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Nationalists “Pinkfished” Into Calling Mao Zedong a Traitor
Nationalists "Pinkfished" Into Calling Mao Zedong a Traitor

Nationalists “Pinkfished” Into Calling Mao Zedong a Traitor

One of the subtler ways Chinese internet users voice their displeasure with the status quo is through “pinkfishing” (粉红钓鱼, fěnhóng diàoyú), tricking nationalist “little pinks” into criticizing Party leaders—generally by quoting those leaders without attribution. A classic example from 2021 saw online nationalists berate a Weibo user as a “race traitor,” “Japanese devil,” and general lunatic for writing, “We should not despise a nation because a small cadre of militarists in their midst instigated an invasion …” while quoting a People’s Daily post memorializing the Nanjing Massacre. The call for tolerance, as it turns out, was taken from a 2014 Xi Jinping address commemorating the massacre. Nationalists had inadvertently called Xi Jinping a traitor. 

A new classic of “pinkfishing” can be added to the annals. On April 4, an earthquake occurred off the east coast of Japan. Other recent earthquakes have triggered outbursts of online schadenfreude wishing death and destruction on Japan. After the April 4 earthquake, Weibo user @樱雪丸 (@yīngxuěwán or “Sakura Snowball”) wrote: 

#JapaneseEarthquake “The history of Sino-Japanese relations is quite long. Since the dawn of humanity eons ago, we’ve coexisted in peace. We can forget all our ancestors’ squabbles and battles. We should forget all that because they’re unhappy memories. What’s the use in remembering them?” [Chinese]

The post was immediately pounced on by nationalists attacking “Sakura Snowball” as a traitor, or perhaps even secretly Japanese. One Weibo user called them a “walking 1,000,000,” a botched reference to a “walking 500K,” online slang for the 500,000 yuan reward offered by the Chinese Ministry of State Security for catching spies. One user went so far as to write: “Trash like you are either spies or Japanese. Either way, I’d stab you on sight.”

None of the incensed commenters realized that Sakura Snowball had been referencing a Mao Zedong quote made during a 1955 visit by Japanese politicians to the Chinese mainland, and recorded in a compilation of his writings on foreign policy. “Sakura Snowball” responded to the Weibo user who expressed a desire to stab them by saying, “Why don’t you take it up with him?” When the user realized it was a Mao quote, they deleted their post. One netizen summarized the entire ordeal succinctly: “[Little pinks] discovered some traitorous imperialist rhetoric, but the catch was … it was a quote from Ol’ Mao.”