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On Weibo, some are gloating over the shooting of Shinzo Abe, who has been called the “‘chief’ anti-China politician in Japan.”
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The shocking news that Shinzo Abe was shot twice during a campaign speech in the city of Nara on Friday morning has become top trending on Weibo, where many commenters show little sympathy for Japan’s former Prime Minister.
In the morning of July 8, 2022, Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (安倍 晋三) was shot twice during a speech for an election campaign event in the city of Nara. According to the latest reports, the 67-year-old Abe has been rushed to hospital. Update: just before 18:00 local time, news came out that Shinzo Abe died after being shot.
The shooting incident happened around 11:30 when Abe was giving an Upper House election campaign speech in front of Yamato-Saidaiji Station of the Kintetsu Line.
Ex-Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe (舛添要一), who was also at the event in Nara, tweeted that the former President was suffering “cardiopulmonary arrest” (心肺停止状態), meaning he is showing no vital signs.

According to the Asahi newspaper, a 41-year-old man by the name of Tetsuya Yamagami has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and the weapon was seized.
On Chinese social media, the incident immediately became a trending news topic and various images were shared showing the alleged suspect. Other photos showed the former Prime Minister laying on the ground surrounded by medical staff. The hashtag “Abe Shows No Vital Signs” (#安倍已无生命体征#) received over a billion views on Friday.
One Weibo news post about the shooting by CCTV received over 1,6 million likes. The top comment said: “Exam candidates, remember this for extra points: July 7 is the day of the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident that started China’s War of Resistance against Japan; July 8 the day when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot and killed.” The comment received nearly 100,000 likes.

Influential media blogger Zhang Xiaolei (@张晓磊) posted: “Walking alone down a dark alley*, this man will go down in the history of Japan,” referring to the gunman.
Some of the comments called the shooter a ‘hero’, saying he would no just also go into Japanese history, but also would be remembered in Chinese history books. The comment that “this is a historical day” is a recurring one on Weibo today.
Former Prime Minister Abe was President of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and he was the longest-serving prime minister in Japanese history from 2006 to 2007 and then again from 2012 to 2020. He retired as Prime Minister in 2020 due to health reasons.
 
An old man gets shot and falls to the ground yet you are gloating over it. Where is the morality? Where is your bottom line?
 
In China, Abe has never been popular. After his 2020 retirement, he visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine war memorial just days after stepping down. An 2021 editorial in the Chinese state media outlet Global Times called the former Prime Minister the “chief anti-China politician in Japan.” In a 2021 Security Dialogue on Taiwan-US-Japan, Abe said that “Taiwan must be a leader among democracies.” Some weeks earlier, he had also stated that “a Taiwan emergency is a Japanese emergency,” urging China not to provoke its neighbors or seek territorial expansion.
In 2017, a video of a Japanese kindergarten recital saying that the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands belong to Japan and that China should not “spread lies” about Japan went viral and sparked controversy on Chinese social media. That incident also put Shinzo Abe in a bad light as his wife previously visited the school, and he had reportedly once said that the ideology of the school’s chairman was similar to his.
Anti-Japanese sentiments often surface on Chinese social media, where the history of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) is still actively remembered (read more here).
“Shinzo Abe needs to let go of his hatred, excuse the gunman, and erase this part from history,” another popular Weibo comment said, sarcastically referring to previous Japanese history textbook controversies regarding the silencing of Japan’s war crimes.
But there are also those who are condemning those who apparently delight in the fact that the former Prime Minister was shot. One popular Weibo comment criticized these Weibo users, writing: “An old man gets shot and falls to the ground yet you are gloating over it. Where is the morality? Where is your bottom line?”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian (赵立坚) commented on the attack on Shinzo Abe during a regular press briefing on July 8, expressing shock and concern, adding: “We hope that former Prime minister Abe will be out of danger and recover soon.”
Some could not resist making a sarcasting comment in the post reply section, writing: “There is still the danger that he might live?”

Despite all the reactions expressing a negative stance toward Abe and Japan, some Weibo users are posting a candle emoticon for the former Prime Minister, writing: “Sending prayers for Shinzo Abe.”
Update: On Friday late afternoon, local media reported that Shinzo Abe died after the attack. Soon after, before 18:00 CST, the hashtag “Shinzo Abe Passed Away” (#安倍晋三身亡#) became the number one topic on Chinese social media platform Weibo, with the hashtag page receiving over 280 million views within thirty minutes.
Also read: Chinese Reporter Cries during Live Broadcast on Shinzo Abe Attack
To get more insights on Shinzo Abe, we can recommend The Iconoclast: Shinzo Abe and the New Japan by Tobias Harris (2020).
By Manya Koetse

* “孤身走暗巷”, “walking alone in a dark alley”, comes from a song titled “Lonely Warrior” (孤勇者) by Eason Chen.
 

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Chinese Reporter Cries during Live Broadcast Covering Attack on Shinzo Abe
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Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.
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Some voices say that regardless of a Taiwan visit by Pelosi, US-China relations have already reached one of the lowest points in decades.
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On Chinese social media there are different views on what a potential Taiwan visit by Nancy Pelosi might mean for China, the U.S., and Sino-American relations. But whether she might actually visit Taiwan or not, virtually nobody seems to be looking at the latest developments with rose-colored glasses.
She is called ‘the American Old Lady’ and ‘the Old Witch’ on Chinese social media. Nancy Pelosi, or Pèiluòxī (佩洛西), is all the talk on Weibo this week since reports came out that the U.S. House Speaker is planning a visit to Taiwan.
It is the second time this year a potential Pelosi Taiwan trip raises U.S.-China tensions. Earlier this year, there were also reports that Pelosi would lead a delegation to visit Taiwan on April 10. But just days before, on April 7, news came out that Pelosi had tested positive for Covid-19 and her Asia trip was postponed.
In July 2022, although not officially announced, reports again came out that Pelosi might visit Taiwan during her rescheduled Asia trip, during which she is planned to visit Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, and Japan (no mention of Taiwan as of July 31st). If she would also land in Taiwan, she would be the first House speaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years.
There have been several hashtag pages on Weibo dedicated to the topic of Pelosi’s alleged Taiwan visit. One of the hashtags popping up on Chinese social media on July 25 was “Pelosi Visiting Taiwan” (#佩洛西访台#). By July 30, there was the CCTV-initiated hashtag “If Pelosi Visits Taiwan, China’s Military Will Not Sit Back and Watch” (#若佩洛西访台中国军队绝不会坐视不管#).
On the same day, there was the Global Times-initiated hashtag “Trump Slams Pelosi’s Possible Visit to Taiwan” (#特朗普抨击佩洛西可能访台#), and “If Pelosi’s Visit Happens, Mainland Will Take Decisive Taiwan Measures” (#佩洛西若窜访成行大陆将对台采取断然措施#), hosted by the official account of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). And then there was the “Geng Shuang Says Involved Countries Should Not Play With Fire” hashtag (#耿爽说有关国家不要玩火自焚#), referring to an address by China’s deputy permanent representative to the UN. On July 29, Geng Shuang highlighted the apparent hypocrisy of individual countries repeatedly stressing the principle of sovereignty when it comes to Ukraine, while challenging China’s sovereignty when it comes to the Taiwan issue – and in doing so, “deliberately creating tensions.”
On Sunday, the hashtags “Pelosi” and “Pelosi Sends Our Four Messages without Mentioning Taiwan” (#佩洛西发文4条没提台湾#) (referring to these tweets by Pelosi) both went trending, receiving 110 and 270 million views respectively within one day.
What would Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan mean to mainland China? Chinese state media outlets are clear about China’s official stance. China Daily (Global Edition) headlined “Xi: No Room for interference on Taiwan question” on its newspaper frontpage on Friday. The English-language Global Times published a statement via Twitter, saying: “We have ways to raise the risk of Pelosi’s “performance” through the visit, greatly increase the cost of her performance, and boost the price she has to pay. Let Pelosi deeply realize that Taiwan island is not a place where she can run wild.”

In light of a two-hour telephone conversation between President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden on July 28, there were also some softer stances. The Chinese-language People’s Daily published an article suggesting that Sino-American relations should focus on strengthening communication to avoid misunderstandings and promote further cooperation between the two countries.
Meanwhile, there are many netizens and bigger bloggers discussing this issue on Chinese social media. Combing out all the posts on Pelosi flooding Weibo these days, there seem to be three main views shared by the majority, which we will further detail below.
 

A common stance on Chinese social media regarding Pelosi’s visit is that it would mean a U.S. recognition of Taiwan as an independent state, which is a direct provocation of mainland China.
One popular blogger (@封起De日子) writes:
“If Pelosi really visits Taiwan, it actually means the U.S. approves of Taiwan independence. Taiwan has then become de facto independent. Pelosi would be the third U.S. government person to do so, which is extraordinary. Taiwan is Chinese territory, and if we ignore such an undertaking, we would deny that foundation ourselves. This is a serious provocation. We have so far lacked a strong voice and statement, and the central government and the Central Military Commission and other departments should declare that Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan means a war provocation! If Pelosi’s plane enters China’s airspace and territorial waters of Taiwan, the armed forces of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army have the right to decisively shoot down (kill) it at any time! This position would be the right one for any sovereign country.”
Another commenter writes: “If Pelosi visits Taiwan in the next two days she’ll cause a war. If the country needs donations, I, as an ordinary Chinese citizen, am willing to donate to my country, and I would even be willing to sacrifice my life.”
“If a U.S. Army Aircraft dares to enter Taiwan, it is an invasion, and we can shoot it down,” an influential gaming blogger (@老刀99, over 2 million fans) also wrote.
This kind of reasoning follows that of the influential Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进), who suggested that a Taiwan visit by Pelosi would be a clear provocation, giving the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) “good reason” for “waging a war.”
One of Hu’s tweets, in which he voiced the view that U.S. military planes escorting Pelosi to Taiwan could potentially be shot down, was deleted from Twitter. He reported about this on his Weibo account.
Hu Xijin tweet which was deleted by Twitter on July 30.
In another post on July 31, Hu warned Taiwan leadership that by agreeing to a Pelosi visit and “seeking ‘international support,’” they are “forgetting that their fate is in the hands of the mainland.”
Some commenters said they actually hoped Pelosi would go to Taiwan in order to let the real conflict begin: “I hope Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan will succeed,” one Weibo user wrote: “These years, I’ve heard too many forced righteous words, I don’t know where our bottom line is anymore, I just see the non-stop favors, while they’re snickering and looking down on us. It’s no use when it’s all talk and no action and it’s ineffective to keep on crying wolf. Pelosi, come on!”
“If the day Pelosi visits Taiwan is the day we recover Taiwan, should we still prevent her from visiting?” another Weibo user wonders.
On July 28, Fujian’s Pingtan Maritime Safety Administration issued a navigation warning that there would be live-fire exercises on July 30 in the waters near Fujian, opposite Taiwan. On Weibo, the live-fire drill also became a topic of interest (#福建平潭部分海域实弹射击训练#), with many applauding the exercises.
“We must resolutely defend national sovereignty and defend our territorial integrity,” one commenter wrote.
 


 
Another view expressed on Chinese social media is that a potential Taiwan visit would be just for show, and that neither Pelosi nor the U.S. truly have Taiwan’s best interests at heart.
According to some, a visit to Taiwan would be nothing more than a political “fashion show” for Pelosi, since this might be the last big Asia trip for the 82-year-old politician. “It’s just a superficial performance,” one military blogger wrote. There are more people agreeing with this stance. “This is to show off her courage and guts as a way to end her term of office,” author Zhang Huilin writes (over 2M followers @张慧林).
Others also suggest that China would not start a war over such a move. Keluo Liaofu (@科罗廖夫), an author on military affairs with over 6 million fans, writes:
“If Pelosi really visits Taiwan, the mainland will certainly be furious, and there will be fierce retaliation, including military-diplomatic and economic retaliation such as halting certain Sino-American cooperations, expulsion of diplomats, and other punitive sanctions. Then, as things go, this will be forgotten after a few months.”
Another blogger describes Taiwan as a political play field, literally a ‘chessboard’, that is used by the big ‘chess players’ – China and the United States – who are also surrounded by other supporting players. Taiwan is just a “gambit” and it is not about Taiwan itself, the blogger suggests: the Taiwan issue is just a strategy for the U.S. to “suppress China” and the moves made by both the U.S. and China regarding Taiwan are ways to test out each other’s “red lines.”
“It’s all just bluff. She won’t even dare to visit,” another person writes.
 


Another view on the potential Taiwan visit is that whether Pelosi actually visits or not, reports about the trip have already brought China-U.S. relations to a new low point.
“Regardless of whether Pelosi visits Taiwan in whatever way, the political basis for U.S.-China relations is already severely broken, [because] it means that the national will of the United States does not take [our] relationship seriously at all,” one Weibo blogger writes: “No need to harbour any illusions.”
Some netizens express that China always has to be the ‘reasonable voice’ that is ignored by an obstinate and provocative America.
Weibo vlogger Yuanzhezhi (@袁者之) writes:
“As just one web user, and as a Chinese, I would like to express my personal voice. The U.S. side should stop obstinately persisting in making things go the wrong way, to insist on creating global unrest. Can they only be happy when there are regional tensions? If Pelosi ignores the voice of the Chinese, the consequences and responsibilities will be borne by the U.S. side. I hope that the U.S. can listen to some of the domestic and international voices of reason, and that they can stop obsessively making the same mistakes over and over again, resulting in an irreversible situation, moving further and further away from the U.S.-China relationship!”

Another popular educational blogger (@才疏学浅柏拉图, over 1M fans) writes:
“My guess is that America is not prepared, and that we’re not prepared enough either. But our public opinion is already shaped and fixed in place. It makes me think of how Zhuge Liang used the empty city to scare Sima Yi (t/n: reference to ‘Empty Fort Strategy‘, reverse psychology to scare the enemy). Maybe the American Old Lady ends up going to a third-party location where she’ll invite Taiwan leadership, so she can express the American support [for Taiwan] without making us lose face, but the struggle between the U.S. and China remains the same.”

Just before Sunday midnight, news blogger Dayue Chuqing (@大越楚卿) asked his followers what the motive might be for Pelosi to visit Taiwan.
While some say she is doing for herself and others suggest it’s U.S. power politics, there are also those who consider an entirely different motive: “Maybe she just really feels like eating Taiwanese cuisine.”
To read more of our articles on Sino-US relations, click here.
By Manya Koetse

 

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“We need to stay vigilant that there are now some foreign forces who are using what we post to show China in a bad light.”
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On Chinese social media platform Weibo, the death of Japan’s former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and related topics have been dominating top trending lists. By Friday night, seven of the ten top trending Weibo topics were about Shinzo Abe, with the topic “Abe Shinzo Passes Away” (#安倍晋三身亡#) receiving over 1,4 billion views on the platform on Friday. Other related hashtags also received millions of views.
Seven of the top ten trending topics on Weibo at time of writing are relating to the death of Shinzo Abe.
The number two topic on Friday was related to the suspect and what his motivation for the shooting might have been. Suspect Tetsuya Yamagami (山上徹也) is a 41-year-old Nara resident and former Japanese Self-Defense Force official.
Yamagami reportedly joined the Maritime Self Defense Forces for approximately three years during the 2002-2005 period. During this time, the suspect also received annual live-fire exercise training (#枪杀安倍嫌犯接受过实弹射击训练#).
Yamagami, who was unemployed since May of this year, reportedly stated he “did not hate Abe because of his political stance” (#嫌疑人称并非因政治立场对安倍产生恨意#) but was “dissatisfied with Abe’s attitude outside of his political ideas.” The weapon used by the suspect was allegedly a homemade firearm.

After several international media reports had come out on Friday regarding Chinese social media responses to Abe’s death (see our What’s on Weibo report here), the influential Global Times commentator Hu Xijin (胡锡进) posted a video on Weibo on late Friday night as part of his Hu Says commentary series, addressing this topic.
Hu wrote: “After Abe was assassinated, some external forces took advantage of our netizens’ straightforward expressions to cast China in a bad light, and their malicious manipulation is yet again running at full speed. Let’s be vigilant about this and be aware at all times that they are using our online statements to look for material to make China look bad.”
Hu Xijin in his video.
Hu refers to various online reports and tweets about the fact that many Chinese netizens had little sympathy or even expressed joy over the death of Japan’s former prime minister, with some calling the shooter a ‘hero.’ As reported here, a seeming majority of Weibo users commenting on the attack on Abe made it seem like it was a positive thing instead of an evil act.
In his Hu Says video, Hu Xijin comments on the difference in how Shinzo Abe is perceived in the West and in China, where he is blamed for the deterioration in Sino-Japanese relations due to his rightwing nationalist and pro-military stance, including his visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine during and after his time in office.
Hu Xijin expressed that it was “normal” for ordinary netizens to speak their minds about Shinzo Abe, just as foreign social media users also speak their minds whenever something happens in China. Hu condemned how some foreign media allegedly used these public sentiments as if it was the Chinese standard, smearing China in doing so.
Hu himself had previously issued a statement on Weibo (where he has 24 million followers) in which he expressed grievances about what had happened to Abe, and he also shared this post on his Twitter (474K followers).
I feel sympathy for Abe. I publicly expressed my sympathy in a post today on Chinese social media Weibo. The post garnered 86,000 likes in just over an hour and is one of the hottest posts about Abe's incident on the Chinese social media. pic.twitter.com/BB7kPGlsau
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) July 8, 2022

“We need to stay vigilant,” Hu said: “that there are now some foreign forces who are using what we post to show China in a bad light.” Hu also added that ordinary Chinese people should be able to straightforwardly express how they feel about international affairs without their views being interpreted and magnified as if they were the official diplomatic stance on the matter.
“Don’t they also worship Yasukuni and interfere in the Taiwan issue without considering our feelings?” one top comment said, with others saying: “The comments shouldn’t serve anyone, this is just how netizens are.”
“It doesn’t matter what we do or say, they’ll always find ways to cast China in a bad light anyway,” another commenter wrote.
“We’re people, not robots, we’ll express what we feel. If Japan had invaded them at the time, how would they feel?”
Some people apparently cared more about other things: “Hu, it’s so late, why are you still posting and not sleeping yet?!”
Also read: Anti-Japanese Sentiments on Weibo after News of Shinzo Abe Getting Shot in Nara
Also read: Chinese Reporter Cries during Live Broadcast Covering Attack on Shinzo Abe
By Manya Koetse

 

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