US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, the first by such a senior US official in 25 years, sparked anti-US vitriol on Chinese social media.
Chinese social media reacted strongly to Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. On the morning of Wednesday, when most Chinese woke up to the news of Pelosi having landed in Taiwan, at least 7 out of the top 10 trending hashtags were related to Pelosi, her visit and Taiwan, reported local media.
Most of the Military observer and commentator accounts were trying to present the military exercise announced by China in Taiwan territorial waters as an appropriate response along with the ban on import-export of certain items vis-a-vis Taiwan.
The No. 1 trending hashtag was ‘#Ban on exporting natural sand to Taiwan’. Seeing the top post under this hashtag received 1.8 million likes and 66k comments within four hours can throw some light on how much the Taiwan issue means to the general public.
It was one of the first economic actions taken against Taiwan following Pelosi’s visit. The top comments ask for more sanctions on Taiwan, and even halting all trade with Taiwan, recognising that such economic sanctions are too soft and Taiwan is getting emboldened with time, local media added
The No. 2 hashtag was ‘#Russain Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement said Taiwan is purely China’s internal affairs’.
Along with this ‘#Several countries issued a statement condemning Pelosi’s Taiwan visit’ was also trending which showed countries such as Palestine, Syria, Iran, Russia, and Nicaragua issuing statements.
These statements were read out in the morning 10 a.m. show of CCTV 13 (the biggest news Channel in China) as well. The No. 3 hashtag was about Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi who was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs on 29 May and will be arraigned on Wednesday.
Paul Pelosi, 82, is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday morning on charges of driving under the influence causing injury and driving with a .08 per cent blood alcohol level or higher causing injury, the Napa County District Attorney’s Office said in a press release.
The 4th hashtag was about China banning the import of citrus fruits from Taiwan. All the economic actions have seen great support on Weibo and most netizens are either calling for more or a complete trade ban.
China on Wednesday halted trade with Taiwan and said it is suspending imports of citrus fruits and fish products from Taipei.
Taking to Twitter, Li Bijian, China’s Consul General in Karachi said, “Chinese mainland suspends imports of citrus fruits, chilled white hairtail and frozen horse mackerel from Taiwan region from Wednesday: General Administration of Customs”.
China’s General Administration of Customs said in a statement that they will suspend two types of fish products from the Taiwan region starting Wednesday, Xinhua reported. The entry of citrus fruits, including grapefruits, lemons, and oranges, as well as chilled large head hairtail and frozen horse mackerel from Taiwan, will be suspended in accordance with the mainland’s relevant regulations, the GAC said in an online statement Wednesday.
The ‘#PLA will launch a series of targeted military operations’ has been trending since 2 August when it became clear that Pelosi will be visiting Taiwan.
There are also some voices that have a more nuanced view on this issue. Si Ma’nan a pro-CPC commentator on Wiebo with three million followers stated that “international issues on Taiwan issue should not be confused with domestic issues” and the “main contradiction is a matter between the two sides of the Taiwan strait” but the “public opinion has now turned the cross-strait issue into a Sino-US issue and it has become the main contradiction”.
He noted that “the cross-strait issues are China’s internal matters and that it is Wall Street that wants to expand the conflict zones of the US and not the American people”.
The official WeChat account of the Communist Youth League has also published an article that tries to dial down the issue as public opinion boils.
It stated that the game between China and the US is a “grand chess game” after all, and there is no need to overturn the entire “chessboard” just for one “chess piece” -a small number of the current online opinion that shows US and China in a comprehensive showdown and other such remarks are irrational.
“When someone touches the bottom line of the Taiwan issue, we will inflict pain on them on this issue, but it is far from the extent of letting the situation get out of control and causing China and the United States to completely embark on a military confrontation”.
The recent phone call between the two Heads of State was actually in order to prevent the situation from getting out of control completely, and to install ‘insurance’.
US President Joe Biden agreed to meet ‘face to face’ with his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in the near future, as decided during the fifth phone call between the two leaders, a senior White House administration official said.
Addressing a media briefing, House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, “The conversation was substantive, it was in-depth, and it was candid”.
The same kind of statements has been published under Zhejiang Propaganda Department’s official account
One would have to wait for more articles coming out of official media to understand how Xi wants to manage this issue at such a crucial time. For now, it is clear that a visible response (military exercise and economic actions) has been made from CPC’s side to keep public opinion satisfied but is also trying to subtly rationalise the issue and bring the public opinion down through some official channels (CYL and Zhejiang Propaganda Dept).
It is estimated that he must be in Beidaihe right now and this issue can lower his weight in discussions and deliberations there.
Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi knocked out China’s Weibo as millions tracked the Taiwan trip. Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan briefly crashed Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, as millions in the country discussed and debated her Asia trip.
The microblogging platform apologised for a half-hour outage of its mobile app in the period immediately before Pelosi’s landing at 10.40 p.m. on Tuesday, when countless messages tracking her plane flooded social media.
Hu Xijin, the prominent former editor-in-chief of the Global Times, suggested in a now-deleted tweet that Chinese warplanes could “forcibly dispel Pelosi’s plane” and later posted to Weibo saying that the official response didn’t live up to expectations. One humorous reaction, featuring an edited image suggesting a youthful romance between Hu and Pelosi, also circulated widely on the social network.