Beijing Visit of Kim Jong-un Goes Trending on Weibo, But Comments Are Highly Controlled

It was called a “surprise visit” to China; this week North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made his first foreign trip since rising to power in 2011 to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.

China’s state-run CCTV stated the leader and his delegation are in Beijing from March 25 to March 28 for an “unofficial visit” (“非正式访问”). The leaders met in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to talk about their bilateral relations and denuclearisation. Kim Jong-un also attended a banquet and a luncheon held by Xi Jinping in Beijing.

screenshot CCTV News

On social media platform Sina Weibo, the meeting received ample attention today and became a number one searched topic. The hashtag “Xi Jinping Meets Kim Jong-un” (#习近平会见金正恩#) was viewed nearly 38 million times by Wednesday afternoon; the hashtag ‘Kim Jong-un Visit’ (#金正恩访华#) received more than 32 million views.

“The ties between China and North Korea go back to ancient times,” some netizens responded to the meeting (“中朝友谊源远流长”), which many called a “historical visit,” while others also said that Kim Jong-un is “welcome” in China.

But online censorship was also at its height when news of the meeting was released by Chinese state media. Although the news articles received thousands of comments on social media, most of them were no longer able to view on Wednesday late afternoon (Beijing time), while other comment sections only showed the “carefully selected comments” (“以下为博主精选评论”). Individual posts about the event were hard to find.

One video, posted by the Chinese Wall Street Journal on Weibo, focused on a supposed meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un – saying it would be a “big breakthrough” – and was soon taken offline after it was already viewed 30,000 times.

Featured image of the video by WSJ that was taken offline.

“Are we being harmonized?”, some netizens wondered; ‘harmonized’ being an online slang term referring to censorship.

According to Free Weibo, a site tracking what’s blocked on Weibo, the hottest searched word on Wednesday was “Third Fattie” (“三胖”), a popular nickname for Kim Jong-un. The term itself is not allowed to be searched on Sina Weibo. Another nickname used for Kim Jong-un by Chinese netizens is ‘Little Fattie’ (小胖).

Creative netizens circumvented censorship by referring to the North Korean leader as a ‘fat post-80s’ [born after 1980]. While many showed support for the meeting between China and North Korea, there were also those who were somewhat skeptical of its timing. “The one profiting most from the current trade war is ‘Third Fattie’,” some users suggested.

Another commenter was more positive. He posted two North Korean propaganda posters, and wrote:

An all-powerful millennial [post-1980s] has just visited China. Although he’ll soon have another historical meeting with Trump, he chose Beijing for his first visit. A few months ago, North-Korea and the US were still on the verge of war. It seems the tide has changed, and that he [Kim Jong-un] has the ability and courage to steer difficult situations. His choice to come to Beijing first shows his diplomatic skills, and he has expressed that he is committed to denuclearizing. This might very well be a historical visit.

By Manya Koetse

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