Two Taiwanese celebrities are now facing backlash after they supported their home countries’ athletes at the Olympics. The fallout can give us a glimpse into how money allows Beijing to control the narrative.
Jolin Tsai (蔡依林) and Dee Hsu (徐熙娣), better known as Xiao S (小S), are under fire from Chinese netizens after they supported Taiwanese athletes in the Olympics. Generally their shows of support would not have been a big issue, and actually some Chinese people consider Taiwanese medal wins to be a good thing (at least that’s what they say online) because they erroneously and ahistorically believe that Taiwan is a part of the PRC. However, in this case, the opponents of those Taiwanese athletes were from the Chinese team.
Hsu made a post supporting Tai Tzu-ying (戴資穎) in her quest for gold again Chinese player Chen Yufei (陈雨菲). This was enough to trigger Chinese fans, who lit into the star for cheering for athletes from what those same netizens consider a province of their own country. Being in Taiwan is very confusing.
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Taiwanese people for their part were of course disappointed in Tai’s loss, but overwhelmingly outpoured love and support for the badminton phenom. Many said that they hope she doesn’t retire so she can come back to win gold again at the next Olympics.
Jolin Tsai caught flak for a similar reason as Hsu. She shared a post from Tai on Facebook saying, “Respect,” and that Tai was “powerful”. Again this simple support was enough to send The Chinese online mobs after her.
Perhaps more impactful for the two celebrities will be the impact on their bank accounts.
For her seditious posting, Hsu has already reportedly lost $32 million NT as companies dropped her overnight. It seems that Little S isn’t taking the news too well, apparently “…pleading with brands and netizens not to blacklist her,” according to her mother. The actress is right to be nervous as she still has a show that is filmed in China, and it is possible that she could lose that job just like her endorsements. While much less likely, it is also within the realm of possibility that Chinese leader Xi Jinping might think she needs a little re-education.
Jolin Tsai has yet to lose any endorsements, as of the publication of this article, though that may be coming. She likewise will probably lose future job opportunities in China because of her post. However, Jolin has congratulated Chinese athletes before, so she has a better case to make that she has been remained apolitical, which is really impossible because refusing to speak out about injustices is also political.
Chinese internet users losing their minds over what they perceive as slights, often over what are actually just people stating facts, is nothing new. Just ask Chung Ng Wai, aka “Blitzchung”. Chung is a Hong Konger, and Hong Kong is another place China is trying to colonize. Blitz is a professional Hearthstone player that used his opportunity in a 2019 tournament to bring attention to the political plight of Hong Kongers. The player donned goggles and a respirator, common garb for Hong Kong protesters who were at that time being brutalized by police in the streets, and shouted the famous Hong Kong protest phrase “光復香港，時代革命” (or “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times”). This resulted in his immediate suspension and loss of prize money. The two Taiwanese shoutcasters at the event were also sacked, seemingly for no reason, after they attempted to hide their faces when he was doing this. This is almost certainly due to a willingness by the publisher Blizzard to do anything maintain their foothold in the Chinese market and appease their Chinese investors, Tencent holds a 5 per cent stake in Activision Blizzard. Also it should be noted that Activison Blizzard is an awful company in general.
Chinese netizens always blubber over people being persecuted or threatened by the Chinese Community Party (CCP) speaking their minds and should probably mostly just be ignored, or ridiculed and put in their place if that’s your thing. However, the more concerning thing is when foreign companies bend the knee to appease the whining. Companies doing this are obviously doing it for the money, no one can deny China has a massive market of middle class people who are only allowed to express themselves through love of the Party and consumerism.
The funny, and by funny I mean sad, thing is that to continue to prosper in China, companies must pledge absolute fealty to the nation that is currently colonizing places like Xinjiang (East Turkistan) and Hong Kong by penalizing locals for advocating for their culture. By playing by the CCP’s rules, these companies are not only required to ignore these blatant human rights abuses (some even benefit from such abuses), but they are also making an extremely risky investment because if they ever do make even a mild statement, their business there could be over.
The NBA learned this the hard way recently when they had their broadcasting rights revoked in China for a year. Western clothing brands that protested the use of concentration camp slave labor in the country are still blurred out on TV. One of the craziest stories is of a Korean mukbang streamer threatened for not emphatically saying that kimchi is Chinese, yes you read that correctly.
China uses its online mobs and their purchasing power to control the narrative. At, any moment, if the CCP feels slighted, they can sick their hounds on people. This means that the companies that agree to work with China must be strict with how they police both their and their employees’ language, essentially assisting an authoritarian regime in exporting its anti-free speech policies and revisionist history around the world.