Japanese Porn Star Tries, Fails, to Repair Japanese-Chinese Tensions

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Sola Aoi made a well-meaning effort to calm nationalist anger over some disputed islands, but it didn't work so well.

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Sola Aoi arrives at the 2011 China Open in Beijing. (Cfp.cn)

As tensions over what the Chinese call the Diaoyu Islands and the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands gather like a storm cloud, Sora Aoi, also known as Sola Aoi, has extended an olive branch across the turbulent waters. Ms. Aoi is, according to Wikipedia, "JapaneseAV idol, nude model, and media personality."

Ms. Aoi recently tweeted two images via iPhone from her account (@苍井空)on Sina Weibo, China's Twitter, where she has over 13 million followers. The first reads "Japanese-Chinese Friendship," with Ms. Aoi commenting in broken Chinese, "I hope there are good relations between we common people...I am [living in] the same world as you. Sad..." The second reads "Chinese-Japanese People's Friendship."

As of this writing, the images have been collectively retweeted over 120,000 times and received over 130,000 comments, with these numbers seemingly growing every few seconds. Her name is the top trending topic on Sina Weibo as well by far, with twice as many mentions as the actual name "Diaoyu Islands."

Chinese netizens have reacted with great anger to the recent spat, which only escalated after word got out that Beijing had deployed patrol ships toward the Diaoyu/Senkaku after Japan nationalized the islands. Recently, when a Chinese netizen tweeted a relatively moderate info graphic about the history of the islands, he was subjected to widespread criticism. Another popular image making the current Weibo rounds shows a car engulfed in flames; apparently, a Shanghai car owner set his own Japanese-made car on fire in protest of Japanese actions.

Yet there is also humor. Many netizens have taken to writing, "The Diaoyu Islands Belong to China; Sora Aoi belongs to the world." [1]

That sentiment is proving true of Ms. Aoi's Weibo account. As netizen comments flooded in, a wide range of emotion was visible, from those proclaiming their love for Ms. Aoi to those calling her a "Japanese dog." A majority, however, were negative. Many referred to Japanese war crimes in Nanjing, China, during World War II. Many others took aim at Aoi's broken Chinese, while a great many noted that her first tweet should not have called for "Japanese-Chinese" friendship-rather, China should have been listed first. Ms. Aoi took the latter commentary to heart, reversing the order in her subsequent tweet after only seven minutes.

But Aoi's linguistic turnabout did not appear to placate netizens. Indeed, by the time she issued her second tweet, more extreme (and obscene) tweets had seemingly drowned out many of the encouraging voices that initially responded to Aoi's first overture. One netizen kept it clean, writing only, "One mountain does not have room for two tigers." [2]

With even seasoned diplomats getting into Twitter wars these days, it's difficult to speculate exactly why Ms. Aoi chose this moment to dip her toe into the nastiest geopolitical conflict in East Asia. If she wished to broaden her oeuvre, the move may have come at a steep price. If she was merely trying to bring Chinese and Japanese people together, Ms. Aoi's reception demonstrates the difficulty of that task in a time of rising tension.

This article originally appeared at Tea Leaf Nation, an Atlantic partner site.

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David Wertime is the co-founder of Tea Leaf Nation, an e-magazine that focuses on China and Chinese sentiment. He is an Atlantic correspondent, Associate Fellow at the Truman National Security Project, and a ChinaFile fellow at the Asia Society.

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