This user was not
alone in his disapproval. Remarked another of Zhang's followers, "What are you,
American now?" Wrote another, "I used to enjoy following you, but it makes me
uncomfortable to see you've posted about September 11 and not the Diaoyu
Islands. I see you in a new light now."
Japan and China are embroiled in a diplomatic standoff over disputed
islands, so they are on peoples' minds there. Still, it's interesting that many
social media users in China referenced both September 11 and the Diaoyu Islands
(known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan) together. As Japan made
an official bid to nationalize the island chain, the phrase
"Diaoyu Islands" became the number one trending topic on Weibo, China's version
of Twitter. When Chinese actor Wen Zhang, at a recent televised awards ceremony,
Diaoyu Islands belong to China!" his name became the
second-most-searched term on China's top search engine, Baidu. To put the level
of nationalist fervor in context, another trending phrase today was "F*ck Japan,"
which turned out to be the unlikely name of an actual person in China, according to
Shanghaiist. Perhaps it's not a coincidence that, as the Diaoyu dispute has
many Chinese feeling more nationalistic than usual, sympathy for the great
American power across the Pacific appears to be running low.
Weibo user @李道长 commented, "Truth be told, at that
time [September 11] many Chinese people were pretty happy. They treated the day
as a holiday, thinking to themselves, 'serves the American imperialists right.'"
This is not necessarily as categorically true as the Weibo user suggested, but it
was not so long ago that Americans were known as "imperialists" in China and
condemned in official Party propaganda. At the same time, many memorialized the tragedy
with a candle emoticon -- which was famously
censored on the 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen
crackdown earlier this year. Others spoke of where they were when they heard
the news, or what they remembered from that day.
Social media has brought the concept of global
citizenship closer than ever to reality, softening national boundaries and
identities. At the same time, as today's discussions are a reminder, these
sites have made it easier than ever for nationalist sentiments to grow and take
shape. Weibo chatter about September 11 included both mocking and gleeful
nationalistic jabs as well as commentary about the universal nature of the
Some comments were neither celebratory
nor somber. Former head of Google in China, Kai-fu Lee, the 16th most followed
person on Sina Weibo, remarked that September 11 was the day the Internet began to overtake
television as a source for up-to-the-minute news. This particular bit of "9/11"
commentary was reposted over 1,000 times. At least Chinese web users found one
thing to agree on.
This post produced in partnership with Tea Leaf Nation.