Amid a market rout that brought Chinese stocks to a five-year low, a state media that continues to push blindly optimistic economic bromides, and a constricted online environment in which the Ministry of State Security has warned against economic pessimism, anxious Chinese investors have found an unlikely venue in which to express their concerns—the comments section of a U.S. Embassy Weibo post about giraffes.
The post, which appeared Friday on the official Weibo account of the U.S. Embassy in China, discussed scientists’ use of satellite data to track and monitor the movements of giraffes, and to identify suitable habitats for the long-necked ruminants. But the comment section below the post soon morphed into a freewheeling forum on the state of the Chinese economy and the recent turmoil in its stock and bond markets, with hundreds of Weibo users jumping in to jest, kvetch, or commiserate. Some even begged the U.S. Embassy to help rescue the Chinese stock market, or to allow them to invest in the American stock market or emigrate to the U.S. This is not the first time people have appealed to the embassy in this way: when protesting bank depositors in Henan were beaten by unidentified assailants in 2022, for example, the embassy’s Weibo replies were flooded with misdirected requests for American journalists to be “deployed” to the scene.
It was a classic example of what happens when internet users “rush the tower” (冲塔, chōng tǎ), a term derived from League of Legends fandom and now applied to situations in which individuals or groups deliberately post political satire or politically sensitive material online—in the full awareness that their posts and comments may be deleted by platform censors, and that their social media accounts could even be suspended or banned. [For more information on “rush the tower” and other Chinese internet slang, please see our newly published ebook, “China Digital Times Lexicon, 20th Anniversary Edition.”]
Also on Weibo and other social media, users posted screenshots of a recent People’s Daily headline that proclaimed, to the incredulity of many, “There Is an Atmosphere of Optimism Throughout the Country.” Such was the sarcasm directed at the article, that as of Friday evening, the Weibo hashtag #There Is an Atmosphere of Optimism Throughout the Country# had already been blocked.
Bloomberg’s Josh Xiao and Jing Li described some of ways in which unhappy investors expressed their opinions online:
On China’s heavily censored social media platforms, investors simply shared the headline of the People’s Daily article [….] Those posts seemingly served as a sarcastic commentary, contrasting the positive message with their own finances.
Internet users also flocked to the comment section of the US embassy in China’s latest Weibo post on giraffe protection to vent their frustration. “What I hate the most is when everyone is suffering, and they are still talking about optimism,” one person wrote. “Have some shame please.”
Others posted charts showing the Shanghai measure’s tumble alongside a screenshot of the People’s Daily piece, juxtaposing state media’s rosy spin with the gloom.
“The commoners in China have such a bitter plight,” one person wrote on Weibo. “Those in power are high and mighty, and pay no regard to the life or death of commoners.”
Another investor summed up their despair this way: “I could no longer love the country after I started investing in the stock market.” [Source]
CDT editors have collected some of the Weibo user comments from below the giraffe post, a section of which are translated below, with the corresponding screenshots:
_石大虾：200 million A-share investors beg that they and their families be allowed to become American citizens!
大A拉基: They could have just robbed us directly, but instead, they gave us a few shares of stock.
烈酒在喉: If the stock market is bad, no matter, you can choose not to invest. But what’s inhuman is when they keep publishing news that talks up the market, fooling people into investing in it, and then the market crashes.
锦鲤化龙555: Please rescue A-shares [row of candle emojis]
AndrewZWW: Sure enough, this comments section is filled with positive, forward-looking, happy and harmonious holiday energy.
阿发浪迹天涯: If there’s any room for me in lovely America, please just say the word.
上没苏杭下没天堂: I’ve heard it said that Wall Street opinion on A-shares is divided. On one side are the conservatives, who think that A-shares are a fraudulent market. On the other side are the radicals, who think that the conservatives are too conservative in their opinion.
走在马路看路人: That [People’s Daily] article talks all about peace and harmony, but doesn’t condescend to come down among the people and see how things really are.
MR_CoCa: I envy your country’s openness. The fact that everyone can come out and openly criticize the government serves to move the country forward and improve the lives of the people. It is an exceedingly well-designed system. Though it may seem noisy and contentious on the surface, it reflects human nature. This is how society should be, full of hubbub that allows new ideas and methods to emerge. But here all they do is muffle the people’s voices and forbid them from saying negative things, while constantly tooting their own horn. We’re miserable!
一介草民的: You American shareholders are so lucky!
苦中作乐-123: The China Securities Regulatory Commission doesn’t even dare to comment. What are they so afraid of?
缅A何时正名: You are welcome to open up the [Apple app] “American Stock Connect” (美股通, Měi gǔ tōng). I am more than willing to invest in the American stock market.
熊友明5098: I’m too scared to even “like” these comments!
突破时机: 200 million shareholders, the voices of more than 600 million people
Farosh: I haven’t seen so many normal people [online] in a long time.