules to “further optimize” China’s approach to Covid.

At the time, Chinese media emphasized that the new rules did not mean that China was letting go of its dynamic Zero Covid policy. Now, another ten new rules have been introduced that do indicate that the country is clearly no longer sticking to its ‘zero Covid’ goals.

After a central meeting that took place on December 6, authorities released a 10-point plan addressing changes in Covid measures. National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng (米锋) announced the measures during a live-streamed press conference of the Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism of the State Council (#国务院联防联控机制发布会#).

On Wednesday, several hashtags related to the new measures went trending on Chinese social media, including “Health Code” (#健康码#), over 450 million views), and “Ten New Rules” (#新十条#, over 440 million views).

 
These Are the 10 Changes:
 

1: Lockdown Changes
Risk areas should be assessed and divided according to science and it should be done precisely. We should no longer see the lockdown of an entire community or residential area; instead, it will be assessed by looking at household units, buildings, and apartment floors. The (temporary) closure of areas will no longer be allowed.

2: Testing Changes
The scope of nucleic acid testing was already limited in the previous adjusted rules, but will now be further limited. Instead of RT-PCR tests, rapid PCR tests will be used more often in accordance with local requirements. Nucleic acid testing will remain in place for high-risk positions and high-risk area personnel in accordance with relevant regulations, and some places including nursing homes, schools, and medical care institutions will still require negative tests, but negative nucleic acid test certificates and health code checks will no longer be necessary for traveling from place to place.

3: Quarantine Changes
People who tested positive but are asymptomatic or only show mild symptoms can isolate at home if they meet local requirements. Centralized isolation centers will still be in operation for more severe cases or those opting in for centralized quarantine. If nucleic acid tests are negative after the fifth day, the isolation period can end.

4: ‘High-Risk Area’ Changes
If no new cases have been detected for five consecutive days, local lockdowns should be lifted.

5: Medicine Availability Changes
Pharmacies should operate normally and cannot be arbitrarily closed. Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for cough, fever, etc should not be restricted.

6: Vaccination Strategy Changes
The promotion of the Covid vaccination should be stepped up for Chinese seniors, especially in the 60-79 age group, with a clear focus on making sure they get all the vaccinations they need as quickly as possible. In order to boost the vaccination rates, temporary vaccination sites will need to be set up and they will need to be local incentives to get the seniors to vaccinate asap. This was actually also mentioned in the list of twenty optimized Covid measures in November (under rule 12).

7: Medical Classification Clarity
There should be clearer knowledge on the medical status of residents and whether elderly residents have any underlying medical issues and if they have been vaccinated.

8: Focus on the Normal Functioning of Society & Basic Medical Services
If areas are not classified as high-risk areas, people should be allowed to move around freely and have access to basic medical care, and there should be no restrictions on production, work, and business operations.

9: Strengthen Safety Procedures in Epidemic Situations
Buildings [in high-risk areas] cannot block fire exits, unit doors, or community gates under any circumstances. Community management departments should have effective modes of communication systems in place to contact local medical institutions in order to safeguard the medical needs of residents, including seniors living alone, children, pregnant women, and those with underlying conditions.

10: Improved Policies regarding Outbreaks at School Campuses
As also mentioned in the previous updated rules, on-campus epidemic control must be consistent, precise, and in accordance with science. Not only can there be no unnecessarily long lockdowns of campuses, but the risk areas within campuses should be more precisely defined, and normal teaching and living outside these areas should be able to continue as usual. Schools without any outbreaks should carry on normal offline teaching activities, and capus facilities such as supermarkets, cafeterias, libraries, etc. should be open.

 
Online Responses
 

One clear online response to China’s recent ‘optimized’ Covid measures is that people are buying a lot of medication, expecting to be infected with Covid soon. Some online stores had already sold out on the Traditional Chinese medicine Lianhua Qingwen (连花清瘟), a herbal pill by Yiling Pharmaceuticals which is used for the treatment of influenza as well as Covid.

Sold-out Lianhua Qingwen pills.

One popular Weibo blogger (@咖啡布偶猫) wrote: “I feel as if the propaganda has seen a sudden change in direction. During the first half of the year and the epidemic in Shanghai, everyone would get scared the moment you talked about a positive case, they wanted to fiercely chase it and thoroughly reach zero cases. Now they are propagating that we should not panic, that we should accept the reality and actively respond to it, as if it is nothing alarming. But we should still pay attention to those with underlying medical conditions, those with respiratory issues, asthma, and lung disease. If you haven’t bought cold medicine yet, do so. Right now, some places even have a limit on buying Lianhua Qingwen.”

During the December 7 press conference, Guo Yanhong (郭燕红), director of the National Health Commission’s health emergency division, emphasized that it is not necessary for people to stock up on medication in light of the announced eased Covid measures and that there are sufficient supplies (#卫健委提示没有必要囤积抢购药物#).

“After being sealed for three years, it’s all lifted in a morning, all the prices go up for Lianhua Qingwen, rapid antigen tests increase in price, and if your symptoms get serious you’re still not able to get help anywhere.”

Some jokingly suggest that after messing around for three years, the pandemic is only now really starting.

“Everyone is really happy now but there’s a black cloud coming our way, we will know in a month or so if it is going to be light drizzle or a heavy rainstorm.”

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

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China and Covid19

Chinese Commentator Hu Xijin Expects to “Get Covid Within a Month” (and Why It Matters)

This Hu Xijin commentary can be seen as part of a wider trend of normalizing Covid in the Chinese online media sphere.

Manya Koetse

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Hu Xijin (胡锡进), the Beijing-based retired editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times, recently published a post on the Chinese social media platform Weibo about him getting mentally ready to be infected with Covid-19 soon.

The former journalist Hu, whose posts and statements often go trending and influence public opinion, also made a few other noteworthy comments.

On Sunday (Dec 4), Hu posted: “Over the past week, China has essentially ended widespread lockdowns, with places like Beijing and others beginning to allow home quarantine for many positive individuals, while reducing the scope of nucleic acid testing. These are amazing changes.”

Four weeks ago, right before China introduced its twenty new Covid measures, Hu already argued that strict lockdowns are no longer sustainable and that China should aim for a more relaxed and local approach (which is exactly what happened).

Now, Hu Xijin says that he is “mentally preparing to be infected with Covid within the coming month” (“做好了在一个月之内被感染上的思想准备”), further writing:

In order for young people to have a colorful young era, in order to save the livelihood of so many service industry workers, in order for people from all walks of life to avoid seeing their wages cut, in order for so many companies to get out of their predicaments, this 62-year-old ‘Old Hu’ is willing to participate in the risk of getting [a virus that] degenerated to only 2.5 per 10,000 rate of getting seriously ill.”

Hu’s post was published on December 2nd in the context of Hu Says, a regular video column by Hu Xijin.

A few months ago, such a comment coming from such a big account would have been unthinkable.

In May of this year, those who tested positive still complained about suffering from stigmatization in society.

But Hu’s comments come at a time when there are more discussions about getting Covid and sharing the experiences of having Covid.

In the second week of November, shortly after Chinese authorities launched their updated Covid rules, the hashtag “What Is It Like to Catch Covid-19?” (#感染新冠是什么体验#) already went trending on Weibo, along with other hashtags informing Chinese netizens about what it’s like to get Covid – a virus that so many in China never experienced first hand.

Since Hu Xijin (1960) ended his career as the editor-in-chief of Global Times in 2021, his role as a political commentator has arguably become even more important and more visible on Weibo than before, especially in China’s challenging Covid times of 2021.

Some find him overly nationalistic, for others he is not nationalistic enough; there are those who find him reasonable, and then some say he is repetitive and just dancing to the tune of Party propaganda. But then there have also been some discussions – in light of Pelosi’s controversial Taiwan visit – about Hu misleading public opinion by not matching the official stance.

Whichever it is, some things are certain: Hu has some 25 million followers on Weibo, and he is often the first major media account that is allowed to discuss in detail some major sensitive social topics, even if these online discussions are otherwise being tightly controlled (think of the Tangshan BBQ Restaurant incident, the future of zero Covid, the Urumqi fire, and the 11.24 protests across China.)

Hu’s comments about ‘catching Covid soon’ can be seen as part of a wider trend of normalizing Covid in the Chinese online media sphere, preparing people to face a virus they are still unfamiliar with since ‘zero Covid’ has always been the main goal.

On December 3, Hu further clarified his comments about preparing to getting Covid. He explained he expects to catch the virus because he is active in the media environment, through which he unavoidably is in touch with many different people. He also promised that if he might get infected, he would share his Covid experience with all of his readers.

As the idea of catching Covid is becoming more normalized (there are more and more trending hashtags informing what to expect after getting Covid, e.g. #新冠发病7天内身体会发生什么变化#), people are also exchanging non-scientifical advice on how to prevent catching Covid, such as drinking licorice ginger soup, holding Sichuan peppercorns inside your mouth when going out, or getting silicon covers for the drains in the bathroom to prevent the virus coming through via neighboring apartments.

Some express their worries about catching the virus. “I’m really scared. I’ve already replaced all of my masks with K95 ones,” one Weibo user wrote: “My immune system has been weak since I was little, and I have allergies. I have the feeling that if I get infected I might lose half my life, if I don’t die (..) I’m in a state of panic.”

Even though China is still far from ‘opening up’, some people are already preparing to ‘live together with the virus,’ reminding others that getting vaccinated, keeping social distance, and washing hands are all measures that will help in preventing getting Covid.

“I am worried about getting Covid but I also want to open up,” some on Weibo said.

“As much as I wanted it all to end, this feels abrupt,” one social media user from Inner Mongolia wrote: “It won’t be the same as before. The thorough ‘zero Covid’ [policy] has gone. The country’s protection of our health has gone up to this point. I hope everyone can now take care in prevention themselves, and protect themselves and their families. I hope the epidemic situation will end soon, that the world will be ok, and that we can have our freedom.”

Meanwhile, Hu Xijin informed netizens on Saturday that he had some milk, boiled eggs, pastry and pickled mustard greens for breakfast. While working on his condition and nutrition, he says that if his Covid positive time comes, he will not get any VIP treatment. If allowed, he’ll either recover from home or go to a centralized Covid location.

He will just have to wait and see what happens, just as millions of other Chinese citizens are waiting to see what this winter is going to bring.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

The featured images are all images that went viral recently in light of China opening up (including nucleic acid testing booths being taken away).

 

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

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