Viral posts spark anger among Chinese netizens over intentions of Western media outlets

By Chen Xi and Dong Feng Published: 2020/6/15 23:27:01

Photo: IC

Western media outlets including The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), and Associated Press News (AP) became the targets of mockery among Chinese netizens after a prominent Chinese blogger claimed on Friday that he was contacted by a Wall Street Journal reporter who was asking several leading questions about the coronavirus situation in China and his thoughts on Chinese writer Fang Fang's controversial Wuhan Diary, a work that has come under fire in China for what many feel is a biased depiction of the lockdown in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province. 

The subject of biased reporting on China by overseas media grew even hotter a day later when a photo of what appears to be an AP request for photos from a netizen and said netizen's response began going viral on Chinese social media.  

Leading questions

On Friday, Diguaxionglaoliu, a blogger with 63 million followers who has been working on a daily journal about the COVID-19 pandemic, published a blog saying that he had been contacted by a person who claimed to be a reporter from WSJ named Deng Chao. In his post, the blogger included an interview outline consisting of seven questions he felt were extremely leading. 

According to the snapshot posted in his blog post, the blogger was asked to voice his opinion about politics in China and Fang Fang's Wuhan Dairy, but at the end of the outline, the questions took on a less neutral bent, focusing on his background and asking him about his employment and if he received any funding from the government or private enterprises.

In his post, the blogger said he was annoyed by the questions so much that he decided to post the outline online so everyone could see the "ugly true colors of the US media."

"There is no objective justice at all. Every question is set up with their own strong subjective stance, no matter how you answer, they will change it into what they want. The best way out is not to answer," he wrote in his blog post.

On February 19, China's Foreign Ministry announced that it had revoked the press credentials of WSJ Deputy Bureau Chief Josh Chin and reporters Deng Chao and Philip Wen after the paper published an article tinged with racist sentiment titled "China is the Real Sick Man of Asia" on February 3.

In the comments on the blog post, Chinese netizens noted that the "Deng Chao" making the interview request could very well be the same reporter who had her credentials revoked and so is no longer licensed to conduct media interviews in China and as such should be expelled from Chinese social media platforms. 

On Sunday, the Global Times sent an email to Deng at the WSJ asking for her to verify if she had made the interview request. However, no answer had been received as of press time.  

Joke's on AP 

More doubt toward Western media outlets' intentions arose on Saturday when a photo of what appears to be snapshots of a private message exchange between AP's official account on Sina Weibo and a Chinese netizen began circulating on Chinese social media following the discovery of new COVID-19 cases in Beijing's Xinfadi Market, the capital's largest vegetable supplier. 

The viral post led some netizens to wonder if Western media outlets are preparing to start their own "Beijing Diary."

According to the snapshots, an account with a profile picture matching that of AP's official Sina Weibo account asks an unidentified Chinese netizen who lives near the Xinfadi Market if they could provide the outlet with photos or videos of armed police patrolling near the market. The netizen replies, "I have seen with my own eyes the police oppressing a coronavirus patient," followed by a photo of US white police officer Derek Chauvin pinning unarmed black man George Floyd to the ground with a knee to the neck.

The post quickly went viral on social media, with some Chinese netizens joking that they were going to change their location to a place near the market and wait for an interview from AP.

"Do they really think we Chinese netizens are so stupid and foolish that we would really provide them with materials and give them the chance to make evil edits? They need to ask @FangFang," one Chinese netizen posted on Sina Weibo.

Some netizens, however, questioned whether the snapshots were real since the origin of the photos could not be identified. 

"We can't rule out the possibility that it's a spoof, but after the event went viral, AP did post news about the Xinfadi Market with photos taken at the scene. This has led people to think it really was an AP request," Sina Weibo blogger Dibaguanwei, who has posted about the events on his account, told the Global Times on Monday.

'A real voice'

That these viral posts have been accepted as real so quickly is understandable as there have been examples in the past of foreign media taking advantage of Chinese interviewees to smear China.  

For example, in 2018 the New York Times (NYT) published the article "A Retro Fashion Statement in 1,000-Year-Old Gowns, With Nationalist Fringe." In the article, NYT reporters interview Chinese fans of Hanfu, the traditional clothing of the Han ethnic majority, and wrote the opinion that "Hanfu followers' dedication to celebrating Han identity can spill into chauvinism toward China's ethnic minorities, like Uygurs and Tibetans."

The word "nationalist" in the title enraged a lot of Chinese. Many netizens who said they belong to one of China's ethnic minority groups cast doubt on the NYT reporters' logic and refuted the idea that the hobby of wearing Hanfu is related to "chauvinism." 

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been many foreign media reports that have caused a feeling of strong disappointment among Chinese people. 

Chen Xuemin, a university student from Wuhan, Central China's Hubei Province, told the Global Times that during her time in lockdown in the city, she followed news from overseas outlets out of curiosity. She noted that she ended up feeling very angry at the many fake news reports and videos she saw that had been edited to show a negative image of China. 

She later decided to take to Twitter to share news and information about the real face of Wuhan to refute the rumors that were running rampant. 

She said most of the comments on her posts were supportive but the tone later became more negative as foreign media continued reporting on the "Chinese virus" and making claims that the virus originated from China. 

"They cannot get the information about Wuhan more timely than I, a local, so I was far more qualified to refute these rumors. I wanted to try my best to become a real voice for my hometown," Chen said. 

Posted in: SOCIETY

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