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China's Social Web Late to Vietnam Dispute Thanks to Censors

Categories: East Asia, China, Vietnam, International Relations, War & Conflict
Location of  the Paracels. Screen capture from Google map. [1]

Location of the Paracels. Screen capture from Google Maps.

Mainland Chinese and Vietnamese ships have reportedly collided various times over the last two weeks in a disputed section of the South China Sea where China is attempting to build an oil rig despite Vietnam's objections. 

Below is a video taken from the Vietnam side of a collision.

The hostility boiled over May 14, 2014 in Vietnam when anti-Chinese protesters looted and set fire to foreign factories they believed were Chinese, though many were Taiwanese or South Korean. At least 21 were killed and nearly 100 injured [2]. Scores of Chinese nationals fled to neighboring Cambodia or to other countries in the region. 

Throughout the conflict, China has been firm in declaring its sovereignty over the Paracels Islands to the international media.

But what did Chinese people think? As the blogger from “South Sea Conversations” pointed out [3], online discussion over the oil rig dispute was missing in China, where censorship is a fact of life. Moreover, even after Chinese enterprises in Vietnam were attacked by Vietnamese protesters, propaganda authorities continued sending instructions [4] to local media forbidding them to report on the news.

The instruction was lifted after it was leaked. But online discussion was still closely moderated by Chinese web censors. Many Chinese netizens have complained that their comments were deleted very quickly on popular microblogging site Sina Weibo.

In the comments that weren't scrubbed, some users invoked aggressive nationalism, while many others called for reflection. The comments below are selected from one of the most popular news threads [5] on Weibo about the violent protest in Vietnam.

Some typical nationalistic remarks:

平凡的铁人 [6]:看了痛心,都好几天了,中国,你什么时候不受欺负?!

pyzlb: The scene is so heartbreaking. The incident has happened for how many days? China, when will you not be bullied?!

佑冠 [7]:越南,我去过多次,一个白眼狼国家,骨子里反华的民族,首先断了贸易和对越投资,大家不要到越南旅游了。我们政府态度要强硬和具体对策。

You Guan: I have visited Vietnam many times. The country is a white wolf. Down to the bone, they are anti-Chinese. We should cut trade and investment there. Don't travel to Vietnam anymore. Our government needs to be harder and come up with concrete policy.

钟离逸空0 [8]:趁这个机会把越南裁撤了,重新设立我们安南省。让安南回到我们中华名族的大怀抱

“Empty Bell”: Take this opportunity to take over Vietnam and rebuild our An Nam [9] province. Let An Nam province be welcomed back into the Chinese nation.

高高的洛基山 [10]:中国再不派兵去镇压恐怕又是第二个印尼大屠杀的悲剧呀!越南区位优势不错,正好一举收复!看哪个敢不服!

“High Rocky Mountain”: If China doesn't send troosp to crack down [on the violent protests], this will turn into another tragedy like the Indonesian Massacre! [referring to May 1998 anti-Chinese riots [11] in major cities in Indonesia]. Geographically speaking, Vietnam is in a strategic location. Good to take it back and see who dares to oppose.

There were some more measured comments as well:

究愿 [12]:必须反思,中国人都做了什么让别人有这么强烈的反抗

Jiu Yuan: We have to reflect upon this. What have Chinese people done to elicit such a strong reaction?

袋鼠阿公 [13]:中国人,一边说越南人怎么野蛮,怎么打砸中国人在越南的设施,但想想就在一年多前,中国人也是见日本的东西就砸!其实砸了日本车是中国人血汗钱买的,烧的日国也是中国经销商的,这其实就是烧钱的愚昧的行为!

Granny Kangaroo: Chinese people keep saying that the Vietnamese are barbaric in the destruction of Chinese-owned facilities in Vietnam. But one year ago, Chinese people also crushed Japanese-manufactured goods. Those Japanese cars were bought by Chinese people with their sweat and blood. The burned Japanese goods were wholesaled by Chinese companies. Such behaviors are so stupid.

骑毛驴儿走长安街 [14]:官烂民怨,到处排挤,当年的好兄弟现在反目,下一个就是朝鲜

“Riding donkey on Chang An Street”: The government officials are corrupt and people are angry. Other countries are boycotting [China]. Good brothers [China and Vietnam] back then now have turned against each other, the next one would be North Korea…

草根记者陳曉昇 [15]:墙内人永远都不会知道事实的真相,我相信越南人民不会无风不起浪的!

“Grassroots reporter Chen Xiaosheng”: For those who live inside the Great Firewall will not know the truth. I don't think the Vietnamese can stir up such a big storm without wind [meaning China's aggressive move in the South China Sea].

齐桓公DE桓 [16]:为什么我们那么多敌人?

“Qi Huan King”: how come we have so many enemies?