How China’s netizens turned China’s propaganda efforts against China on Weibo for several hours

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Wenhao @This isWenhao

Disinformation, China

@VOANews

Journalist

wenhao.substack.com

Joined October 2010

845 Following

4,740 Followers

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Wenhao @ThisIsWenhao

It’s gone unnoticed by many. So I felt like I should properly document what just happened on Weibo today. Netizens in China, for just a few hours, got to unleash their wrath on the Chinese government for how they handled the Covid crisis in Shanghai and other social issues.

6:57 AM · Apr 14, 2022

it all started around mid night in China (so noon EST), when two topics became No.1 and 2 respectively on Weibo. 1. Shanghai handled several rumors regarding Covid. 2. US is the biggest country of human rights deficit.


For context, topics of this scale of sensitivity don’t top the chart unless the authorities approved. So this could be considered as propaganda efforts rather what netizens were genuinely interested in.

We’ve seen this kind of efforts throughout the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where China would direct criticism at the West and whitewash Russia. But the interesting thing is that, this time, their efforts backfired, big time.

it seemed that many netizens had had enough of the Chinese government’s attempts to escape criticism by focusing on how bad the West/US is. So they occupied the hashtag “US is the biggest country of human rights deficit”, to express their anger at the state.

Most of these criticism came in the form of satire. One raised the examples of the 996 work environment, high housing price, high interest, low income and said “the human rights China has the most human rights. lol”.

Another one: “Yeah we seal people’s doors, kill pets, waste medical resources so patients with more urgent needs miss the opportunities to be treated, but our death number is zero!”

Some also brought up the women who were chained up in a rural village and gave birth to eight children. But they intentionally replaced “China” with “US” and pretended to be shocked at this kind of things happening in America and said “I was so lucky to have been born in China”


Some are more direct. One blasted state media for always emphasizing what’s going on in the US and not caring for its own people. “China is the most human rights deprived and authoritarian country in the world,” he said it bluntly.

Even those who hold negative views of the US laughed at state media’s clumsy attempt to redirect attention. “The US is hypocritical. But promoting this hashtag at this time…Let’s not pretend to be some white lotus, okay?”

Others are amazed that so many netizens have spoken up on Weibo. “The square (public search results under certain hashtags on Weibo) is wonderful. Looks like everyone has been slapped awaken by daddy (referring to the Chinese government).”

Some poked fun at Weibo censors, who usually wouldn’t allow criticism of the government to exits for too long. “Stop making rumors! What 996? Apparently Weibo censors have already punched out.”

Many were moved by the kind of solidarity they witnessed on Weibo. “So many posts to like. This is the true voice of the people. Let’s commemorate tonight…Maybe tomorrow it’s gonna be songs and dances again, but at least we know that we are awake.”

Keyword of the night has been “call me by your name”, which some netizens used to refer to China’s propaganda strategy to criticize the US whenever something bad happens in China.

So for about four to five hours, there was almost nothing but angry comments targeting the Chinese government under this hashtag, which was initially promoted by state media with the intention to accuse the US.

It’s kind of a mystery how Weibo censors allowed these posts to remain visible for so long. But soon after 4 am in China (some pointed to exact 4:19 am), everything is gone. Now you will only find posts from official accounts with blue checkmarks.

Netizens then moved to a different top trending hashtag “Shanghai handled rumors regarding Covid” to continue to roast the government. “They woke up the censors at 4:20 am. It’s so inhumane,” one said satirically.


Some keep fake-blaming the US. “US retracted that hashtag so quickly. No wonder they are so good at cyber warfare. China baby can’t compete. It’s all America’s fault.I’m so angry!”

It’s 8 am in China now. Surprisingly, the “Shanghai rumor” hashtag is still no.1 on Weibo and open to the pubic, where people are still posting criticism of the government, though they are not as intense and aggressive as what were posted during the night.

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