By Jianli Yang
The coronavirus outbreak in China in late 2019, which killed thousands there, saw people across the globe expressing solidarity with the Chinese. Now the virus is still creating worldwide havoc, and some Chinese prefer to derive sadistic pleasure from others’ agony. For example, on social media the ruling China Communist Party (CCP) mocked COVID-19 deaths in India, and many Chinese people cheered. China has become an economic and military superpower, but what the CCP did depicts an uncivilized society.
On Chinese social media platform Weibo, the CCP Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission posted two images—one showing a rocket launch in China and another of pyres burning at night in India. The caption read, “China lighting a fire versus India lighting a fire.” After a global backlash, the CCP deleted the callous post.
The Chinese government’s insensitive behavior created an uproar in India and elsewhere. Yaqiu Wang, who is a China researcher at Human Rights Watch, raised concerns over the “lack of decency” in both the Chinese government and the mindset of CCP officials. Editor and Sinologist Manya Koetse notes that the CCP’s Weibo account has 15 million followers, and the “insensitive” post was shared over 9,000 times before its deletion. CCP officials and the Xi Jinping-led government should feel a sense of regret as their failure to contain the viral infection in 2019 has crippled normal life worldwide and killed more than 3.47 million. Rather, they enjoyed ridiculing others, it seems.
While some in China lambasted the outrageous post, many, including top officials, gloated over deaths in India. Shen Yi, a professor at Fudan University, said the comparison of India’s funeral pyres and China’s rocket launch was “very good.” Even the official accounts of the Chinese Police Online and the Tianjin Municipal People’s Procuratorate published or shared the posts. The caption of one read, “China’s Fire Shine Mountain, India’s Fire Shine Mountain.”
A Chinese journalist, Chen Qingqing, was among the few in China who expressed displeasure over comparing the Chinese space mission and Indian health crisis. However, ultra-nationalists in China trolled her with abuses like “traitor” and “immature.”
The CCP and its nationalistic supporters’ viciousness during an emergency is not limited to mocking or ridiculing the sufferers. When India was running out of oxygen supply, China abruptly stopped supplying oxygen concentrators and other medical supplies to its neighbor.
It is not unusual for the Chinese to mock people, communities, or countries who are in distress. The hyper-nationalistic netizens of China erupted in joy after supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the US Capitol in January this year. Besides average Chinese people, state-run media house Global Times also took sadistic pleasure and called the unrest a “beautiful sight.” Some Weibo users even called the development “the plain and true and sincere feelings of the Chinese.” One user wrote, “China fights the virus while America riots—grateful to our motherland!” Commenting on a photo from the riot shared by Chinese news channel CCTV, a Chinese national said, “This photo could be on the cover of Time Magazine—it’s a testament to this era!” The Chinese newspaper People’s Daily even went ahead with calling the Capitol riot a “collapse” of the US system. “The unprecedented mob in the Capitol, a symbol of the US system, is the result of the US society’s severe division and the country’s failure to control such division… the US political system has degraded,” it read.
Moreover, many Chinese jeered at the alarming health situation in the US in 2020. The Chinese government posted a video on social media to mock America’s deteriorating health situation after the number of COVID-19 patients increased rapidly last year. Even the Chinese embassy in France shared the video on Twitter. Besides the CCP’s violations of religious minorities’ rights, ridiculing one in distress is certainly not the signature of a cultured and rich civilization.
Before they ridiculed others for the COVID-19 crisis, some Chinese in 2017 subjected India to a racist attack after the two countries locked horns over who controls the Doklam plateau. The Chinese news agency Xinhua published a video that mocked Indian soldiers. It was shocking to see a mainstream Chinese news agency post a racist video parodying Indians.
This racism and mockery have certainly dented China’s image and drained its already meager soft power while the CCP tries to forge its soft power narrative of a “Community of Common Destiny for Humankind.” Such behavior will hurt its rise on the world stage.
This article first appeared in Providence on May 27, 2021