People’s Liberation Army Major General Luo Yuan debuted on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, just as a true military man should—with a big blitz and an ensuing war-in-words.
On February 20, Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper, published an article headlined: “What Asahi-readers should know: The Truths of China. PLA Major General says ‘Will Bomb Tokyo’.” The subhead read: “If military conflict erupts, we will take the 130 thousand Japanese citizens in China as hostages.”
Feng Wei, a Japan specialist at Fudan University, posted a photo of the original Asahi article along with a Chinese translation on his own Weibo account. Feng also wrote, “Some people do not understand why I repeatedly criticize Luo Yuan and Zhang Zhaozhong [another PLA major general]. Japan’s propaganda has partially answered this question. Try asking yourselves: what reactions would this type of opinion incite in the Japanese and international community?”
Feng later added, “China is large—nothing is too bizarre. It’s not inconceivable that lunatics like Luo Yuan and Dai Xu [a PLA Air Force Colonel known for his militarism] would appear. But even the most extremist, rightist, anti-China military personnel in Japan would not make crazy statements like ‘Bomb Beijing’ that would astonish the entire world.”
Luo lost no time in retaliating. The day after Feng posted his comment, Luo published a blog entry titled “A rumor repeated a hundred times is still a rumor” on his Sina Boke account (Sina Corp.’s blogging platform, sister site of Sina Weibo).
The post was an ad hominem response with a nationalistic twist: “Feng Wei: when I did ever say such words as ‘we will bomb Tokyo?’…You are a professor. When you speak, you need proof. Don’t be a mouthpiece for Japan. I tell you: I have never said such a thing. Do you believe the Chinese people, or the Japanese?”
Japanese netizens laugh
Perhaps fortunately for regional stability, Japanese citizens are not exactly shrinking in fear of a possible Chinese-led bombardment. Whatever Luo Yuan’s intent may have been in making his statement—if he did actually say it—he now has established himself as little more than a screeching hawk in the eyes of Japanese Web users. Luo certainly did not succeed intimidating Japanese citizens into submission.
Users on Channel 2, a Japanese online discussion forum with over 11 million users, responded to Luo’s threats with smirks and jeers. “As the saying goes: the weaker the dog, the louder it barks,” wrote one user. “If China were serious about bombing Tokyo, they wouldn’t do something as stupid as revealing their plans before the war even starts. Well, that is, if they are sane military men.”
Some questioned China’s military capabilities: “You really think a missile would be able to fly freely across the Japan archipelago?”
Yet others placed this issue in the context of international law and relations. “Do the Sina [derogatory Japanese slang for China] people not think about airspace rights?” posted one user. “Even if they were to succeed, do they not realize what the meaning behind bombing Tokyo—a city filled with embassies from around the world—is?” “Is China really going to turn various countries’ embassies and UN organizations into enemies?”
Barbs from home
At home in China, many Web users showered stinging personal attacks on Luo Yuan as well. When he tweeted a paean to himself—“General Luo Yuan is a soldier as well as a scholar…His suggestions are extremely reasonable and brilliant. The military analysis he gives is the most popular on TV”—netizens exploded with laughing smiley faces.
Li Kaifu, founding president of Google China and a popular micro-blogger with over 30 million Weibo followers, made a joke of this on his account: “Dr. Li Kaifu is a businessman as well as a scholar. His analysis of Weibo issues is very precise, his suggestions extremely reasonable, fair, and brilliant. The inspirational speeches he gives are the most popular among universities!”
Sina Military, a seemingly government-backed Weibo account that transmits military-related news, swiftly posted a comment stating that Luo’s account had been hacked. Unfortunately for Luo, this only prompted more jibes: “A country’s security specialist—yet it seems he doesn’t even know how to change his password,” wrote @我爱燕莎.
In China, mixed feelings
Other reporting has cast Luo Yuan as a laughingstock among Chinese Web users. However, based on Tea Leaf Nation’s research, this conclusion seems premature. Despite previous attacks, Luo Yuan seems to have won over many netizens in his Weibo war against Feng Wei.
There are indeed some Web users who rebuke Luo for his “Will Bomb Tokyo” statement. “Luo is a lunatic—but we already knew this,” @托比亚斯小朋友 commented. “What, are you still living in the Qing dynasty? China has distorted you!” wrote @动感超哥-.
However, many more netizens showed support for Luo Yuan’s jingoism.
“I support Major General Luo Yuan!” shouted @雨季中的红雨伞, adding a thumbs-up at the end of his post. “Hurray for Major General Luo Yuan! Major General Luo Yuan, how wise and farsighted!…those animals that attack [him] are imbeciles!” wrote @和中风景如霁.
Others showered abuse upon Feng Wei, denouncing him as a traitor. “[Feng Wei] you dog, don’t let me see you—if I ever see you I will hit you! You Japanese bastard! Your mother is a Japanese dog!” cursed @大树脚下的山鹰. @华英雄V牛B wrote, “You scumbag, do you know what “homeland” means? …You’re worse than dogs!” User @蛮仔 went as far as to say: “I look forward to the bombing of Tokyo. While you’re at it, blow up these elite professors, too.”
As the Chinese say, “Peacetime is the biggest reward and the biggest threat for a soldier.” But for mighty Luo Yuan, peace is no problem. He now has a new front in which to flex his muscles: Weibo.