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“Remember Their Faces”: An Online Tribute to the Chinese Soldiers Killed in Border Clash with India

“My love is crystal clear, it is only for China” – quotes and images; this is how the PLA soldiers are remembered on Weibo.

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Quotes, photos, music, and posters; this is how the four Chinese soldiers killed at the Galwan Valley clash are being remembered on Chinese social media.

In June of 2020, four Chinese soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were killed during a bloody border clash with Indian troops. The battle in the Galwan River Valley, in the disputed frontier region of Ladakh, was the deadliest border clash between the two countries in four decades.

News of the Chinese casualties was not released until late February of this year. Directly after the clash last year, Indian authorities said 20 of its troops had been killed. After the clash, a lot of fake news about the incident was circulating online.

That allegedly also played a role in why details about the deaths were revealed now, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunyin (华春莹) stating that the truth about the incident was “distorted and misled international public opinion.” She also said that “China’s disclosure of the truth about the border confrontation in June 2020 helps people understand the facts and show respect for the martyrs.”

Hua suggested that China initially did not report on the news to promote the “cooling and relaxation of the situation.” According to Foreign Policy, it is rare for the People’s Liberation Army to admit its casualties.

The four Chinese soldiers who were killed on June 15 of 2020 are Chen Hongjun (陈红军), 33, Xiao Siyuan (肖思远), 24, Wang Zhuoran (王焯冉), 24 and Chen Xiangrong (陈祥榕), 18.

Their commanding officer Qi Fabiao (祁发宝), 41, was badly injured during the clash. The four killed soldiers were posthumously awarded honorary and first-class merit citations. The injured regimental commander was also conferred with an honorary title.

On social media platform Weibo, the hashtag “Four PLA Soldiers Died in China-India Border Clashes” (#4名解放军官兵在中印边境冲突中牺牲#) had received 1,2 billion views by early March. Another hashtag, ‘The Central Military Commission Honors the Five Heroic Officers and Soldiers Guarding the Borders’ (#中央军委表彰5名卫国戍边英雄官兵#) received 250 million views on Weibo.

Chinese state media outlets made noteworthy efforts to shape the ways in which the soldiers are to be remembered, merging the political and the personal, and praising their patriotic commitment. Various official media accounts such as CCTV and People’s Daily have posted several images on social media to pay respect to the officers and soldiers, including the images below, using the phrases “The place where I stand is China” (“我站立的地方是中国”) and “I will defend the motherland with my life” (“我的祖国,我用生命捍卫守护”).

The phrase “We can’t lose an inch of our motherland” (#祖国山河一寸不能丢#) was also used in posts dedicated to the remembrance of the killed soldiers.

People’s Daily also published a video paying tribute to the soldiers along with the text “Please remember their faces” (“请记住他们的面孔”). The song “China Is Where I Stand” accompanies the images and footage of PLA soldiers in the video.

China Daily also published the quotes of the honored soldiers.

They are the following:

Qi Fabao: “Not everyone can understand my choice, but I have no regrets.”(”不是所有人都能理解我的选择,但我却无怨无悔”).

According to Chinese media reports, Colonel Qi was the first one during the border clash who went forward along with just a few other soldiers and officers to negotiate with the Indian troops. He supposedly approached them with open arms when he was met with violence and was attacked with steel pipes and stones. He suffered serious injuries to the head.

Chen Hongjun: “No matter what post I hold, I will contribute my utmost.”(”党把自己放在什么岗位上,就要在什么岗位上建功立业”.

As a battalion commander, Chen allegedly immediately came to the rescue when he saw Qi was being attacked, bringing other soldiers into what is described as a “rain of stones.” Chen leaves behind his wife, who was five months pregnant at the time.

Chen Xiangrong: “My love is crystal clear, it is only for China.”(”清澈的爱,只为中国”). 

According to Chinese media reports on this confrontation, Chen Xiangrong rushed to the front and used his body as a shield to protect his comrades behind him. He was only 18 when he died.

Xiao Siyuan: “We are the boundary markers of our country. Every inch of soil under our feet is part of the motherland.” (“我们就是祖国的界碑,脚下的每一寸土地都是祖国的领土”). 

Xiao reportedly also used his body to protect his comrades from stones, sticks, and pipes. He held a photo in his wallet of his girlfriend, with whom he was preparing to get married.

Wang Zhuoran: “Mum and dad, I may not be there until the end, but if there is an afterlife, I will still be a filial child and care for you well.” (“爸妈,儿子不孝,可能没法给你们养老送终了。如果有来生,我一定还给你们当儿子,好好报答你们.”)

Wang reportedly drowned while crossing a river to rescue his comrades.

 

After the details of these soldiers were released, many netizens on Weibo expressed their gratitude to them and praised the men.

The battalion commander saved the regimental commander, the soldier saved the battalion commander, and the squad leader saved the soldiers. I pay my utmost tributes to you heroes!”

“Chen Xangrong, he is only an 18-year-old kid! I really don’t want to call him a martyr. So heartbreaking!”

“Remember their names: Qi Fabao, Chen Hongjun, Chen Xiangrong, Xiao Siyuan and Wang Zhuoran! Salute!”

While hundreds of comments and posts on Chinese social media remember the soldiers, the ways in which they are remembered and the border clash is recounted remains a sensitive issue.

It has been reported that former Economic Observer journalist Qiu Ziming (仇子明), along with two other bloggers, have been detained for “insulting” the Chinese soldiers under a law against “defaming heroes.” Qiu, who had 2.4 million fans on his (now-deleted) Weibo page, made remarks questioning the number of casualties China said it suffered in the border clash. News of his arrest received over 460 million views on the hashtag page (#辣笔小球被批捕#).

By early March, video footage came out showing a detained Qiu expressing remorse over his comments.

Meanwhile, on Weibo, the tribute to the PLA soldiers continues: “Thank you to our heroes,” hundreds of commenters write: “We pay our respects to all those soldiers who are guarding the frontier!”

 
By Vivian Wang and Manya Koetse

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.

Stories that are authored by the What's on Weibo Team are the stories that multiple authors contributed to. Please check the names at the end of the articles to see who the authors are.

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China and Covid19

Confusion over Official Media Report on China’s “Next Five Years” of Zero Covid Policy

Netizens interpreted this as a sign that China’s current Covid strategy would continue at least five more years.

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‘The next five years’: four words that flooded Chinese social media today and caused commotion among netizens who interpreted this as written proof that China’s current Covid strategy would continue for at least five more years. But the Beijing Daily editor-in-chief has since responded to the issue, blaming reporters for getting it all mixed up.

On June 27th, after the start of the 13th Beijing Municipal Party Congress, Chinese state media outlet Beijing Daily (北京日报) published an online news article about a report delivered by Beijing’s Party chief Cai Qi (蔡奇).

The article zoomed in on what the report said about Beijing’s ongoing efforts in light of China’s zero-Covid policy, and introduced Beijing’s epidemic prevention strategy as relating to “the coming five years” (“未来五年”).

Those four words then flooded social media and caused commotion among netizens who interpreted this as a sign that China’s current Covid strategy would continue at least five more years. Many people wrote that the idea of living with the current measures for so many years shocked and scared them.

Soon after, the article suddenly changed, and the controversial “coming five years” was left out, which also led to speculation.

Beijing Times editor-in-chief Zhao Jingyun (赵靖云) then clarified the situation in a social media post, claiming that it was basically an error made due to the carelessness of reporters who already filled in information before actually receiving the report:

I can explain this with some authority: the four-word phrase “the next five years” was indeed not included in the report, but was added by our reporter[s] by mistake. Why did they add this by mistake? It’s funny, because in order to win some time, they dismantled the report’s key points and made a template in advance that “in the next five years” such and such will be done, putting it in paragraph by paragraph, and also putting in “insist on normalized epidemic prevention and control” without even thinking about it. This is indeed an operational error at the media level, and if you say that our people lack professionalism, I get it, but I just hope that people will stop magnifying this mistake by passing on the wrong information.”

Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进), who used to be the editor-in-chief and party secretary of the state media outlet, also weighed in on the incident in a social media post on Monday. He started his post by saying that the reporter who initially made the phrase ‘next five year’ go viral had a “lack of professionalism” which caused the overall misunderstanding.

Hu also added a photo of the relevant page within the original report that was delivered at the Congress, showing that the phrase ‘the coming five years’ was indeed not written before the segment on China’s battle against Covid, which detailed Beijing’s commitment to its strict epidemic prevention and control measures.

But Hu also added some nuance to the confusion and how it came about. The original report indeed generally focuses on Beijing developments of the past five years and the next five years, but adding the “in the next five years” phrase right before the segment was a confusing emphasis only added by the reporter, changing the meaning of the text.

Hu noted that the right way to interpret the report’s segment about China’s Covid battle is that it clarifies that the battle against the virus is not over and that China will continue to fight Covid – but that does not mean that Beijing will stick to its current zero Covid policy for the next five years to come, including its local lockdowns and restrictions on movement.

Hu Xijin wrote:

I really do not believe that the city of Beijing would allow the situation as it has been for the past two months or so go on for another five years. That would be unbearable for the people of Beijing, it would be too much for the city’s economy, and it would have a negative impact on the whole country. So it’s unlikely that Beijing would come up with such a negative plan now, and I’m convinced that those in charge of managing the city will plan and strive to achieve a more morale-boosting five years ahead.”

After the apparent error was set straight, netizens reflected on the online panic and confusion that had erupted over just four words. Some said that the general panic showed how sensitive and nervous people had become in times of Covid. Others were certain that the term “next five years” would be banned from Weibo. Many just said that they still needed time to recover from the shock they felt.

“The peoples’ reactions today really show how fed up everyone is with the ‘disease prevention’ – if you want to know what the people think, this is what they think,” one Weibo user from Beijing wrote.

To read more about Covid-19 in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

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China Health & Science

“Experts Are Advised Not to Advise”: Why Weibo Users Are Fed Up with ‘Expert Advice’

Experts say this, experts say that, but many social media users wish experts would say nothing at all.

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Over the past week, the topic of “experts are advised not to advise” (建议专家不要建议) has been trending on Chinese social media. The topic came up after netizens got annoyed over a bunch of news items containing contradicting or ungrounded advice and suggestions from ‘experts.’

One column published by Worker’s Daily stated that three different expert advice topics went trending on Weibo on the very same day, on May 19: “Experts recommend young people not to spend all of their family money on a downpayment for a house,” “Experts advise buying a house is more profitable than renting,” and “Experts suggest that from June to October is the best time to buy a house.”

‘Expert advice’ goes trending on Chinese social media on a daily basis in hashtags. The source is mostly Chinese state media quoting an expert’s opinion on a certain topic.

Looking at some Weibo hashtags including the ‘experts suggest that..’ sentence include: “Experts advise to go to bed between 10 and 11 pm”, “Experts suggest not to eat too much at night,” and “Experts advise not to do new year’s resolutions in January,” “Experts recommend not to wait to drink water until you’re thirsty,” “Experts advise to release the ‘Three Child Policy’ asap”, “Experts suggest that eating too many mandarin oranges will turn the skin yellow,” “Experts advise single rural men to move to the city,” “Experts recommend retirement age to be set to 65,” “Experts advise national exam’s foreign language subjects to change into a chosen subjects,” “Experts advise not to use air fryers too much,” and many, many more.

According to this Weibo column, the most common topics that experts give their recommendations about are eating and drinking, sleep, childbearing, education, retirement, women’s issues, young people, and housing.

“Advise experts not to advise” sign (Image via CFP供图, Bwanjia)

The main reasons why people are getting tired of ‘expert advice’ headlines are that alleged expert views are often used by (state) media to publicize their own standpoints or views. Others are also concerned that some ‘experts’ are only speaking out on certain topics because they are getting paid for it, and then many people think that self-proclaimed experts are giving unfounded advice.

Another reason why expert advice is becoming much-dreaded is that experts are often giving contradicting advice. Instead of being helpful, their recommendations are only confusing to readers, and they only lose more trust in experts because of it.

The distrust in “experts advise” news became all the bigger when one ‘expert’ quoted in a news item by Lizhi News about the risks of using air fryers posted on Weibo herself that she was never interviewed and never even said anything about the topic at all.

By now, the hashtag “Advise Experts Not to Give Advice” (#建议专家不要建议#) has been viewed over 930 million times on Weibo.

“I advise the media not to use one expert after the other just to spread their own views,” one commenter says, with another person writing: “First of all, is there an academic degree for being an expert? Or is it a title? Is it based on years of experience, does it require an assessment? (..) Why is it that every time someone opens their mouth you say they’re an “expert” without first giving a clear account of the person’s life and background?”

“Jus advise experts not to advise anymore,” another commenter writes.

But not longer after the online discussions, Chinese media outlets started their ‘experts suggest..’ posts again, leading to the creation of a whole new hashtag: “Here come the experts again!” (#专家又来建议了#).

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

Image via Weibo

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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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