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Weibo Watch: Explosive Material

From nationalist influencers to the Handan murder case, Chinese social media was ablaze with more explosive topics this week than the Yanjiao blast alone.

Manya Koetse

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PREMIUM NEWSLETTER | ISSUE #25

 

This week’s newsletter:

◼︎ 1. Editor’s Note – Explosive material
◼︎ 2. What’s Been Trending – A closer look at the featured stories
◼︎ 3. What More to Know – Five bit-sized trends
◼︎ 4. What’s the Drama – Top TV to watch
◼︎ 5. What Lies Behind – Justice & social neglect in the Handan murder case
◼︎ 6. What’s Noteworthy – A 61-year-old twin toddler mom
◼︎ 7. What’s Popular – AI brings celebrities back from the dead
◼︎ 8. What’s Memorable – TikTok CEO hailed as “Asian hero”
◼︎ 9. Weibo Word of the Week – “Mellow People”

 

Dear Reader,

 

A devastating explosion in North China’s Yanjiao, claiming the lives of seven and injuring 27 others, has dominated Chinese social media discussions over the past few days. The incident not only raised questions about the cause of the blast but also sparked concerns about press freedom, as Chinese reporters were reportedly obstructed from their work at the scene. This fueled suspicions that local authorities might be withholding information from the public.

Despite its significant impact, the Yanjiao blast was not the most combustible topic on Chinese social media. Various other incidents and issues gained traction, largely driven by online nationalists.

The most eye-catching issue has been the so-called “battle of the two water bottles” (两瓶水之争), which emerged after the recent death of the much-beloved Chinese entrepreneur Zong Qinghou (宗庆后), founder of the Wahaha company known for its bottled water and beverages.

As detailed in our latest article here, a support campaign for the Wahaha brand morphed into a witch hunt against its major domestic competitor, Nongfu Spring. While Zong Qinghou was lauded as a patriotic entrepreneur, Nongfu Spring’s founder, billionaire Zhong Shanshan (钟睒睒), faced criticism for supposedly prioritizing profit over national interests.

From Weibo to Douyin and beyond, online influencers came up with all kinds of reasons why Nongfu Spring should be seen as an unpatriotic Chinese brand, from its product packaging containing Japanese elements to its water containing bugs.

One point of ongoing contention is the fact that Zhong’s son (his heir, Zhong Shuzi 钟墅子) holds American citizenship. This sparked anger among netizens who questioned Zhong’s allegiance to China. Numerous Douyin videos showed livestreamers pouring bottles of Nongfu Spring water down the drain, small shop owners recorded themselves removing Nongfu Spring products from store shelves, and overall sales plummeted. Because the issue was about affordable bottled water, participating in these kinds of ‘patriotic’ activities was relatively easy; consumer nationalism has never been cheaper.

When Chinese entrepreneur Li Guoqing (李国庆), co-founder of the e-commerce company Dangdang, defended Nongfu Spring and called for rationality, he too came under fire. Wasn’t his own son, Li Chengqing (李成青), an American citizen as well? Rumors about other Chinese entrepreneurs also started gaining traction.

While grassroots nationalist activities on Douyin and nationalist trends on Weibo aren’t new, the recent campaign against Nongfu Spring stands out as it targets a domestic company. Typically, Chinese online nationalism focuses on foreign brands, encouraging consumers to boycott foreign products and support domestic ones (buycott).

For instance, in 2021, Nike faced backlash and boycotts in China for its stance on Xinjiang cotton and a viral incident involving discrimination against a rural migrant worker by a Nike employee. The Chinese sportswear brand Erke indirectly profited from existing consumer sentiments over Nike, positioning itself as a patriotic alternative (read more here).

The current boycott of Nongfu Spring in favor of another ‘more patriotic’ Chinese brand represents a shift in online nationalism. It’s not top-down, it’s not state-led, and it’s not necessarily driven by political ideology. On the one hand, this is a sign of Chinese economic growth as domestic brands and companies are no longer considered the ‘underdog’ in a market dominated by bigger foreign brands. It reflects Chinese consumers’ confidence in made-in-China brands and a desire for them to embody their national identity.

On the other hand, this movement sheds light on the dynamics of contemporary Chinese social media and “the business of nationalism” (also described by Zhang & Ma, 2023, 899). Various actors in the Chinese digital ecosystem profit from the commodification of nationalist content on platforms like Weibo and Douyin, where patriotism and aggressive nationalism are amplified for commercial gain (Liao & Xia 2023, 1536).

Influencers, too, capitalize on patriotic narratives to garner attention, often at the expense of balanced discourse, as the algorithm pushes aggressively nationalist discourses to the forefront (Schneider 2022, 277).

Regular users of these platforms find themselves navigating an environment where extreme views dominate, perpetuating a cycle of nationalism. With a click, post, or video, they can be part of an online nationalist movement that’s driven by hype, not necessarily representative of nationalism on the ground, and sometimes more fleeting than a fast food trend — you could call it nationalist clicktivism.

All of this forms a toxic cocktail that can flare up and become explosive from time to time. But, this too shall pass. Some smart Chinese restaurant owners know that as well. They have started buying Nongfu Spring water in bulk. The price has never been lower, and the water will still be sellable by the time the storm has calmed. For them, too, nationalism has never been cheaper.

Best,
Manya (@manyapan)

References:

Liao, Sara and Grace Xia. 2023. “Consumer Nationalism in Digital Space: A Case-Study of the 2017 Anti-Lotte Boycott in China”. Convergence, 29(6), 1535-1554.

Schneider, Florian. 2022. “Emergent Nationalism in China’s Sociotechnical Networks: How Technological Affordance and Complexity Amplify Digital Nationalism.” Nations & Nationalism 28(1): 267-285.

Zhang, Chi and Yiben Ma. 2023. “Invented Borders: The Tension Between Grassroots Patriotism and State-Led Campaigns in China.” Journal of Contemporary China, 32(144), 897-913.

 

A closer look at the featured stories

1: Wahaha vs Nongfu Spring | It’s the big topic that’s been fermenting online for some time now: Nongfu and the online nationalists. The praise for one Chinese domestic water bottle brand, Wahaha, sparked online animosity toward the other, Nongfu Spring, after the death of Wahaha founder Zong Qinghou. While Wahaha is seen as a patriotic, proudly made-in-China brand, big competitor Nongfu Spring and its founder Zhong Shanshan are under attack for allegedly being profit-driven and disloyal to China. The online anti-Nongfu campaign has even led to people pouring out their Nongfu Spring water bottles. Read all about it here👇🏼

Read more
 

2: Party Slogan, Weibo Hashtag | A hashtag promoted by Party newspaper People’s Daily recently became top trending: “Wang Yi Says the Next China Will Still Be China” (#王毅说下一个中国还是中国#). The hashtag refers to statements made by China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi (王毅), during a press conference held alongside the Second Session of the 14th National People’s Congress. After Wang Yi’s remarks, the sentence ‘the next China will still be China’ has now solidified its place as a new catchphrase in the Communist Party jargon. But what does it actually mean?

Read more
 

3: Online Tributes to Toriyama | Chinese fans have been mourning the death of Japanese manga artist and character creator Akira Toriyama. On March 8, his production company confirmed that the 68-year-old artist passed away due to acute subdural hematoma. On Weibo, a hashtag related to his passing became trending as netizens shared their memories and appreciation for Toriyama’s work, as well as creating fan art in his honor (also see this tweet). Chinese readers form the largest fan community for Japanese comics and anime, and for many Chinese, the influential creations of Akira Toriyama, like “Dr. Slump” and particularly “Dragon Ball,” are cherished as part of their childhood or teenage memories.

Read more
 

 

What More to Know

Five Bite-Sized Trends

◼︎ 🏛️ Boy Murdered by Classmates | A case in which a young boy from Feixiang county in Handan, Hebei, was murdered by three classmates has recently shocked the nation. The young boy, Wang Ziyao (王子耀), had suffered years of bullying before his three classmates, all 13 years old, brutally killed him. Wang had been missing for one day before his body was discovered buried in a greenhouse in a field nearby the home of one of the suspects. While the three suspects have now been detained, netizens and legal scholars are discussing whether the case could be handled by the Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP). Since an amendment to China’s Criminal Law in 2021, children between the ages of 12-14 can be held criminally responsible for extreme and cruel cases resulting in death or severe disability, if approved for prosecution by the SPP. A chilling video showing the palpable shock in Handan after Wang’s body was recovered by authorities also made its rounds online, see here. (Various related Weibo hashtags, including “#13-Year-Old Middle School Student Killed By Classmate, Three Arrested” #13岁初中生被同学杀害三人被刑拘#, 150 million views; “#CNR Discusses Case in Which Junior High School Student Was Killed and Buried by 3 Classmates #央广网评初中生被3名同学杀害掩埋#, 200 million views).

◼︎ ♪ U.S. TikTok Ban | Besides the battle over water, the battle over TikTok has also generated hashtags and discussions on Chinese social media after the US House of Representatives passed a bill that could lead to an American TikTok ban if parent company Bytedance does not sell the app. Security concerns surrounding TikTok’s ownership by a Chinese company and its access to American data have existed ever since the app became popular in the US, where it now has over 170 million users. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin denounced the bill, suggesting it was unfair for US to cite security reasons to “arbitrarily” suppress TikTok. Many social media commenters agree with this stance, suggesting the app is solely targeted because of its Chinese parent company, unrelated to actual security risks. The Singaporean TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew (周受资) is expected to pay US legislators a visit in the coming days to fight against the ban, which is something many netizens are looking forward to (Shou Zi Chew is very popular on Weibo). (Hashtag: “American House of Representatives Passes Tiktok Bill” #美众议院通过tiktok法案#, 160 million views; “#TikTok Strikes Back” #TikTok开始反击#, 140 million views).

◼︎ 🛒 Livestreaming Chaos | Many different topics popped up during this year’s 3.15 Consumer Day and the two-hour annual Chinese Consumer Day Gala television show, which is all about raising awareness of consumer rights. One hot topic within this context is China’s “chaos of live-streaming e-commerce” (直播带货乱象). People’s Daily reported that in 2023 alone, more than half (56.1%) of the complaints received at the “12315” consumer hotline were related to online shopping, primarily through livestreaming. Over the span of five years, complaints regarding live e-commerce have surged by 47 times. The primary concerns revolve around after-sales service problems, such as the difficulty in returning items, and quality issues, wherein products showcased in livestreams differ from what customers actually receive. (Hashtag “#Most After-Sales Complaints About Livestreaming Ecommerce” #售后服务直播带货投诉排名第一#, 34.8 million views).

◼︎ 🇬🇧 Where’s Kate? | Speculation and controversy surrounding the whereabouts of the Princess of Wales, Kate Middleton, have also surfaced on Weibo, where discussions about the UK royals have been trending in recent days. Worldwide, rumors about her condition emerged following her absence from any official public appearances since January 16, when she underwent abdominal surgery. The situation intensified when a photo of the Princess and her children, shared on Mother’s Day, raised suspicions of editing and photoshopping. Although Kate took responsibility for altering the image herself, the internet erupted with various theories about her situation, ranging from serious illness to marital issues or even another pregnancy. Some commenters suggest the Chinese interest in the issue is because “we love to watch palace drama.” (Hashtag “Where is Princess Kate?” #凯特王妃去哪了#, 40 million views; “Rumors of Princess Kate Missing Stirs Up UK” #凯特王妃失踪传闻搅动英国#, 43 million views).

◼︎ 🖋️ Chinese Author Mo Yan Under Attack | Another story that has been circulating online for some time involves Chinese blogger Wu Wanzheng (@说真话的毛星火) initiating a lawsuit against the renowned Chinese author and Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan (莫言). Wu accuses Mo Yan of distorting history and tarnishing the legacy of the Communist Party in his 1986 novel Red Sorghum (红高粱). The well-known Chinese internet commentator Hu Xijin recently came to Mo Yan’s defense, which actually increased media attention for the case. Although the initial attempt to sue Mo Yan was rejected by a Beijing court, Wu allegedly intends to persist with his mission. Opinions on the matter are divided: while some believe Wu is within his rights to pursue legal action against Mo Yan, others view the entire affair as a sensationalist grab for attention. Meanwhile, various articles and hashtags about the case have been taken offline (Weibo hashtag “Mo Yan Sued” #莫言被起诉#, 1.8 million views; “Hu Xijin: Person Suing Mo Yan Is Taking Words Out of Context” #胡锡进称起诉莫言者是在扣帽子断章取义#, 29 million clicks).

 

What’s the Drama

Top TV to Watch

The Chinese historical drama “In Blossom” (花间令) currently ranks number one on Weibo. It premiered on the streaming platform Youku on March 15. The costume drama revolves around the story of the handsome Pan Yue (Liu Xueyi 刘学义), who marries Yang Caiwei (played by Ju Jingyi 鞠婧祎). She is murdered on the night of their wedding, and he is the prime suspect. But Yang Caiwei miraculously returns from the dead to uncover the truth.

▶️ This drama was directed by Zhong Qing (钟青), who is best known for directing suspenseful and romantic dramas.
▶️ The Weibo hashtag about “In Blossom” has received over two billion views already (#花间令#).
▶️ The first day after “In Blossom” was released, it already broke some viewing records; on March 16, 13.6% of Youku audiences had watched the drama, making it the first drama this year to become so popular within such a short timeframe.

You can watch In Blossom with English subtitles via YouTube here.

 

What Lies Behind

Observations beyond the headlines, by Miranda Barnes

With emotions running high on social media, many are eager to learn about the fate awaiting the three young perpetrators in the trending case of the bullied boy from Handan, Hebei, who was killed and buried by his classmates. Online discussions mostly revolve around the legal and social aspects of this case.

There’s widespread frustration over the possibility of lenient punishment for the 13-year-old suspects due to their age. As China still has capital punishment, some people are even calling for execution once they turn 18.

These sentiments do not come out of the blue. In recent years, China has seen a rise in crimes, including murders, committed by minors. Many people are worried that without properly addressing the bullying problems that are prevalent among young people, the country will only see an increase in minors committing serious crimes like assault, rape and murder.

Online discussions show that people are reluctant to accept the “Law on the Protection of Minors” which recognizes the limited understanding young offenders may have of their own actions’ gravity and consequences. Chinese criminal psychologist and youth education expert Mei Jinli (李玫瑾) suggests that families or legal guardians should bear part of the responsibility exempted from the child due to their age.

Another issue that has caught people’s attention in this case is that all suspects and the victim are so-called “left-behind children” (留守儿童). With over 295 million Chinese rural migrant workers leaving their hometowns to find jobs in the city, many find themselves unable to bring their children due to the household registration system in China. Instead, they leave their children behind with grandparents or family.

Chinese experts and charities have been raising awareness of psychological trauma among these children – there are some 67 million of them – and are calling for changes in the household registration system so that migrant workers can bring their children with them instead of leaving them to fend for themselves.

The comments surrounding this case highlight how deeply it resonates with many. One commenter said he was a left-behind child himself, and when he saw the words “left-behind children” and “raised by grandparents” in the news, he couldn’t help but burst into tears.

 

What’s Noteworthy

Small news with big impact

During the Two Sessions, China’s annual parliamentary meetings, numerous proposals and “suggestions” (建议) put forth by National People’s Congress delegates became trending topics on Chinese social media. While a proposal in 2020 aimed to prohibit single women from freezing their eggs to encourage them to “marry and reproduce at the appropriate age,” a recent proposal suggests the opposite approach to address China’s declining birth rates: improving fertility treatment options for older Chinese women to facilitate childbearing for older parents.

Uncoincidentally, during the same week, a Chinese media outlet shared the story of a 61-year-old twin mom recounting her experience of ‘late parenthood.’ Having lost her 26-year-old son in a car accident in 2014, Zhang Yumei attempted to conceive for seven years and eventually welcomed healthy twin daughters in 2021, at the age of 58. In an interview with Chinese media, the senior citizen expressed that her two children have given her “the courage to continue living.” The story garnered significant attention on Chinese social media, with many sympathizing with Zhang Yumei. However, some netizens speculated whether authorities would now begin encouraging elderly women to use donated eggs for childbirth.

Read more about other proposals made during the Two Session in our article here.

Read more
 

 

The latest buzz in arts & pop culture

This video shows Chinese singer & actor Qiao Renliang (乔任梁) in 2024. He actually died in 2016.

Using AI tools, Chinese social media users are reviving deceased celebrities like Qiao, Coco Lee, or Godfrey Gao. By using old videos and images, artificial intelligence digitally recreates them, bringing them back to life in online videos. A recent example sparking controversy is the video featuring Chinese singer and actor Kimi Qiao Renliang (乔任梁), who took his own life in 2016 at the age of 28. In the AI-generated video, Qiao states, “Actually, I never really left…”

His parents are unsettled by the video. Qiao’s father is now urging netizens to delete these videos of his son. He says they were created without permission and violate his son’s portrait rights. It has sparked some much-needed discussion on the legal and ethical issues surrounding so-called ‘AI resurrection’ (AI复活).

In an online poll conducted by Sina Hotspot (新浪热点) among 80,000 netizens on Weibo, a significant majority of respondents, over 66,000, expressed that recreating deceased celebrities is unacceptable. Only 2,100 people said they see practice as a nice way to remember celebrities who’ve passed.

 

What’s Memorable

Best reads from the archive

This pick from our archive takes us back to when Shou Zi Chew (周受资, Zhou Shouzi), the Singaporean CEO of TikTok, appeared before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in the United States, facing a four-and-a-half-hour hearing over data security and harmful content on the TikTok app. Some bloggers and commenters noted how Chew fits the supposed idea of a ‘perfect Asian’ by staying calm despite unreasonable allegations and emphasizing business interests over culture. The so-called “Mr. Perfect In the Eye of the Storm” is going back to defend TikTok this week, so we can expect him to receive a lot of support from Chinese netizens again. Read more about it here 👇

Read more

 

Weibo Word of the Week

The catchword to know

“Mellow People” | Our Weibo Word of the Week is “Mellow People” or “Mellow Person” (dàn rén 淡人), a term that’s popped up recently to self-describe the mental state of young people in China today.

The word dàn 淡, which I’ve translated as ‘mellow’ in this context, can mean numerous things in China: it’s light, calm, indifferent, pale, or even trivial. Being a dàn individual, a dànrén 淡人, has recently come to be used by young people to describe themselves and how they experience life. They might want to quit their crappy job, but it generates money so it’s okay. They have to commute for hours every day, but the rent is cheaper so it’s okay. They are being forced to go on blind dates by their parents and actually don’t want to, but they don’t have the energy to refuse so it’s okay.

Being this ‘mellow’ or ‘unperturbed’ means being indifferent in a calm and light way. Not unlike previous Chinese popular expressions such as “lying flat” (躺平) and being “Buddha-like” (佛系) (read here), it’s a way to cope with the challenges and pressures faced by Chinese young people today, but it’s a bit more positive than being completely passive (lying flat): it’s a passive acceptance of life as it is, embracing dull daily routines or competitive work environments without resistance. The art of being or becoming a dàn rén is also referred to as 淡人学 dànrén xué, which could be translated as ‘Mellowism’ or, perhaps even better, ‘Unperturbabilism.’

 
This is an on-site version of the Weibo Watch newsletter by What’s on Weibo. Missed last week’s newsletter? Find it here. If you are already subscribed to What’s on Weibo but are not yet receiving this newsletter in your inbox, please contact us directly to let us know.

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 Memes & Viral

Enjoying the ‘Sea’ in Beijing’s Ditan Park

This “seaview” spot in Beijing’s Ditan Park has become a new ‘check-in spot’ among Chinese Xiaohongshu users and influencers.

Manya Koetse

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“‘The sea in Ditan Park’ is a perfect example of how Xiaohongshu netizens use their imagination to change the world,” a recent viral post on Weibo said (“地坛的海”完全可以入选《红薯人用想象力颠覆世界》的案例合集了”).

The post included screenshots of the Xiaohongshu app where users share their snaps of the supposed seaview in Beijing’s Ditan Park (地坛公园).

Ditan, the Temple of Earth Park, is one of the city’s biggest public parks with tree-lined paths and green gardens in Beijing, not too far from the Lama Temple in Dongcheng District, within the Second Ring Road.

On lifestyle and social media platform Xiaohongshu, users have recently been sharing tips on where and how to get the best seaview in the park, finding a moment of tranquility in the hustle and bustle of Beijing city life.

Post on Xiaohongshu to get the seaview in Ditan Park.

But there is something peculiar about this trend. There is no sea in Ditan Park, nor anywhere else in Beijing, for that matter, as the city is located inland.

The ‘seaview’ trend comes from the view of one of the park’s stone walls. In the late afternoon, somewhere around 16pm, when the sun is not too bright, the light creates an optical illusion from a certain viewpoint in the park, making the wall behind the bench look like water.

You do have to capture the right light at the right moment, or else the effect is non-existent.

Some photos taken at other times of the day clearly show the brick wall, which actually doesn’t look like a sea at all.

Although the ‘seaview in Ditan’ trend is popular among many Xiaohongshu users and influencers who flock to the spot to get that perfect picture, there are also some social media commenters who criticize the trend of netizens always looking for the next “check-in spot” (打卡点).

There are also other spots popular on social media that look like impressive areas but are actually just optical illusions. Here are some examples:

One Weibo user suggested that this trend is actually not about people appreciating the beauty around them, but more about chasing the next social media hype.

The Ditan seaview trend is not entirely new. In May of this year, Beijing government already published a post about the “sea” in Ditan becoming more popular among social media users who especially came to the park for the special spot.

The Beijing Tourism Bureau previously referred to the spot as “the sea at Ditan Park that even Shi Tiesheng didn’t discover” (#在地坛拍到了史铁生都没发现的海#).

Shi Tiesheng (1951–2010) is a famous Chinese author from Beijing whose most well-known work, “Me and Ditan,” reflects on his experiences and contemplations in Ditan Park. At the age of 21, Shi Tiesheng suffered a spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Ditan Park became a place for him to ponder life, time, and nature. Despite the author’s deep connection with the park, he never described seeing a “sea” in the walls.

Shi Tiesheng in Ditan Park.

If you are visiting Ditan Park and would like to check out the ‘sea’ yourself in the late afternoon, there are guides on Xiaohongshu explaining the route to the viewpoint. But it should not be too difficult to find this summer—just follow the crowds.

By Manya Koetse and Ruixin Zhang

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.

©2024 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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China Media

A Triumph for “Comrade Trump”: Chinese Social Media Reactions to Trump Rally Shooting

Chinese commenters discuss how the bullet aimed at Trump has turned into a moment of triumph.

Manya Koetse

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The assassination attempt on former US President Trump at a Pennsylvania campaign event has become a major topic on Chinese social media, where Trump’s swift reaction and defiant gesture after the shooting have not only sparked discussions but also fueled the “Comrade Trump” meme machine.

The chaos that erupted when former US President Trump was injured—a bullet grazing his ear—in an assassination attempt at a Pennsylvania campaign event has become a top trending topic on Chinese social media today.

Trump sustained minor injuries, and the moment he raised his arm to cheer shortly before being evacuated from the stage has already become iconic, captured in widely circulated photographs.

Shortly after the shooting, a shooter armed with a rifle was killed by a US Secret Service counter sniper. The FBI identified the shooter as Thomas Matthew Crooks, a 20-year-old local.

The incident, which occurred on the afternoon of July 13th US local time, resulted in one audience member killed and two others critically injured.

 

“The campaign efforts will be as smooth as a flying bullet”

 

On Chinese social media platform Weibo, there are multiple trending hashtags related to the incident, such as “Trump Was Shot” (#特朗普遭遇枪击#, 370 million views); “Trump Says Bullet Pierced His Right Ear” (#特朗普称右耳被子弹击穿#, 440 million views); “Reporter Captures Bullet Grazing Trump’s Ear” (#记者拍到子弹划过特朗普耳朵画面#, 60 million); “Identity of Trump Shooter Confirmed” #枪击特朗普枪手身份确认#, 80 million views). By Sunday afternoon, China local time, half of the top ten hot search topics on Weibo were related to the Trump rally shooting.

“Today, the entire world is watching Trump,” one Chinese Weibo blogger wrote (@乐卡数码).

Political and social commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进) reposted a tweet from X by American media influencer Jackson Hinkle, comparing a photo of Trump raising a clenched fist after the shooting to Biden on the ground after falling off his bike near his Delaware home two years ago.

Hu Xijin wrote: “The bullet’s trajectory is so clear, just like how the campaign efforts will now be as fast [smooth] as the flying bullet,” (“好清晰的弹道,和与子弹飞得一样快的助选”).

Post by Hu Xijin

Before this, Hu also commented: “Trump was shot in the ear. This news has shocked everyone. My first reaction after waking up to this news was, ‘how could this happen?’ and I instinctively believe that this incident will garner Trump a lot of sympathy, bringing him one step closer to returning to the White House.”

Media commentator “Media Backpacker” (@媒体背包客) commented on Trump’s quick reaction, noting how he swiftly ducked under the podium after the first shots were fired.

“Several Secret Service agents rushed forward, using their bodies as shields,” he wrote. “Just this scene alone seemed much more professional compared to the attack on Shinzo Abe.” Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was shot and killed during a campaign event in the city of Nara, Japan, in 2022.

‘Media Backpacker’ also commented: “The person most harmed by Trump getting injured is not Trump himself, but his opponent, Biden.” Many other Weibo commenters also suggested that this dramatic event is rapidly shifting American voter support toward Trump.

“Just based on his quick reaction and how quickly he crouched, I’d vote Trump. If it were Biden, he probably wouldn’t have been able to crouch at all,” one top commenter on Weibo said.

Another commenter dismissed any rumors of the incident being staged: “It’s impossible to stage this; don’t mythologize the sniper. It’s not that precise. A bullet grazing the ear is extremely, extremely, extremely dangerous. No one would risk their life like that.”

Overall, commenters on Chinese social media suggested that the incident will boost Trump’s popularity and solidify his position in the presidential campaign.

On Sunday afternoon, China local time, official channels reported that Xi Jinping has expressed his sympathies to Trump following the shooting incident in Pennsylvania. China’s Foreign Ministry has also addressed the attempted assassination, expressing concern (#习主席已向特朗普表达慰问#).

 

“From a journalistic perspective, this is the perfect photo”

 

Besides online discussions on Trump’s quick reaction and the political implications, there’s a lot of interest in the iconic photo of Trump raising his fist, captured by Evan Vucci, who previously won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography for his coverage of George Floyd protests.

Some netizens noticed that sellers on several Chinese e-commerce platforms soon started selling T-shirts featuring the now famous photo of the incident, priced between 20-49 yuan ($3-$7). Some stores displayed that they had already sold over 10 items, but this merchandise was soon taken offline in various places.

“From a journalistic perspective, this is the perfect photo,” the well-known knowledge blogger Pingyuan Gongzi Zhao Sheng (@平原公子赵胜) wrote: “The destined son of America facing life-threatening danger, his face smeared with blood, with a clenched fist, roaring: “‘Fight! Fight!’ There’s no need to compare anymore; Biden is suffering a crushing defeat, and the Democrats are bewildered. This scene matches the most traditional American image in Hollywood movies. People don’t care who he is or who he serves, but the president must be tough, hard to defeat, a fearless “barbarian,” a “man of steel.”

 

“Did Trump write the script for Biden’s press conference?”

 

As this incident is being framed as a triumph for Trump, it further strengthens his position, especially following Biden’s recent damaging performances.

Earlier this week, Biden mistakenly referred to Ukrainian President Zelensky as “President Putin” during the NATO summit, sparking various hashtags on Chinese social media and making Biden a laughing stock for many netizens.

This was not the only mistake Biden made. On Thursday, he mistakenly referred to Vice President Kamala Harris as “Vice President Trump” during his solo press conference in Washington. In that same conference, Biden also talked about “getting Japan and South Korea back together again.”

Another post by American media influencer Jackson Hinkle being shared on Chinese social media platform Weibo.

Following a messy debate performance against Trump on June 27, voices suggesting it may be time for Biden to step down are growing louder. All of this sparked more discussions on Weibo, where many find the situation funny, suggesting: “Did Trump write the script for this [press conference]?”

Now that the bullet aimed at Trump has turned into a moment of triumph, the contrast between the two US presidential candidates has only grown more stark.

 

“The bullet pierced my ear, but I can still hear the voice of the Party”

 

On Chinese social media, Trump is often referred to as “Comrade Jianguo” (建国同志 [Comrade Build-Country]), a nickname that has been circulating for years.

Trump is nicknamed “Comrade Trump” or “Build the Country Trump” (Chuān Jiànguó, 川建国) for “making China great again.” These are just some among many existing memes and jokes about the former US president on the Chinese internet. One reason to call him “Comrade Jianguo” or “Build the Country Trump” is to make fun of his words and actions, suggesting that his leadership only brings America down and in doing so, also further accelerates the rise of China.

But through the years, these playful nicknames have started to reflects a blend of mockery and affection, highlighting the humorous perspective Chinese social media users have towards Trump and his political antics (read more).

In a similar tongue-in-cheek fashion, some Weibo users have now edited the iconic Trump photo, portraying him as a communist hero with the caption: “Workers of the world, unite!” (全世界无产者联合起来) (see featured image).

Other similar edits included captions like: “Long live the great and glorious Communist Party of China!” and “The bullet pierced my ear, but I can still hear the voice of the Party.”

Meme: “Long live the great and glorious Communist Party of China!”

Meme: “The bullet pierced my ear, but I can still hear the voice of the Party.”

Some joked that Trump’s right ear being pierced further emphasized his supposed loyalty to China, comparing him to the panda A Bao, who is missing part of his right ear after being bitten by another panda.

Another commenter wrote: “I wish Comrade Jianguo a speedy recovery, may he continue to work hard for the ultimate mission entrusted to him by the Party.”

By Manya Koetse

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