Dissing Huawei on Chinese social media is a bad idea
Chinese netizens angry over US Huawei ban lash out at internet celebrity
Imagine being banned from buying phones from one of the largest US retail stores for Tweeting something bad about Apple. This week, this implausible fate struck a web celeb. The difference was that it happened in China on the microblogging platform Weibo, and it wasn’t Apple at the center of the dispute. It was Huawei.
On Monday, internet celebrity Luo Yufeng, better known as Sister Feng, published a post saying “Huawei should have collapsed earlier.” The comment caused an unexpected outpouring of anger.
The post came in the wake of Huawei getting put on a US trade blacklist last week, which has put one of China’s largest tech companies in a precarious position. The company is now cut off from US software, including Google services for its Android smartphones, which could be a critical blow to Huawei’s international smartphone business.
After the post went viral, Chinese electronics retailer Suning solemnly announced on Weibo that it will no longer sell phones to Ms. Luo.
“Dignity must not be trampled upon,” Suning announced on its official Weibo account for mobile phone sales. The post has since been deleted.
This is not the first time Luo’s bluster has gotten her into trouble. The now US-based manicurist is known for calling herself the brightest human being in the past three centuries and the smartest person for the next 300 years, among other controversial statements. At one point, she was called the most hated reality star in China by the New York Post.
The internet star first rose to fame (infamy?) in 2009 after posting an ad in Shanghai for a boyfriend, which included some extremely high demands like having graduated from a top Chinese university, working at a Fortune 500 company and no prior girlfriends. For some online commentators, this seemed like a tall order from someone they thought was a short, plain-looking woman making US$146 a month.
Luo’s high profile and penchant for controversy made her the perfect target online, but criticizing internet stars is just one way Chinese netizens are expressing support for Huawei. Weibo and Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, have been full of comments cheering on the company, with people promising to buy only Huawei phones and calling for it to make its own smartphone OS.
It’s not even the first time China’s internet is fuming over what is seen as unfair treatment towards Huawei. Last year’s arrest of Huawei CFO and deputy chairwoman Meng Wanzhou (and the daughter of the company’s founder Ren Zhengfei) sparked a similar outburst of support for the company and calls to boycott Apple.
The outrage went so far that several national parks in China temporarily gave free entrance to Huawei phone owners (although many were wondering if it was just a publicity stunt).
The recent exacerbation of the US-China trade war has reignited these sentiments. The weekend after the announcement of the Huawei ban, a patriotic song called Trade War went viral on China’s dominant messaging app WeChat, Bloomberg reported. State media has also been rallying for Huawei with CCTV airing old anti-US movies about the Korean war and a 2-hour interview with Ren Zhengfei.
Meanwhile, Sister Feng decided to delete the Weibo post in question, saying that she did not read the news in recent days and was surprised by the strong reaction. Some expressed doubt that this was true, but many of the comments seemed ambivalent about her stance towards Huawei or the scuffle with Suning.
“Two attention-seekers,” said one highly-upvoted Weibo comment.