WeChat profile picture of Galwan Valley skirmish martyr arouses feelings of patriotism in Chinese people
Published: Feb 23, 2021 09:16 PM

Martyr Xiao Siyuan's WeChat profile picture (photo: Weibo)

The WeChat profile picture of 24-year-old soldier Xiao Siyuan, one of the four martyrs who sacrificed their lives to safeguard China's national sovereignty and territory in the Galwan Valley skirmish with India in June 2020 caused wide attention on Chinese social media this week after it was seen to be a rabbit figure representing "China" or "Chinese" in the popular patriotic animation Year Hare Affair.

In the picture, a rabbit wearing battle fatigues and carrying a Type-95 rifle walks forward, flying China's national flag above its head. It looks ready to protect China and fight enemies. The rabbit is a household name to the Chinese public; numerous netizens said they also use similar Year Hare Affair pictures or even the same one as Xiao as their social media profile photos.

Cartoonist Lin Chao, author of Year Hare Affair, told the Global Times on Tuesday that he was deeply moved after seeing Xiao's WeChat profile picture. 

"I felt very sad and sorry for his death; he was so young, unmarried, like a younger brother," he said. "But he turned out to be so strong and brave after putting on the PLA (People's Liberation Army) uniform; capable of protecting normal people - including me - that may be much elder than himself."

Lin added that he is planning to make a video in memory to the martyrs. "We may also tell this history in future episodes of Year Hare Affair," he told the Global Times.

Chinese people's patriotism reached a recent-high after China unveiled details about the Galwan Valley conflict on Friday. Martyr Xiao's WeChat profile picture, which was shown in a screenshot of a chat history between Xiao and his mother widely spread on Weibo, sparked respect for the heroes by many netizens, many of whom are also fans of Year Hare Affair.

"I burst into tears upon seeing Xiao's WeChat photo was the Year Hare Affair rabbit," wrote a Weibo user on Saturday. "Maybe Xiao also looked forward to the anime's updates like we do."

"I'm so touched to see that this hero may have gotten some spiritual comfort from [my] anime," Lin said on Weibo later that day.

Lin told the Global Times that he hopes his audience, especially young people, can get strength and courage from the animation work, and are unafraid to "go the frontlines when our motherland is violated," like what Xiao and other heroes did.

Year Hare Affair, a red-themed anime, is known as one of the top animations in the Chinese market, and had gotten more than 800 million views on China's main domestic video sites as of 2020, according to statistics provided by Lin's team. 

It depicts China as a "rabbit" and other countries as other animals such as a "hawk", "rooster", and "ox", presenting serious military and diplomatic issues in an equally riveting and stimulating way. Influenced by this amine, many patriotic Chinese youths like to call themselves "China's rabbits" on social media.

One of the reasons Lin uses the "rabbit" figure to refer to China and Chinese people, is that in Chinese Zodiac culture, the Year of the Rabbit is always followed by the Year of the Dragon.

This is an interesting metaphor that implies China "will get stronger and powerful in the future," Lin explained, mentioning a sentence that Year Hare Affair enthusiasts like to use to express their love and ambitious expectations for the country: "Our (conquest) journey is the sea of stars," he said.