A ‘Historic Mistake’: Another Case of China’s Social Media Warfare

China Change, March 23, 2016

Social media is by nature subversive in a country like China, where totalitarian rule depends on monopolizing the narrative and suppressing free speech. The Chinese Communist Party is well aware, and worried: state propaganda calls social media an opposing sphere of opinion,” and hawkish PLA generals refer to it as battleground where life and death are at stake. On Monday, in an essay “laced with wartime imagery,” the chief editor of the People’s Daily warned of a “historic mistake” if China (meaning the Party) loses grip on new media. The war has been a daily affair for years now, despite the censorship, and despite the fact that netizens are thrown in jail for what they post. Another round of pushback against the Party was triggered yesterday when the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hua Chunying, warned Japan, for the nth time, that it should be “highly responsible to history,” and needed to “confront and reflect on its aggressive past,” so as to “educate younger generations with the correct historic views.” She said all this on the very day that the Chinese public was gripped by something that actually matters to them: yet another vaccine scandal. Herein is a sample of some of the online reaction. — The Editors



Screen shots via @wangyi09. Click to enlarge. 

@小学生THU: “In my middle school textbooks there was nothing about land reform, or how many were killed during the suppression of counterrevolutionaries, or anything about the anti-rightist campaigns, or how people were persecuted during the purging of the “four olds.” There was nothing about how tens of millions of peasants starved to death during the Great Leap Forward. Oh, and when it came to the Cultural Revolution, it was one page, and the teacher said we can skip it because it won’t be on the college entrance exams.”

@赵_小孟: “You’re going to use Japan to divert people’s attention again? How many children have been slaughtered by your vaccines?”

@魏佳WEIJIA: “That’s got nothing to do with common people. Let’s go back and talk about vaccines.”

@大贤良師: “Oh dear, here we go again. Japan’s like a chamber pot: whenever there’s a crisis of public opinion, it’s dragged out and used. Does this still work after so many decades?”

@仅知: “Firstly, interfering in the internal affairs of other countries is wrong. Secondly, failing to correctly look at your own history is wrong. Thirdly, the matter of the vaccines has not been cleared up—and that’s wrong too.”  

@西山环上: “First explain clearly what on earth is going on with the vaccines.”

@F_小小: “You’ve still got the nerve to say this? You don’t provide a proper account of your own history, you don’t respect your own citizens, and you turn around and ask other people to respect you? That’s not gonna happen.”

@涩胖子: “Other countries textbooks, other countries’ politics—what’s it got to do with you?! First explain your own problems properly! Our biggest enemy right now isn’t [Japan].

@拈花神探: “We are very concerned about the vaccine issue!”

@一月近日点: “This morning the vaccine incident came out, and this evening you’ve brought up all this old stuff. Can you stop with the routine and be a bit more sincere?”

@寻解放的Django: “Actually, we can’t control what Japan does with its textbooks. Deleting things from textbooks isn’t the same as distorting history.”

@两半簃主人: “Mainland textbooks have never properly presented the Nationalist government who fought the anti-Japanese war. Who’s the jerk here?”

@红发的红发: “You make it sound like your Party had recorded its own ugly history in the textbooks.”

@散騎長不侍: “When the regime begins to reflect thoroughly on the Cultural Revolution, only then will Japanese militarism be afraid.”

@米哈如: “During the siege of Changchun by communist troops, hundreds of thousands of Nationalist troops and civilians starved to death. Have you put that in your history textbooks?”




‘What’s The Name of This Vegetable?’ Netizens Send Nearly 10,000 Answers to People’s Daily’s Question, China Change, February 27, 2016.

Fury and Angst — The Recent Confrontation between State Media and Social Media in China, by Jia Jia, February 23, 2014.

Internet Freedom in China: A Menace that Must Be Removed, by Mo Zhixu, March 14, 2014.

The Anxiety of a Propaganda Chief in the Face of Media Changes, by Song Zhibiao, April 28, 2013.



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