After Japan Earthquake Some Chinese Netizens Cheer, Some Cry

March 17, 2011 1:59 pm Last Updated: September 29, 2015 6:15 pm

In the wake of the deadly Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the Chinese blogosphere has been polarized in response.

Some Chinese netizens, having grown up in an environment of anti-Japanese vilification purveyed by official media channels, have been celebratory. Others, learning to think beyond the official message, have admired the calmness of the Japanese in the face of chaos and have criticized their countrymen’s response.

One blogger, calling himself “ggmm160,” noted on March 13 that searching Baidu, China’s most used search engine, for the term “enthusiastically celebrate earthquake in Japan” had 2.5 million results, while the number of search results after removing “enthusiastically” was 8.4 million.

“From the cheers after the 911 terrorist attack to the celebration after the earthquake in Japan, it proves that the number one, and probably the hardest, task of our country is to restore humanity,” he wrote. His post started a storm of debate and introspection that was later recirculated on the English-language blogosphere.

The reference to 911 recalled another viral article from 2002, where Professor Ge Hongbing of Shanghai University wrote that the day after the attack on the US, 80 percent of the students in a class of 180 “gloated over the misfortune and felt that they had finally gotten even” with the United States.

One blogger wrote of the Japanese earthquake, “when all the Japanese are dead I’ll be happy.” Another wrote “I wish Japan has wave after wave of earthquake and tsunami, and that they all die on the beach!” One user posted a banner hanging above a Chinese shop, saying: “Enthusiastically celebrate Small Japan’s 8.8 scale Big earthquake and Big tsunami.”

Online poet Zhu Guangbing apologized on behalf of Chinese for those who would celebrate the tragedy, in a March 13 post.

“When an earthquake happened in China, these netizens were sympathetic. When it happened in Japan, these netizens cheered. How come Chinese people are humans but not the Japanese? I understand and pity you,” he wrote.

He went on to attack the education that “swindles your benevolent souls and humanity,” and which is part of the school curriculum of young children, in the media, and in officially sanctioned sources. The official stereotypes have portrayed Japanese as scheming, ruthless, and short killing machines, something less than human.

Blogger “Xiao Y” posted on the popular bbs.163.com that “This is the result of education in China, a non-human education. The hate propaganda in Communist Party culture ruined the humanity of our nation.”

A Japanese student who has been in China for eight years wrote on a popular forum, “I like China, I like the hard-working kind people and the majestic landscape. However, all the good impressions were gone after the earthquake. When the quakes happened in Sichuan and Qinghai [China], numerous Japanese people prayed for and offered help to the Chinese people. When the Japanese are suffering, the people in the friendly neighboring country whom I liked are celebrating and complaining only a few died.”

Zhu believes most Chinese netizens are shocked by the anti-Japanese rhetoric and strongly condemn those who celebrate the earthquake. “These netizens are the left-wing angry people," he wrote. "They cannot represent the majority of netizens in China.”