By Eduardo Baptista
BEIJING, Aug 3 (Reuters) – U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s arrival in Taiwan late on Tuesday proved too much for many mainland Chinese netizens, who are calling for a stronger response from her Government.
“Going to bed last night, I was so upset that I couldn’t sleep,” blogger Xiaoyuantoutiao wrote on Wednesday.
“But what infuriates me is not the online clamor to ‘start a fight’, ‘spare the island but not its people’ (…) (but) this old demoness, she dares to come!” .
China considers Taiwan part of its territory and has never given up the possibility of using force to bring the island under its control. But Taiwan rejects China’s claims of sovereignty and says only its people can decide the island’s future.
Hashtags related to Pelosi’s visit, such as “determination to realize national reunification is solid as a rock,” went viral on Chinese short-messaging platform Weibo. As of Wednesday, a dozen of these patriotic-style tags racked up several billion views.
Some bloggers even considered that Pelosi’s recklessness warranted an immediate invasion of Taiwan, with many users posting the expression “there is only one China.”
Others said the Chinese military should have done more to prevent their plane from landing, and thousands of users mocked a popular Weibo post published by an official People’s Liberation Army account last week, which read simply “get ready for the war!”.
“In the future, if you are not preparing to attack, please don’t make these statements to mislead ordinary people,” said one user.
The highest-profile US visit to Taiwan in 25 years has been furiously condemned by China, which has shown its anger with increased military activity in the waters around the island. China has summoned the US ambassador to Beijing and announced the suspension of various agricultural imports from Taiwan.
Countering US support for Taiwan is one of the most important issues in Beijing’s foreign policy, and China’s state-controlled media has contributed to public opinion strongly backing the Chinese government’s position.
On Tuesday, Chinese state media livestreamed Pelosi’s plane trip to Taipei on China’s dominant WeChat chat app, which was viewed by 22 million users.
But Weibo crashed before her plane landed, leaving users in the dark 30 minutes to an hour before and after Pelosi stepped onto the airport tarmac.
Without mentioning the events in Taiwan, Weibo said on Wednesday that the platform crashed because its broadband capacity was overloaded.
However, the level of outrage on Weibo reached a fever pitch, with angry netizens calling for stronger military and economic measures against Taiwan and the United States far outnumbering those calling for restraint.
However, there were people who urged long-term patience in the face of mounting internal challenges and unfavorable global sentiment towards China, as well as some who spoke in favor of peace.
“If there really is a war, China will bear the suffering. Currently the world powers haven’t really picked China’s team, we wouldn’t get any help. Like Russia, it would be a bit of a lonely war,” one user wrote.
Weibo, which censored calls for peace and criticism of Russia after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, did not promote hashtags criticizing the outburst of nationalist fervor in response to Pelosi’s visit.
Qin Quanyao, a Beijing-based blogger, wrote an essay on WeChat on Tuesday in which he pointed out that the current outbreak of patriotic strife online dates back to the time of the late Chairman Mao Zedong, when elementary school students sang songs about the “liberation” of Taiwan.
“From Weibo, WeChat to various online platforms, the atmosphere suddenly became tense, seeming to return to the ‘we must liberate Taiwan’ era from when we were children,” he wrote.
(Reporting by Eduardo Baptista; editing by Brenda Goh and Simon Cameron-Moore; translation by Darío Fernández)