It is not uncommon for ordinary Chinese to publicly express their disappointment with the government. They are ashamed of their government. They want to give up their Communist Party membership. And they think the PLA is a waste of taxpayer money.
Even rarer are the angry comments from nationalists who usually support whatever demands are made of them by their leaders.
For much of Monday and Tuesday, many Chinese applauded the hard-line rhetoric of government, military and media figures trying to thwart Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Then, when Ms. Pelosi’s plane landed in Taiwan late Tuesday night, some social media users commented that they were very disappointed by Beijing’s lame response.
There was no military action in the Taiwan Strait because they felt they had anticipated it. No downs, no missile strikes, no fighter jets flying next to Ms Pelosi’s plane. Just some denunciations and announcements of military exercises.
Many complained that they were disappointed and cheated by the government. “Don’t show off if you don’t have strength,” Weibo user @shanshanmeiyoulaichi2hao wrote shortly after the flight landed. “What a shame!”
The user went on to say that the government is not worth waiting hours to witness how history was made. “A great nation. How ironic!”
Strong online sentiment shows that if Beijing decides to invade Taiwan, it will have to deal with the complexity of public opinion. They proved that nationalism is a double-edged sword that can easily be used against governments. Some anti-war rhetoric that managed to evade censorship, even for a moment, opened a window into the psychological impact of the Ukrainian war on the Chinese public.
Some netizens compared the PLA to the Chinese men’s football team, because the Chinese men’s football team has only qualified for the World Cup once, and it has become a laughing stock in China. They scoffed at the announcement that the PLA would conduct military exercises near Taiwan. “Save some fuel,” said one WeChat user. “It’s expensive now,” another replied.
On WeChat, the comment section for a short video of a military exercise became a place for disgruntled people to grumble. Among the thousands of comments, a handful of Communist Party members said they were willing to quit out of shame. One veteran said he may never mention his military experience again. “So angry, can’t sleep,” commented one user @xiongai.
The comment section was later closed.
Many users seem to be particularly disappointed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The Chinese side said ‘strong condemnation’ and ‘solemn statement’ just to amuse us ordinary people,” wrote a Weibo user @shizhendemaolulu. Pelosi visits.
“So tough in domestic governance and so cowardly in foreign affairs,” the user wrote. “Totally disappointed!”
In response to disappointing questions from the public on Wednesday afternoon, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she believed the Chinese people were rational patriots who had full confidence in their country and government.
Since the era of Mao Zedong, the Chinese Communist Party has used nationalism as a tool of governance. China’s current supreme leader, Xi Jinping, has taken it to a new level. “Nationalism is becoming a central pillar of the party’s and Xi Jinping’s personal political legitimacy,” Asia Society chief executive Kevin Rudd, a former prime minister of Australia, wrote in his book.avoidable war: The danger of a catastrophic conflict between the United States and Xi Jinping’s China. “
Taiwan is an autonomous democracy that Beijing considers part of its territory, and its unification with the mainland is at the heart of Chinese nationalism.
But as Mr Rudd and others have said, the genie of nationalism has sometimes proved difficult to control once it’s been released from the bottle. “The problem has grown under Xi Jinping as nationalist appeals have moved across the board from the fringes to the center of China’s propaganda apparatus,” he wrote.
This week’s online rally is one example.
Pelosi’s impending visit to Taiwan was not much of a concern for most of China until Monday afternoon, when a flurry of official and semi-official announcements led many to believe that China might take tough, possibly military, action to stop it.
Zhao Lijian, a foreign ministry spokesman who may be China’s most prominent “Wolf Warrior” diplomat, warned the U.S. on Monday that the PLA “will never stand idly by.” China will definitely take firm and powerful countermeasures to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. On the website of People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, a two-paragraph article about his comments was viewed 2.7 million times.
That night, the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command, which covers Taiwan, posted on Weibo that it was awaiting operational orders and would “bury all invading enemies.” The post has been liked more than a million times, and the embedded video, which contains footage of explosions and explosions, has garnered more than 47 million views.
Then there’s Hu Xijin, retired editor-in-chief of the Global Times, the Communist Party tabloid that may have played the biggest role in stoking Chinese nationalism over the past 30 years.
Hu Jintao first suggested on Twitter last week that China should shoot down Ms Pelosi’s plane if she visits Taiwan. He called on his nearly 25 million followers on Weibo to “support all the government’s countermeasures and share the hatred of the enemy.”
“We will definitely take strong countermeasures to hit the U.S. and Taiwan,” he wrote on Tuesday. “It’s too difficult, and the Taiwan authorities will regret it.”
After Ms Pelosi’s plane landed in Taipei, China issued a number of strongly worded condemnations and announced a series of daunting military exercises around Taiwan. But in the absence of any direct military action, many nationalists feel wronged. Their heroes, including Mr Hu and Mr Zhao, lost some of their aura.
Now they send short texts mocking Mr. Zhao video He made a tough statement on Monday.
Mr Hu’s Weibo post was flooded with angry, sarcastic and abusive comments late Tuesday night. “If I were you, I would be too embarrassed to say a word and hide until the day of reunification,” commented one Weibo user @KAGI_02.
Yi, a Harvard-educated nationalist blogger, wrote a fiery comment Wednesday morning urging control of Hu Jintao’s influence.
Ren Zhengfei said on Weibo that the public’s unmet high expectations could damage the government’s credibility. He blamed the unrealistic expectations on Hu Jintao, saying his position was taken too seriously because he once ran a party newspaper.
Ren Zhiqiang is not alone in trying to make Hu Jintao, now a columnist for the Global Times, the most influential Chinese journalist. Other commentators and social media figures have also demanded that he be held accountable. On Wednesday morning, Mr. Hu wrote on Weibo that he would be a “sandbag”.
But there were also comments that Hu was just one of China’s responses to Pelosi’s visit, and suggested that putting all the blame on him could indicate that the government may be looking for a scapegoat.
There are also anti-war voices on Chinese social media. Some argue that only cyber warmongers should be sent to the front lines. Some parents worry that their children will be drafted into the military. Others tried to urge their countrymen to look to Ukraine and Russia to understand that war meant death and economic devastation.
Zou Sicong, a writer who has been traveling in Poland for months, called for a realistic understanding of the war on WeChat, saying he learned about the experiences of Ukrainians and ordinary Russians.
He said people should be happy that nothing happened on Tuesday night. “You should feel lucky that you can still run your business, pay your mortgage, go to work tomorrow, get tested for Covid-19 and live,” he wrote. “Please pray for yourself and your loved ones that we can get away with it intact. This coming storm.”