BEIJING – News of United States House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit was the hottest topic on China’s social media over Tuesday (Aug 2) and Wednesday, with 19 of the top 20 trending hashtags related to the event, chalking up hundreds of millions of views and interactions.
The top three hashtags – “Pelosi lands in Taiwan”, “The PLA is obviously encircling Taiwan through its military exercises” and “Foreign Ministry responds to Pelosi visiting China’s Taiwan region” – garnered nearly 500 million engagements between them.
While the frenzy has since calmed down slightly, terms relating to Beijing’s announced sand ban and the Taiwan Affairs Office’s warnings are still among the top three most searched hashtags.
A live stream tracking the journey of Mrs Pelosi’s plane to Taipei by Chinese state media on chat app WeChat was watched by 22 million users on Tuesday, Reuters reported.
Such was the attention that it even briefly crashed social media platform Weibo on Tuesday night, moments after the delegation landed in Taipei.
“The American can visit Taiwan but I can’t even visit Weibo,” wrote media executive Su Li on WeChat.
In a post in the wee hours of Wednesday, Weibo said that overcapacity meant that mobile users could not access the service for nearly 1½ hours beginning just after 10pm Beijing time (10pm Singapore time).
The plane carrying the American delegation was scheduled to land at about 10.30pm and much of the country was glued to their phones waiting for updates.
The most nationalistic comments appeared to be promoted, with the hashtag “There is only one China in the world” at the top of the search function on Weibo.
Some nationalistic commentators also used derogatory language, referring to Mrs Pelosi as “the witch”.
The same language was also repeated by pro-China protesters in Taipei, who used similar language on placards while shouting for the Speaker to “get lost”.
Blogger Xiaoyuantoutiao wrote on Wednesday: “Going to bed yesterday night, I was so angry I could not sleep. But what angers me is not the online clamours for ‘starting a fight’, ‘spare the island but not its people’… (but that) this old she-devil, she actually dares to come!”
Some vented their frustrations at commentator Hu Xijin who had been fanning nationalist flames in the days leading up to Mrs Pelosi’s visit.