Saturday, December 10, 2022

Loudest nationalist in China retreats

Loudest nationalist in China retreats

During Donald Trump’s presidential administration, Hu often worked late hours responding to tweets from the President of the United States. They were followed by other Chinese diplomats and state media reporters who took advantage of US social media blocked in China to fend off critics of Beijing. At the same time, they occasionally provoked international controversy and exacerbated relations with other countries.

Growing up in Beijing, Hu was not always the epitome of party loyalty. As a graduate student in Russian literature in 1989, he joined a crowd of pro-democracy protesters gathered in Tiananmen Square. Since then, he has distanced himself from the demonstrations, claiming that he was misled by pro-democratic intellectuals, whom he described as childish and impulsive.

Taking control of the Global Times in 2005, he succeeded despite China’s repeated crackdowns on media freedom, imprisoning journalists and shutting down independent media outlets. His occasional criticism of the government was counterbalanced by patriotic Twitter salvos, which he frequently repost on Chinese social media, as if to show that he was protecting the country internationally.

This behavior helped him maintain his status as a loyal party adherent and a conductor of the views of the buttoned top leadership of Beijing. Investors, diplomats, and political pundits in both China and the United States have often skimmed his posts for clues of what Chinese leaders might be thinking, although opinions differ as to how militant tabloid editorials reflect Beijing’s position.

In recent years, Mr. Hu has occasionally found himself on the wrong side of the nationalism that he helped instill. This year, as India struggled to cope with the coronavirus outbreak, the Chinese state media ridiculed the tragedy by posting an image of a Chinese rocket about to launch next to one of the massive cremations, with the headline “China Ignition versus Indian Ignition.”

When Mr. Hu condemned the meme for damaging China’s reputation in India, another nationalist pundit fought back, saying China shouldn’t worry about flexing its political muscles and ridiculing image-worried critics with a crude term that is roughly equivalent to “Fights for pearls”. … “

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