On China’s tightly controlled internet, Russia’s attack sparks controversy

Illustration of a computer network cable on the Chinese flag
FILE PHOTO: Computer network cables are seen above the Chinese flag in this July 12, 2017 illustration. REUTERS / Thomas White / Illustrations

February 28, 2022

By Brenda Goh

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been greeted with a mix of support and criticism on Chinese social media, with some users calling it a battle with Western newspapers ahead of what might happen if China takes Taiwan and others call for peace.

The war is one of the most trending topics on Chinese social media, garnering hundreds of millions of views and sparking lively discussion in a country that has strained relations with the United States and its Western allies. West.

While Beijing and its state media refrain from criticizing Russia, instead blaming NATO expansion for the crisis and urging talks to resolve the situation, Social media users have turned out to be more, keeping censors busy on China’s closely monitored internet.

On the social media platform Weibo, many users repeated the statement of Russian President Vladimir Putin that he wanted to “denuclearize Ukraine”. Some asked how they could contribute to the Russian effort.

Others criticized Russia for bullying Ukraine, saying it stood in solidarity with the invaded country, although some of those posts were later taken down without explanation.

“Support Russia, kill chickens to scare monkeys,” said Weibo user gushuqiuyu, using a Chinese idiom meaning to set an example for someone to warn others.

The comment received more than 4,000 likes, although some called on the writer to “make a reasonable comment”.

Other users said Beijing should closely monitor how the West reacts to Russia’s attack for clues about the possible Western reaction if China makes a move towards Taiwan, an autonomous island that they claim and prepare accordingly.

A popular comment on the news said that global banks have chosen to remove some Russian banks from the SWIFT payment system: “Everything aimed at Russia today is a rehearsal for us.

China has refused to condemn the attack by Russia, a partner it has become increasingly close to in opposition to the West, although it has repeatedly called for a dialogue to resolve the conflict.

Beijing says it respects the sovereignty of countries, including Ukraine, but Russia’s concerns about NATO’s eastward expansion need to be properly addressed.

In addition to many pro-Russian comments, many others called for peace.

The 41-second clip of a lone man in the city of Hangzhou holding a sign saying “stop fighting” was posted on NetEase’s video-sharing platform and was widely shared online on Sunday before being shot. deleted without explanation.

Another prominent post on the messaging app WeChat that was later removed was a joint statement signed by five professors from leading institutions including Nanjing University and Tsinghua University saying that they protest against Russia’s move against Ukraine.

The article said: “Amidst all the fuss, we felt the need to speak up. “Peace is something that the human heart always yearns for. We are against senseless wars.”

(Reporting by Brenda Goh; Additional reporting by Muyu Xu and Shanghai Newsroom; Editing by Tony Munroe and Pravin Char) On China’s tightly controlled internet, Russia’s attack sparks controversy

Emma Bowman

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