As news spread in China yesterday that a Chinese fishing boat had rammed and sunk a Vietnamese fishing boat about 32km from a deep sea oil rig that China has placed in waters contested by both countries, the reaction in social media in China appeared overwhelmingly supportive — even bellicose.
“Chinese fishermen are mighty! There are still heroes among the people!” a person with the online handle Hou Ning wrote on his Sina Weibo account.
China’s Weibo forums have been heavily censored in recent months by the authorities, and it was virtually impossible to find a comment critical of the Chinese fishing boat action there.
However, other social media sites showed similar responses, such as on the popular Phoenix, or ifeng, bulletin board.
“This finally shows some backbone,” a commenter in Hubei Province wrote, garnering more than 6,600 thumbs-up signs.
The top-ranking comment on ifeng.com, with nearly 13,000 thumbs-up, from someone in Beijing with the handle Smog in the Imperial Capital, suggested that the Chinese were only doing to the Vietnamese what others have done to the Chinese.
“South Korea detains Chinese fishermen. Japan detains Chinese fishermen,” the person wrote. “Russia attacks them with cannons. A Chinese fishing boat rams and sinks a Vietnamese fishing boat, hahahahahahaha.”
Many Chinese regard Vietnam as a minor southern nation that was once a Chinese province.
Many commentators approvingly forwarded a statement by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Vietnam’s credibility in the international community is “very low.”
“I think the best way to frighten Vietnam is to attack Japan. Kill the monkey to scare the chicken,” wrote a person with the online handle The Ninth Number on My Identity Card Is Eight.
The phrase neatly turns around a Chinese saying that one should “kill the chicken to scare the monkey” — that is, frighten one’s real enemy by attacking a lesser one. The reversal both threatens and humiliates Vietnam, by suggesting it is a lesser nation.
The idea of a master-servant relationship was also highlighted.
“Originally Vietnam was a prefecture of China, today you are independent. Take good care of yourself and that’s enough, how dare you act rashly!” one person wrote.