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David Wertime

Japanese Adult Film Actress Tries Online Diplomacy, But Word Order Gets In the Way

Sola Aoi recently waded into the latest Chinese-Japanese conflict. By Silly Thing Entertainment via Wikimedia Commons

As tensions over what the Chinese call the Diaoyu Islands and the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands gather like a storm cloud, Sora Aoi, also known as Sola Aoi, has extended an olive branch across the turbulent waters. Ms. Aoi is, according to Wikipedia, “a Japanese AV idol, nude model, and media personality.”

Ms. Aoi recently tweeted two images via iPhone from her account (@苍井空) on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, where she has over 13 million followers. Both are pictured at bottom. The first reads “Japanese-Chinese Friendship,” with Ms. Aoi commenting in broken Chinese, “I hope there are good relations between we common people…I am [living in] the same world as you. Sad…” The second reads “Chinese-Japanese People’s Friendship.”  

One Japanese car owner set the vehicle on fire in protest; slogans hang in the background. Via Weibo

As of this writing, the images have been collectively retweeted over 120,000 times and received over 130,000 comments, with these numbers seemingly growing every few seconds. Her name is the top trending topic on Sina Weibo as well by far, with twice as many mentions as the actual name “Diaoyu Islands.”   

Chinese netizens have reacted with great anger to the recent spat, which only escalated after word got out that Beijing had deployed patrol ships toward the Diaoyu/Senkaku after Japan nationalized the islands. Recently, when a Chinese netizen tweeted a relatively moderate info graphic about the history of the islands, he was subjected to widespread criticism. Another popular image making the current Weibo rounds shows a car engulfed in flames; apparently, a Shanghai car owner set his own Japanese-made car on fire in protest of Japanese actions. 

Yet there is also humor. Many netizens have taken to writing, “The Diaoyu Islands Belong to China; Sora Aoi belongs to the world.” {{1}}[[1]]钓鱼岛是中国的,苍老师是世界的[[1]]  

That sentiment is proving true of Ms. Aoi’s Weibo account. As netizen comments flooded in, a wide range of emotion was visible, from those proclaiming their love for Ms. Aoi to those calling her a “Japanese dog.” A majority, however, were negative. Many referred to Japanese war crimes in Nanjing, China, during World War II. Many others took aim at Aoi’s broken Chinese, while a great many noted that her first tweet should not have called for “Japanese-Chinese” friendship–rather, China should have been listed first. Ms. Aoi took the latter commentary to heart, reversing the order in her subsequent tweet after only seven minutes.

But Aoi’s linguistic turnabout did not appear to placate netizens. Indeed, by the time she issued her second tweet, more extreme (and obscene) tweets had seemingly drowned out many of the encouraging voices that initially responded to Aoi’s first overture. One netizen kept it clean, writing only, “One mountain does not have room for two tigers.” {{2}}[[2]]一山不容二虎[[2]]

With even seasoned diplomats getting into Twitter wars these days, it’s difficult to speculate exactly why Ms. Aoi chose this moment to dip her toe into the nastiest geopolitical conflict in East Asia. If she wished to broaden her oeuvre, the move may have come at a steep price. If she was merely trying to bring Chinese and Japanese people together, Ms. Aoi’s reception demonstrates the difficulty of that task in a time of rising tension.

This article also appeared on the Atlantic, a Tea Leaf Nation partner site.

Aoi's first attempt described "Japanese-Chinese" friendship. Via Weibo
Aoi's second attempt, seven minutes later, made sure to put "China" first. Via Weibo

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David Wertime

David is the co-founder and co-editor of Tea Leaf Nation. He first encountered China as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2001 and has lived and worked in Fuling, Chongqing, Beijing, and Hong Kong. He is a ChinaFile fellow at the Asia Society and an associate fellow at the Truman National Security Project.
  • http://twitter.com/paulguogo Paul Guo

    She has nice calligraphy, I must say.

  • http://twitter.com/paulguogo Paul Guo

    She has nice calligraphy, I must say.

  • Jim in China

    Funny…Chinese don’t even realize that traditional Chinese, read top to bottom is also read right to left. So she was right the first time. Shame on Chinese for letting Japanese teach them how to write traditional calligraphy correctly

    • RedThumb

      Traditionally, when you write horizontally, you write from left to right, in this case “China-Japan” is correct. When you write vertically, you write from the right to the left.

  • Jim in China

    Funny…Chinese don’t even realize that traditional Chinese, read top to bottom is also read right to left. So she was right the first time. Shame on Chinese for letting Japanese teach them how to write traditional calligraphy correctly

    • RedThumb

      Traditionally, when you write horizontally, you write from left to right, in this case “China-Japan” is correct. When you write vertically, you write from the right to the left.

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  • dchoi

    Getting upset over the ordering of Japan-China is really all that needs to be said about nationalistic attitudes in China

  • dchoi

    Getting upset over the ordering of Japan-China is really all that needs to be said about nationalistic attitudes in China

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