When a US Air Force jet carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi approached Taiwan on Tuesday night, expectations rose in China about how Beijing would respond.
Since reports surfaced that the top US lawmaker would visit Taiwan during a tour of Asia, talks in China have churned with nationalist rage and heightened rhetoric about what the leadership could do about it.
Beijing had previously threatened Washington that those who “play with fire” over Taiwan would “perish” and warned the US against crossing a “red line”, saying the Chinese military “would not sit idly by” if Pelosi visited Taiwan’s autonomous government. island that the Chinese Communist Party claims as its territory, despite never having controlled it.
Voices outside the government, including former Global Times editor-in-chief Hu Xijin, were more direct, saying China could take military action against Pelosi’s plane – raising public expectations of a confrontation.
Instead, Pelosi and her congressional delegation landed on the runway at Taipei’s Songshan Airport, where they were greeted in a live stream by Taiwanese officials, while the iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper displayed “US-Taiwan friendship forever” in text. well lit. Crowds of supporters and protesters gathered outside Pelosi’s hotel to await his arrival.
As Taiwan rolled out the red carpet, China’s government ministries fired off a string of condemnations as its military pledged to launch extensive multi-day military exercises and on Thursday fired missiles at the island. But China’s initial actions fell short of what was expected from its domestic audience.
And within the country’s online sphere, where nationalist voices dominate its heavily censored social media, disappointment was high.
“I don’t know where to hang my head. This is so embarrassing. People outside the Great Firewall are laughing for nothing. [A China] it’s literally a ‘paper tiger’,” wrote one user on the Twitter-like Chinese social network Weibo. Others asked why there was so much anticipation for so little action.
But in the days that followed, a reckoning and a reset have been unfolding in China. In an attempt to reverse dissatisfaction, state media mobilized to rally support for China’s response, portraying its military exercises as strong and “unprecedented”. Social media platforms were inundated with news of these exercises, and other voices in the public arena praised China for what they call a successful strategic response and criticized what they saw as warmongering.
Redefining the narrative
One target of this backlash has been Hu, a former editor of the state-backed tabloid Global Times, seen as a key voice in accelerating nationalist sentiment in recent days.
On Thursday, the influential “Chairman Rabbit” account on the WeChat messaging platform, run by blogger Ren Yi, said China’s actions matched the government’s broadcast tone, but not the predictions of the former Global Times editor.
“The Chinese government has indeed formulated very strong and proud countermeasures, which have been very successful in dealing with this issue of Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan,” the publication said.
“As a result [dos comentários de Hu]on the evening of August 2, when the Chinese government and official media solemnly announced the military exercises and a series of countermeasures against Taiwan, netizens did not applaud these unprecedented powerful measures, nor the unprecedented high morale, the great emotion of the people or boiling patriotic sentiment,” the publication read.
Another popular online commentator, Geng Xiangshun, said the public’s patriotism was “very good,” but the calls for war were reckless — though he didn’t mention Hu.
“You should know that the ultimate goal is to carry out the reunification of the motherland at minimal cost, not to start a war,” he wrote on his Weibo account.
Hu defended himself in a post on Thursday, saying his “heavy words” had value in influencing the discussion surrounding Pelosi’s visit, including in Washington, adding that the “patriotic camp” should have “diverse” voices.
As these conversations unfolded, some social media users seemed to rethink their disappointment, with one writing on Thursday night that decision makers were indeed “wise” and “logical.” “Now I understand,” said one. user on a post with thousands of likes.
But the apparent need to alleviate the disappointment and promote China’s response also highlights the risks that leader Xi Jinping has taken in fueling nationalist sentiments.
“Nationalism grew under Xi Jinping, because Xi continually uses it for his purpose, to advance his agenda, but I think he never understood the downside, because he thinks he can encourage nationalism but also stop it,” Alfred said. Wu, an associate professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.
However, on this occasion, Beijing appears to have brought the narrative back under control, while Hu has become a scapegoat to stir up nationalist sentiment, Wu said.
“’Wolf warriors’ sometimes have to pay the price,” Wu said, using a term common to Beijing’s combative nationalist opinion leaders and diplomats.
Asked Wednesday about the initial online reaction to China’s response, Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister Hua Chunying gave a revealing response.
“We have full confidence in the ability of our country and our government to firmly defend our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Hua. “Chinese people are rational patriots.”
the office of CNN in Beijing contributed to this story.
Source: CNN Brasil
I’m James Harper, a highly experienced and accomplished news writer for World Stock Market. I have been writing in the Politics section of the website for over five years, providing readers with up-to-date and insightful information about current events in politics. My work is widely read and respected by many industry professionals as well as laymen.