The Tokyo Olympics is bringing complicated geopolitical relationships to the forefront on Chinese social media platforms, such as Weibo.
China sees the Olympics as an opportunity to showcase its national strength and, thus, medals are viewed as a sign of national pride by the public. However, some online users have been unhappy with the outcomes of certain events and have taken a nationalistic stand online.
Long-standing tensions between China and Japan, which stem from the Sino-Japanese War, emerged during the artistic gymnastics men’s final. In the event on 28 July, the Japanese athlete Daiki Hashimoto won gold and Chinese athlete Xiao Ruoteng received the silver medal.
Chinese celebrities and netizens questioned the fairness of the referees. They commented that not enough points were deducted for Hashimoto’s right leg leaving the competition area. In addition, Xiao lost 0.3 points because he didn’t make a signal to the referee to indicate that he had finished his performance, which Chinese netizens thought was unfair.
The topic “#Xiao Ruoteng won the silver medal in the artistic gymnastics men’s final” (#肖若腾获体操男子全能银牌) hit over 1.7 billion views on Weibo. Online users posted pictures and memes with references to the Sino-Japanese War, describing Hashimoto as a “Japanese national humiliation” and tagging him on Instagram.
China’s nationalistic “keyboard warriors” also emerged during other events.
On 1 August, the final of the women’s badminton singles took place between China’s Chen Yufei and Tai Tzu-Ying, who was representing Chinese Taipei. Ahead of the event, Xu Xidi, a Taiwanese celebrity who is very famous in mainland China, showed her encouragement and support for Tai on Instagram.
The TV host and actress gained a lot of negative attention online with Chinese netizens accusing her of supporting Taiwanese independence. Several brands dropped their contracts with her, including Qing Yang and Darentang, who dismissed her on the basis of the “One China” principle.
Meanwhile, in the badminton doubles final, China’s Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen lost to Chinese Taipei, causing them to be the subject of a large number of negative comments.
While there have been many posts congratulating the success of Chinese athletes in Tokyo, they have also received a lot of trolling online. Sharpshooter Yang Qian, who won the first gold medal of the Olympics, was criticised for a previous Weibo post in which she was pictured with a collection of Nike shoes. Nike has been boycotted by many Chinese consumers due to their decision not to use Xinjiang cotton.
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