Guyanmuchan, a Chinese blogger from China, is a friendly figure on Weibo with her smile.
On China’s Twitter, the young woman has over 6.4 Million followers. Here she shares hot takes on current events and posts videos.
Her brand’s cute design aesthetics, which include a beautiful picture of a young girl in the woods on her page — belie her sometimes acidic tone.
According to recent posts, the European Union has been “deadly attached” to America. One other said that rising Covid rates in Texas, the US state, was evidence of “civil warfare” and “Americans currently kill one another using biological warfare”.
Guyanmuchan, also known as “ziganwu”, is one of a growing number of Chinese bloggers whose fame has been directly linked to the rise of Chinese nationalism.
They are the notorious “wumao”, army of trolls that is paid to propagandize state propaganda. But the difference between them and the “ziganwu”, they do this for no cost.
Many of their videos and posts, which are shared by thousands, criticise Western media and countries. Also, issues like democracy, human rights and multiculturalism that are considered “corrupting Chinese society” by Western influences have been examined.
Individuals who are perceived as pro-separatism, such as Taiwanese and Hong Kong’s pro-democracy campaigners and activists as well intellectuals and specialists, often find themselves in the crosshairs.
Fang Fang is a well-known writer for her detailed account of the Wuhan epidemic’s early stages that has attracted worldwide attention. Shangdizhiying posted a viral post last year accusing “ziganwu”, a blogger from “ziganwu,” of making the “deepest stab” in their backs and creating the “biggest weapons used by anti China forces to destroy us.”
Zhang Wenhong, a top-ranking medical expert, was made a target recently after suggesting that China learn to live with Covid. This is contrary to official policy.
Bloggers immediately found an unpublished dissertation from the university and accused it of plagiarism. The University later dispelled this allegation. His suggestion that kids should have milk as breakfast was seen by many bloggers as an indication that he rejected traditional Chinese values and breakfast. Is this not too much West worship and too much fawning about foreigners? Pingminwangxiaoshi wrote.
Experts agree that such posts are viral because they can often be short and emotive.
Manya Koetse, a Chinese analyst on social media says that this is “fast food nationalism”. “People eat one bite, then share the rest, and forget all about it.”
The rise in patriotic Chinese sentiment is often seen as a result of growing tensions between China, the West and China. But that’s only half of the story.
Nationalism has increased in many parts of the world in an increasingly globalised environment, but in China it coincided with President Xi Jinping’s strongly promoted Chinese identity and rapid ubiquity social media.
The “ziganwu” include many young people who “often grew-up with a strong sense of patriotism and pride in China, and were fed historical memories of nation humiliation,” says Ms Koetse. You get an explosive mixture of pro-Chinese and anti-foreign sentiments, with a focus on Chinese culture.
They are gaining prominence because China is increasingly imposing strict rules online speech. This results in heavy censorship on activists and citizens. Weibo, WeChat and other platforms regularly remove sensitive posts.
Contrary to this, advocates of the Chinese government seem to get more airtime, observers say. Some even claim that state media amplifies their voices by reposting or reprinting them on social media.
Although it isn’t known if these “ziganwu”, have any direct connections to the state or not, some of them have been invited by their provincial governments to attend events and received honorary titles.
Guyanmuchan is actually Shu Chang. Her essay “You are Chinese” was first published in 2014. In July, she was named an “internet ambassador” for Guangdong province. She appeared at Yantai’s blogger event and gave a lecture.
BBC reached out to her but did not receive a response.
These “ziganwus” are one aspect of an extensive eco-system.
Many of the patriotic discourse on Chinese social media platforms, especially Weibo are still driven by state media outlets that can influence discussions by creating and promoting a single #hashtag – just as they did during Xinjiang’s cotton backlash.
However, there are also smaller groups of influencers which feed the outrage machine. These include digital artists, university professors and foreign vloggers.
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China’s online regulations require users to encourage party propaganda. Harpre Ke is an analyst from think-tank Doublethink Lab.
It’s possible to be an opportunity seeker. He said that if I wanted to become a social media expert, this is how I could be famous in the toxic environment of nationalists that has been created.
Analysts say that even though they are not paid directly by the government, influencers can still reap the benefits of having their profile boosted in national media. This recognition is used to help build personal brands.
They can make significant income from paid content and advertisements if they have a larger readership. Fang Kecheng is a communications and journalism professor. He estimates that accounts on social media with more than one million followers can earn the equivalent to a few hundred thousand dollars per annum.
In return, the state reaps benefits. The state, for example, “ziganwu” can give talks and “invites them to do the ideology work.” These bloggers are successful role models and icons because they have been invited to speak. [of propaganda]”
Weibo, Wechat, and other social media platforms like Weibo, play an important role in promoting and recommending posts that promote loyalty to the Communist Party. They also stand to gain commercially. He says, “It improves engagement and user activity so it’s an excellent strategy for them.”
Influencers tread a fine line and sometimes go too far with their passion.
Some “ziganwu”, which speculated that Covid was leaked from an American laboratory, and other posts attacking Zhang Wenhong have been removed. The state media carried an impassioned essay calling for revolutionary Communist reforms. It was then temporarily censored after controversy online.
Ms Koetse states that sometimes the rules about what you can and cannot say are very unclear. For these influential people to vanish, it takes only one Weibo posting.
They might prove useful for the formal discourse, provided their convictions align with official policy. However, if they become unhelpful or are perceived to be against the law, it is not a good idea. [the government’s]”Discourse” – it will be.
Many are willing to take on this risky game.
Guyanmuchan, a late September user of Weibo, was immediately banned from publishing new content for fifteen days. The platform stated that she had violated community guidelines.
Instantly, she promoted an older post that directed readers to an alternative page. Here she posted her usual torrent of strident posts.
She wrote, “I have set up this little account.” “Just incase something happens.”
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