China social media addicts gave India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi a hammering when he ventured onto Weibo on Monday. Although Modi considers himself a dab hand on Twitter when speaking to his loyal subjects, Chinese citizens gave him another attitude when he tried to play Weibo emperor. Comments like, “Buddhism is the glue that holds Asian countries together,” sounded too much like neo-colonialism to many.
When he added that the faith “can become a strong force of cohesion, and make this century the century of Asia,” he earned a mixed response that should give him cause for second thought. Some China social media posters went as far as reminding him of Indian violence against women as epitomised by that dreadful incident on a late night bus. Incidents like these run counter to liberating trends among Chinese women.
China Social Media Users Deliver Low Blows
Other China social media users delivered low blows I won’t go into because I do not want to encourage distrust of strangers. Things started well for Narendra Modi when he posted that he was “looking forward to interacting with Chinese friends through Weibo,” and accumulated close to 13,000 likes and nearly 24,000 followers. Unfortunately for him, the ancient deep-seated distrust between Asia’s giant neighbours took over and was too big for him to crack.
Modi Walks into Public Relations Disaster
From a public relations point of view India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have done more harm than good. If he hoped to turn around Indian utterances that China’s growth in military and economic power threatened its populous neighbour, then he should have chosen a traditional media conference where he had more control.
China social media have become a force to reckon with. If Modi was hoping to forge a more constructive relationship with Chinese citizens then I fear he did more harm than good. However hopes of more relaxed trade between the two giant nations are not destroyed. They just need a little panel beating.