The South China Sea dispute has recently made headlines again after a UN tribunal ruled unanimously in favour of the Philippines against China’s extensive claims in the area. China has voiced their unwillingness to accept this ruling and its citizens too, have expressed their refusal to back down with the matter trending for the past two days on Weibo. Although hashtag manipulation is not an uncommon thing in China, it is an issue that shall be discussed in another article at another time. Citizens alike, most Chinese celebrities have voiced their support for China on the issue, some coming out of long Weibo hiatuses to do so. International fans are abuzz on this issue, some disappointed, some angry and others conflicted. Would it really been better if they held their silence, like certain fans have suggested?
To better understand why international fans are upset, especially those in the Philippines and Vietnam, one needs a brief understanding of the South China Sea dispute. This leading international case is not simply between China and the Philippines. It first came to light in 1947 after China published a map including the “nine dashed line”, claiming that the vast majority of the waters in the South China Sea belonged to them. This included islands that Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei had classed as their own. Taiwan is also included in this dispute, however the political background between these two countries makes it a slightly different. The islands and reefs, are major shipping routes and fishing grounds, which supply for the livelihood of many and may also have reserves of natural resources.
In the last few days since the ruling, countless of Chinese celebrities have shown their support on Weibo, by making a post or commenting on the original support post; some posting on Instagram as well. This includes, Chinese k-pop stars such as EXO’s Lay, miss A’s Fei, f(x)’s Victoria, Super Junior M’s Zhoumi and Fiestar’s Cao Lu, Taiwanese celebrities Wallace Huo and Ruby Lin and Hong Kong celebrities William Chan, Angelababy, Wong Cho-lam and Donnie Yan. Some fans are excusing the mainland Chinese celebrities, due to a censor of the information they may receive, however most are dismayed at the celebrities who are in countries where they have free access to the information at hand. Most people say it’s better for celebrities to not mention politics, which in the vast part is true, because it will garner hate. But as we’ve learnt from the issue with Tyuzu at the beginning of the year, in China, you can also garner hate and controversy for words left unsaid. It only takes one mistake to be black listed in China, and most of these Chinese celebrities, regardless of their opinion on the issue, understands this. Most are also under immense pressure from Chinese netizens to speak up about the issue.
Now this is not to say that they don’t believe in what they’ve posted. And nor is it to say they’re not choosing sides in this situation, but in order to criticise them, I believe one should be able to think in their shoes. For some China is their homeland, and a place they’ve all worked so hard to have gained the things they have now. It’s not easy to throw away something you’ve dedicated so many years of your life to. Not to mention, they are after all Chinese. A friend I spoke to came up with this analogy for the issue that I believe sums it up quite well. She told me it’s like children of two households fighting over a tree in their backyards. They’ve both been told at a young age that the tree is theirs, so when it comes to this dispute, regardless of which side has more evidence or the court’s opinion, the issue is one that has been ingrained in them. This post isn’t meant to tell you what’s wrong or right, or reflect my political views on the issue, but it’s more food for thought. Because at the end of the day we’re all entitled to our own opinions.