breadcrumb

Spotted on Weibo: Chinese Leaders Share a Human Moment

Spotted on Weibo: Chinese Leaders Share a Human Moment

Wen Jiabao and Hu Jintao Appear to Laugh a Rare Laugh

An active Beijing-based micro-blogger named Dongdong Wang recently tweeted this image on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter: 

@東東旺/Weibo
“I really like this picture,” wrote weibo user Dongdong Wang. “Why doesn’t our media give us more images of leaders like this one, instead of always making them look so old-fashioned? (In fact, our country has not become rigid at all; could it be that [our] media has scared itself half to death, and become rigid on its own?)”

At first glance, it doesn’t look like much: Outgoing Premier Wen Jiabao (left) and outgoing President Hu Jintao (right) appear to share a laugh following a day’s work at the recent 18th Party Congress. It’s an eminently human moment–and therein lies the rub. Wang wrote, “I really like this picture. Why doesn’t our media give us more images of leaders like this one, instead of always making them look so old-fashioned? (In fact, our country has not become rigid at all; could it be that [our] media has scared itself half to death, and become rigid on its own?)”

Since its posting on November 23, this simple image has been retweeted over 103,000 times. But perhaps chary of the discussion that would result, censors suspended the threaded comment function on the post. That means that Weibo users do not have an easy way to comment directly on the image or Wang’s assertion, which means no ad hoc discussion forum can form around this very resonant image.

The decision to suspend comments on an individual post is not particularly rare. But it’s still no small matter. Tea Leaf Nation has long viewed Weibo’s threaded comment function as the platform’s “best, most democratizing feature.” In fact, China’s government took aim at precisely this feature in April, suspending comments across Weibo in early April in an effort to to put its foot down following online rumors of a high-level coup.

It’s ironic that censors would revert to such tactics when faced with an image that could only burnish Chinese leadership in the public’s eyes. Perhaps Wang’s critique of the mainstream media singed the wrong sets of ears, or perhaps censors worried commenters would take the chance to share opinions less charitable toward authorities than Wang’s. In all fairness, the image itself was possibly leaked by a photojournalist with the credentials to access the 18th Congress who became frustrated with the bar on publishing anything beyond the most stoic fare. At least the image was seen far and wide in the Chinese blogosphere, although for Wen’s and (especially Hu’s) would-be image-makers, it’s too little, too late.

Topics: 

Share

Share/Save

Media

04.15.16

A ‘Lost’ Daughter Speaks, and All of China Listens

A woman in her mid-40s cradled a scrap of blue cloth checkered with red. “Have you seen this before?” she asked. “Do you recognize this pattern?”I held it up to the light and noticed the cotton edges had frayed and tattered over years. “We already...

Media

04.14.16

‘Taiwan Independence’ Doesn’t Mean What You Think

On February 23, all eyes were on Taiwan’s new Member of Parliament Freddy Lim as he took the podium at the Legislative Yuan for the first time. Lim is now best known as the heavy metal rock star who, following January 2016 elections on the self-...

Media

04.05.16

Chinese Censors Rush to Make ‘Panama Papers’ Disappear

David Wertime
On April 3, the Washington, D.C.-based non-profit International Committee of Investigative Journalists dropped what struck many as a bombshell: news that a leaked trove of 11.5 million previously secret files from Panama-based law firm Mossack...