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“The Biden Era is Approaching”: Discussions of U.S.-China Relations under the ‘Sleepy King’

Now that the electoral storm has somewhat settled, the issue of what Sino-American might look like under Biden is much discussed in Chinese online media.

Manya Koetse

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Joe Biden on the Great Wall, CCTV 拜登到中国爬长城 http://news.cctv.com/world/20081105/123682_3.shtml

Now that the storm of jokes and memes surrounding the American elections has settled, more serious discussions regarding Biden’s win and what it might mean for China are surfacing in China’s online media environment. These commentators and academics approach the subject from different angles.

The American elections have been a major topic of discussion in the Chinese social media environment over the past weeks.

For many netizens on Weibo and beyond, the presidential race was one between the ‘King of Understanding’ (懂王, also ‘King of Knowing’) and the ‘Sleepy King’ (睡王).

Trump’s quotes on the things he knows and understands “more than anyone else” have become somewhat famous on Chinese social media (“people are really surprised I understand this stuff‘”), earning him the ‘King of Knowing’ nickname.

Trump’s nickname explained by Global Times.

Joe Biden got his nickname for dozing off during a speech and for an edited (fake) video that went viral in which Biden was seemingly falling asleep during a live interview.

But the Democrat has more nicknames on Chinese social media, including ‘Grandpa Bai’ (Bài yéyé 拜爷爷), or the cute ‘Dēngdēng‘ (登登).

His name in Chinese is usually written as (Bàidēng 拜登), although netizens have made up many more creative ways to write his name (拜灯, 白等, 败蹬).

Now that it has become clear that former Vice President Joe Biden has won the 2020 US presidential race, Chinese media, bloggers, and netizens are reflecting on the Biden victory with a more serious tone, with the phrase “the Biden era is approaching” recurringly popping up on social media.

There are many articles and posts in China’s online media sphere that focus on Biden’s journey to the presidency, including how he faced family and personal tragedy during his political career.

But, as noted in our previous article on Chinese discussions on Trump versus Biden, most of the online articles and posts about the outcome of the American elections focus on what the shift in power might mean for China and Chinese–U.S. relations.

Over the past few days, Chinese media outlets have posted several interviews, op-eds, and videos of Chinese experts discussing the future prospects of Sino-American relations under Biden. We have selected some of these that have become popular on Weibo or news app Toutiao.

 

Hu Xijin: “The shift of American leadership has no intrinsic meaning for Sino-American relations.”

 

“Is anyone under the illusion that Biden’s rise to power will lead to a major U.S.-China détente? I’m certainly not. And neither is anyone in my circles, whether they’re journalists, academics, or officials.”

Hu Xijin (胡锡进), the editor-in-chief of the Global Times – a daily newspaper under the auspices of Party news outlet People’s Daily -, has over 23 million fans on his Weibo account. He frequently posts lengthy texts about his views on current news developments, both on Chinese social media as on Twitter (@HuXijin_GT). (For more about Hu Xijin, also check out this SupChina article.)

On November 9, Hu posted about the Biden win, writing:

Along with China’s further development, America’s strategic precautions against China will only get heavier. China only needs its own continuously growing strength to draw a baseline for the United States in its relations with China. The shift of American leadership has no intrinsic meaning for Sino-American relations. I reckon this already is the general consensus of China’s mainstream society.”

This view, that it does not really matter whether Biden or Trump leads the U.S. for the next four years, was also reiterated in a recent blog post published by Global Times in which the author wrote: “Regardless if it’s the Democrats or the Republicans, both hold a negative stance when it comes to the China issue. (..) No matter who comes to power in the future, there is a high probability that they will continue to suppress China.”

In his November 9 post, Hu Xijin stressed that the outcome of the American elections is not of great significance for the status-quo of Sino-American relations, but he did add that Biden’s win might possibly positively affect the irregular patterns of current Sino-American relations. The political mistrust and power games that took place under the Trump presidency might make way for a period of U.S.-China relations that is less tense.

One of the most popular comments in response to Hu’s post basically summarized Hu’s message, writing: “America’s goal is to suppress China. The leaders might be different, the methods might not be the same, but the goal remains unchanged.”

 

Prof. Shen Yi: “It’s all for the betterment of the US – not for China.”

 

Shen Yi (沈逸) is the Associate Professor of the School of International Relations and Public Affairs at Fudan University. On Weibo, he has over 927,000 fans.

On November 10, Shen commented on Biden’s win through a video that was published on Chinese social media by The Observer (观察者).

Shen’s view is somewhat different than that of Hu. Instead of arguing that it does not matter whether Biden or Trump takes office, Shen argues that Chinese people should not mistake foreign politicians for friends, and remember that U.S.-China relations are all about power politics. Even though Chinese netizens sometimes warm up to American leaders like ‘Grandpa Bai’ (拜爷爷), and jokingly make them part of their daily discussions, their views of them should be more serious.

Shen says: “When the American media announced Biden’s victory, there were even some people in China who ‘shed tears of gratitude’, thinking that Sino-American relations will now get back on track.” But Shen gives a warning to those who sighed with relief about Biden’s win, saying: “You should not forget that Biden is a politician. He is an American politician. (..) He is not a Chinese leader.”

Shen suggests that even if Biden would relax some of the tougher China policies after he takes office, for example regarding trade or technology, he would only do so for the betterment of the U.S., not because it would help China. Trump put ‘America first’, but so will future U.S. leaders: “It’s all for themselves.”

Shen mentions that Chinese people should draw a lesson from China’s position during the Korean War and its ‘Resist America, Aid North Korea’ campaign, when China fought on Korean soil to counter ‘American aggression.’ In the worst-case scenario, he argues, China would again firmly stand ground against U.S. powers: “To combat American hegemony, we can only respond with the only language they can understand.”

 

Prof. Yao Yang: “It’s impossible to go back to how U.S.-China relations used to be.”

 

“During Trump’s four years in office, he’s established a political heritage that can’t be immediately erased – including the worsened relations between the U.S. and China. If Biden takes power, will there be a shift in Sino-American relations?”

Yao Yang (姚洋) is the dean and professor at the National School of Development of Peking University. He previously also taught at the University of Washington and New York.

In a recent op-ed for Beijing News, the professor writes that in these initial discussions of what Biden’s office might mean for the future of the relations between Beijing and Washington, it must first be acknowledged that Chinese-U.S. relations will never go back to how they used to be.

Whereas Hu took a stance from the perspective of the people, and Shen discussed the upcoming Biden era from the stance of international power relations, Yang approaches the subject through a more historical lens.

Yang argues that the tensions between China and the U.S. did not start with Trump. Obama’s “pivot to Asia” strategy, which tried to peacefully contain China’s ambitions, disrupted the general tranquility that existed before 2008. “China started to be seen as a rival,” Yang writes, adding that this idea of the U.S. and China being geopolitical competitors was continued under Trump and is expected to remain the same under Biden.

Looking back at half a century of U.S.-China relations, Yang claims that the friendly relations between the two countries in the 1970s and 1980s were because of the changing relations with the Soviet-Union and that the U.S. policy of engagement with China from the 1990s to 2010 was based on the hope that China would become more like the United States.

When, around 2010, it became clear to the U.S. elite and leadership that China was not going to be Americanized and that the Chinese path to development was actually successful, the response was one of resentment. Yang asserts that the China policies during the four years under Trump show this angry response towards a China that has taken a different route than America had hoped for during the decades preceding 2010.

Does this mean that nothing will change for U.S.-China relations under Biden? Not necessarily so. Although the two countries will remain to have a competitive relationship, Yang does expect China and the U.S. to have more peaceful relations under the administration of Biden, which will shift away from Trump’s “Cold War mentality” towards China.

 

Zheng Yongnian: “Biden’s China Policy will be much more predictable.”

 

An interview with Chinese political scientist and political commentator Zheng Yongnian (郑永年) was posted by 21st Century Business Herald (21世纪经济报道) on November 11, focusing on American politics and Biden.

Zheng holds similar views on the upcoming Biden era as the other commentators mentioned in this article, namely that the general state of China-US relations will not be drastically changed when Biden comes to power.

Zheng does stress, however, that Biden’s win might have a positive impact on the international community at large, bringing more rationality and an intention to cooperate. In that regard, the Biden era will probably be more similar to the Obama presidency, Zheng says.

Although no major changes are expected under Biden when it comes to U.S.-China relations, Zheng does assert that Biden’s win is positive for Chinese leadership because this president will be much more predictable than Donald Trump.

“Biden’s foreign policy will probably be a basic continuation of the Obama era. So of course there will be some change in Sino-American relations. There’s no fear of hard-line [policies], there are mainly worries about unpredictability. Trump would constantly create these black swans, there’s just no way to predict it. The predictability of the Biden team will be stronger than that of Trump.”

More from What’s on Weibo on China–United States relations here.

By 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.

©2020 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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China Insight

Press Conference on Chinese Student’s Death: Hu Xinyu Left Message on Voice Recorder

These are the most important details shared during the 2.2.23 press conference on the disappearance and death of Hu Xinyu.

Manya Koetse

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The disappearance and death of the Chinese 15-year-old Hu Xinyu has become one of the biggest topics on Chinese social media recently, with dozens of hashtags related to the story receiving millions – sometimes even billions – of views.

Hu Xinyu went missing from school on Oct. 14, 2022. The boy’s whereabouts were a mystery for 106 days, during which family, friends, police, and dedicated search teams searched for the student all across the Yanshan County region in Jiangxi Province and beyond.

On Jan 28., 2023, Hu’s remains were found by a local guard on the premises of a grain warehouse not far from the school. For a full timeline of Hu’s disappearance and the details surrounding his death, see our previous article here.

A voice recorder was also found near Hu’s remains, but the data on the small 4GB recorder initially seemed to be unretrievable, and it was sent back to the manufacturer for analysis.

On the morning of Feb. 2, 2023, local authorities and the dedicated task force organized a live-broadcasted press conference on the case and the latest findings.

The most important pieces of information provided in the press conference on February 2nd are as follows:

◼︎ Hu Xinyu’s death has been ruled a suicide by hanging. Hu used shoelaces, which were removed from the shoes found near Hu’s remains.

◼︎ As previously reported, Hu was found at a nearby grain warehouse. It has now been clarified that the area where Hu’s remains were found is a grain reserve depot area. The grain reserve depot area is prohibited to enter and is guarded 24/7. It is a very large plot of land that includes a zone (over 8000 square meters) with twenty buildings on it – including warehouses and living quarters, – and a forest area of approximately 9300 square meters. Although the area is encircled by a wall, some parts of the wall are lower due to uneven ground. Hu’s body was found in the wooded area, hanging from a tree near the wall, close to one of the spots where the wall height was significantly lower.

School area (top circle) and the grain reserve depot area (lower circle).

◼︎ The location where Hu’s remains were found is just 226 meters away from the Zhiyuan Middle School and it had been searched before, not only through the use of thermal drones, but also by search teams on four different occasions in October and November of 2022. Although all the buildings in the area were searched along with other parts of the zone, the specific wooded area where Hu was later found was not searched. There were also no clues that led search teams to believe Hu Xinyu had walked a specific route through dense vegetation surrounding the grain depot area.

People’s Daily released a 3D video visualising the situation in the area where Hu’s remains were found. Due to uneven ground / piled-up mud, the high wall is relatively easy to jump over from outside. Inside the wall (which is on the grain reserve depot grounds) there is a wooded area.

Hu Xinyu’s body was found hanging from a tree at the interior of the wall, in a place that was not clearly visible.

◼︎ The voice recorder plays a major role in this case. It was previously known that Hu Xinyu had purchased a voice recorder and that it could not be located after Hu Xinyu went missing. Although earlier reports stated that the data on the recorder could not be retrieved as the device had been exposed to sun, rain, moist, etc., it has now been announced that the audio files have been retrieved and that Hu Xinyu recorded two messages on Oct. 14, 2022, at 17:40 and 23:08, in which he expressed the will to commit suicide.

◼︎ The involved experts in this case have also concluded that through analysis and based on Hu’s own notes and other evidence, the 15-year-old boy was struggling with his mental health and emotional disorders related to loneliness, insecurity, and lack of communication. Hu also experienced additional stress when he was getting lower grades, and he suffered from insomnia, difficulty concentrating, abnormal eating patterns, and an overall sense of hopelessness.

During the press conference, reporters were allowed to ask questions related to the case. In response to a question related to the many rumors the Hu Xinyu case has attracted over the past months, one official declared that at least two persons have been arrested for fabricating videos and purposely spreading false rumors about the case.

After Thursday’s press conference, it has once again become clear just how big the social media attention is for this case. The hashtag “Content of Hu Xinyu Voice Recorder” (#胡鑫宇录音笔内容#) received over 390 million views on Weibo; the hashtag “Hu Xinyu Expressed Will to Commit Suicide on Voice Recorder” (#胡鑫宇录音笔中音频表达自杀意愿#) received over 640 million views; the hashtag “Hu Xinyu Died due to Self-Hanging” (#胡鑫宇系自缢死亡#) received over 950 million views.

Among the many responses, there are those who argue that schools should offer more channels to provide support to students dealing with mental health issues. Others hope that Hu Xinyu can now finally rest in peace.

 
For information and support on mental health and suicide, international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
 

By Manya Koetse 

 

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What Happened to Hu Xinyu? Disappearance and Death of 15-Year-Old Student Attracts Widespread Attention in China

Although Hu Xinyu’s school had 119 cameras, his disappearance remained a mystery for 106 days. Near Hu’s remains, a voice recorder was found.

Manya Koetse

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After 106 days of searching, Hu Xinyu’s parents now know their son has passed away. The student’s remains were found at a grain warehouse near his school, but questions still linger on what happened to the 15-year-old and why it took so long to find him.

The case of a Chinese 15-year-old student named Hu Xinyu (胡鑫宇) has been trending on Chinese social media over the past few days. Ever since October of 2022, Hu Xinyu’s case has been a much-discussed topic.

The young man from Jiangxi was missing for 106 days before his body was discovered, leaving many unanswered questions surrounding his death and why search teams were unable to find Hu in the months before.

One of the reasons why Hu Xinyu’s disappearance has been attracting widespread attention is because many people believe there are some details or occurrences surrounding Hu’s case that are purposely being hidden or not revealed to the public.

 
Hu Goes Missing: A Timeline

The story begins on Oct. 14, 2022, when Hu Xinyu, a student at the Zhiyuan Middle School (致远中学), first went missing in Yanshan County, Shangrao City. The Zhiyuan Middle School is a private school where students live in the dorms, only going home to their families on days off. Hu allegedly had good grades as a student at Zhiyuan.

The incident attracted attention due to the peculiar circumstances surrounding it. It was first reported that security cameras allegedly had not recorded the student leaving the school’s premises and that Hu’s family suspected that the security camera system had been tampered with. The school reportedly has a total of 119 cameras installed on its premises.

Later reports claimed that security cameras did in fact capture how Hu left the dorms at 17:51 that day, but there was no footage of him actually leaving the school premises.

On Oct. 15, after unsuccessful attempts by friends and family to locate Hu Xinyu, he was reported as a missing person at the local police office.

On Nov. 20, when Hu had already been missing for over a month, local authorities set up a joint task force to try and speed up efforts to find Hu and further investigate his disappearance. Hu’s social media and bank accounts reportedly had zero activity since he went missing.

On Nov. 22, 2022, Chinese media reported that rescue and search teams still had not found a single clue about where Hu might be. Meanwhile, his parents were gradually losing hope of finding their son back alive.

Missing person posters for Hu Xinyu (via 163.com).

On Nov. 29, 2022, 46 days since Hu went missing, a chemistry teacher by the name of Wang was called in for questioning but he was later released. Weeks later, on Jan. 1, the police informed Hu’s relatives that – despite rumors – they ruled out the possibility of school staff being involved in Hu’s disappearance.

On Dec. 25, 2022, Hu Xinyu’s mother shared some more information via social media about some contents in her son’s old notebooks, in which Hu allegedly had noted how he felt that it was not easy for him to adapt to his living environment at the school and that he felt hindered by his introvert personality. These contents were later deleted again.

After Jan. 7, 2023, the search for Hu continued, including teams with search dogs, and thousands of people volunteered to join.

On Jan. 28, 2023, a body was found hanging near the woods in the Jinji mountain area in the town of Hekou. A voice recorder was also found at the scene.

The body was reportedly found by a local guard who was near the premises with his dog to look for a chicken that had wandered off. The dog started barking at something, and the guard then discovered the remains, which were not immediately clearly visible.

One day later, on Jan. 29, Chinese media reported that DNA research confirmed that the remains belonged to Hu Xinyu. He was wearing his school uniform when his remains were found. Hu’s parents decided to have a post-mortem examination of the body to determine the cause of death. The voice recorder found near Hu’s body was sent for analysis.

The hashtag “Hu Xinyu’s Remains Found” (#胡鑫宇遗体被发现#) was viewed over two billion times on Weibo.

 
The Latest Details Surrounding Hu Xinyu’s Death

Chinese news outlet The Paper reported that the location where Hu’s remains were discovered is a large grain warehouse area just about 300 meters or a 5-minute walk southeast of the Zhiyuan Middle School.

According to a spokesperson of the search & rescue team, the area where Hu was found had been previously included in search efforts (#搜救队曾去胡鑫宇被发现地周围搜寻#).

The biggest questions that remain and that are asked by so many on Chinese social media are: how is it possible that search teams previously did not find Hu if this is where he was all along? Is the place where Hu was found a crime scene or not? How is it possible that security cameras did not capture Hu beyond the dorms?

Some details that surfaced over the past few days provide further information on the case.

On Jan. 31, Chinese media reported that one of Hu’s teachers had discovered something written down by Hu Xinyu on the last page of his notebook: “What would it be like if I’m not longer here?” (#胡鑫宇曾写如果我不活了将会变得怎么样#).

It has also become known that Hu Xinyu purchased the voice recorder that was found with his remains. He purchased the 4GB-capacity recorder on October 4, 2022.

At the time of writing, the data on the recorder was not able to be retrieved (#胡鑫宇购买录音笔数据删除后无法恢复#). A recording device such as the one found near Hu’s body might become damaged due very low or high temperatures or by moist and liquid (#胡鑫宇录音笔已送深圳检测#).

A recording device that allegedly is similar to the one found near Hu Xinyu.

If the original manufacturer would be able to get the data on the recorder, Hu’s relatives finally might get some of the answers they have been waiting for for so long.

According to Hu Xinyu’s father, search and rescue staff previously had in fact been inside the grain warehouse premises, but apparently did not come to the exact location within the warehouse area where Hu was later found (#胡鑫宇父亲称未到达遗体发现点#).

On February 2nd, 2023, a press conference on the latest developments is planned to take place in Yanshan county in Shangrao at 10:00 AM. (Update: read about the press conference here).

 
Societal Distrust, Armchair Detectives, and Social Media

There are multiple reasons why the Hu Xinyu case is attracting such wide attention, and in some ways, the case is similar to the 2021 ‘Chengdu 49 Middle School Incident.’

At the time, the death of 16-year-old Lin Weiqi (林唯麒) also attracted nationwide attention and led to a wave of online rumors and theories on what might have happened to him.

Although Lin never went missing – he fell to his death from the school building, – there was also online speculation about corporal punishment and abuse taking place in the school, with one theory suggesting Lin had been hurt by a chemistry teacher. Just as in the Hu Xinyu case, netizens speculated that the school was trying to cover up the incident.

According to a joint statement later issued by the local propaganda department, police, and the Education Bureau said that they had come to the conclusion that the student had taken his own life due to personal problems.

The Lin Weiqi story sparked concerns at a time when security cameras had become a part of everyday lives. The fact that there were blind spots in the surveillance footage and that cameras never captured how and if Lin actually took his own life triggered doubts among Lin’s relatives and netizens alike.

The case surrounding Lin’s death also attracted nationwide attention in May of 2021.

Many reasoned that since there are security cameras all over the school, there must be a cover-up going on if the incident was not captured on camera. A similar thing happened in the case of the Tangshan BBQ Restaurant Incident in which female customers were assaulted and beaten by a group of men. Although the beating incident was captured by security cameras, the last part of the incident occurred at a nearby alley and was not captured by the outdoor security cameras. This led to a lot of speculation on what happened there and if local government officials were covering something up.

Another factor that plays a role is that there have actually been stories about schools or other institutes covering up scandals in recent years, such as in the RYB Education incident of 2017 that shocked the nation and did not help in improving trust in educational institutes.

Social media also plays an important role in how and why the Hu Xinyu case received so much attention. For some online communities of armchair detectives, identifying suspects and uncovering clues becomes like solving a puzzle, while following the latest details in these high-profile cases also becomes like a form of infotainment for others – comparable to the online sleuthing and major attention for the case of Gabby Petito in the U.S.

Furthermore, those who are closely related to the case also use social media to attract more attention. In Hu Xinyu’s case, his family members personally turned to social media and media reporters to ask for help or update with information. This also makes social media users more involved since they get the feeling they know the family, and sympathize with them. Very different from just reading a headline in the local newspaper, social media users feel involved and get involved.

For now, many social media users would like to see some clarity in this case and a conclusion so that Hu’s family can finally get some of their questions answered.

While many think it is highly likely that local authorities will soon come out with a statement that Hu committed suicide, others think there might still be other outcomes.

“It’s lasted long enough now,” some Weibo commenters write: “What is most important now is to finally know the truth.”

READ UPDATE TO THIS STORY HERE.

By Manya Koetse 

with contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

 
For information and support on mental health and suicide, international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.
 

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.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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