Discover more from Following the yuan
What are Chinese people saying about the 'spy balloon' on social media? | Following the yuan
Translation of comments about the 'Chinese spy balloon' from Weibo, Bilibili and Douyin, with 1.65 billion monthly active users in total
Two days after the alleged Chinese surveillance balloon was found in Montana, I’ve seen three main schools of thought on Chinese social media:
Some think it’s funny that D.C. is making it a big deal. Many call it the wandering balloon, a reference to the Sci-Fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth 2, there are also people calling it ‘Sky Lantern 孔明灯’ (releasing one of them is part of the ritual for the upcoming Lantern Festival this Sunday).
Some say that the U.S. has done it to other countries, too.
Few think it’s fair for the U.S. to raise suspicion.
The sentiment of comments varies with the nature of the platform as well, as you can see —
Weibo, a Twitter-like social media platform with 584M MAU:
“The Pentagon rejects China’s civilian explanation, it considers that the balloon has surveillance capability but it doesn’t want to show proof, and it said the balloon can mobilize itself.
Are you done? You cannot accuse others because you’ve surveilled other countries with spy balloons and said U-2 aircraft only do weather surveillance. We’ve already shown ‘regrets’, what else do you want?”
“The most amusing news must be the wandering balloon this morning…
A weather airship was blown over to the U.S…
U.S.: China threats! China spies! China is problematic!
China: It’s just a civilian balloon, if you don’t like it, you can shoot it down.
I won’t say a word if I can.”
Bilibili, YouTube-like video platform with 332 MAU:
First comment below: “Weather data actually has great value in military strategy, the atmospheric turbulence and scattering particles in the atmosphere of different altitudes in different regions are data that can serve as targeting metrics for laser weapon.”
First comment below: “It shows how highly vigilant of the U.S. people against us.”
Reply: “It’s normal, if you’re in Hunan or Hubei province and find a balloon from Pakistan, or find a Russian balloon in Guangdong or Guangxi province, you have to be vigilant without knowing the whole story (I don’t mean to instigate, I want to say that it has nothing to do with the China-US relations, there’s no precedent and has little likelihood to happen, so it’s normal to be suspecting of one another). What we want to be careful of is the U.S. using this as an excuse and cause trouble when the bilateral relations is already intense.”
Douyin, TikTok’s sister app in China with 730M MAU:
“By design, it doesn't look like it’s from China.”
“It’s not a spy balloon, it’s a sky lantern”
“Hope our technology would get better.”
“It’s just a sky lantern.”
“I heard China’s fridge can also surveil.”
“The moon is built by China to surveil the earth.”
“So what? It’s caused by natural forces, the U.S. should be more understanding”
“I only care whether it’s made its way back”
“As long as the data made it back”
“Did it just quietly fly over Canada? How does Canada feel about it now?”
“Same with Japan”
I personally agree with comments from Andrew Sorkin and Dewardric McNeal, Longview Global’s senior policy analyst:
McNeal: “You don’t get much value doing this other than a poke in the eye.”
Sorkin: “Are you putting this in the category of ‘poke in the eye’, premeditated intentional? Or ‘poke in the eye’…one hand not talking to the other hand, they just happen to be doing this, and the timing isn’t great?”
McNeal: “I think you’re right to point out both of those possibilities.”
Sadly, rationality doesn’t get much space in newsrooms these days. 🏁
Thanks for reading Following the yuan! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.