A ground crew member directs a Royal Australian Air Force AP-3C Orion upon its returns to RAAF base Pearce from searching for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 over the southern Indian Ocean on Wednesday. Photo: AFP
Monday was a dramatic day for the Chinese relatives of those aboard the Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared over two weeks ago.
After the Malaysian side announced that the airliner had "ended in the southern Indian Ocean" and none of the passengers survived, relatives of the 154 Chinese citizens on board became furious. They released a statement accusing the Malaysian government of being "murderers" and protested outside the Malaysian embassy in Beijing the next day.
These families have the support of the Chinese people, notably with doubts over the information released by the Malaysian side and criticism against the Malaysian government on China's social media.
When Victor Wong, a Chinese-Malaysian singer well known among the Chinese public, expressed his condolences to the relatives of the victims on his Sina Weibo account, a flurry of comments followed, blaming him for being hypocritical and calling for a boycott of his performances in China.
Many also urged the Chinese government to take a tough stance toward Malaysia, which is thought by many to have mishandled the search for the missing plane.
This mysterious accident is being followed by the world, as are China's reactions. In the eyes of some Western observers, China is "doing its best to foster a sense of aggrievement" and "exploiting international incidents for domestic gain."
Indeed, Malaysia should take most of the blame as it dragged this painful accident on for too long. Its approach in handling the aftermath of the tragedy raised doubts from international watchers. The grievances of the Chinese people didn't come from nowhere.
There have already been analyses in the foreign media speculating on a strained relationship between China and Malaysia, despite the fact that Malaysia was the first ASEAN country to establish diplomatic ties with China in 1974 and that Malaysia is China's largest trading partner among ASEAN countries.
China's tourist agencies have reported a sharp decline in the number of Chinese travelers choosing to visit Malaysia.
The past few years have seen the Chinese government facing increasing pressure from the public in making diplomatic decisions. There is a worrying sign that the public mood might be fanned by some opinion leaders at the price of ruining good people-to-people relationship between the two countries.
It is too early to let public opinion lead the way at the current stage. Whether Beijing-Kuala Lumpur relations will dim depends to some extent on how the government will act between diplomatic maneuvering and public opinion. Read more in Special Coverage: