Even as censorship and surveillance have become ubiquitous on Chinese social media, forestalling criticism of the leadership and its policies, a range of more extreme voices expressing nationalistic views have been permitted to survive, and even thrive, in Chinese cyberspace. Over last weekend, however, this apparent blind eye for extreme views was questioned by many Chinese as a post by a prominent “Big V” on Weibo went to the most extreme of extremes, advocating global nuclear annihilation in the event that the United States curtails China’s ambitions.
The post in question, made in both Chinese and English on September 12 by Zhao Shengye (赵盛烨), a well-known blogger and amateur scientist with more than three million followers on the Weibo platform, outlined three concrete ways that China could bring about earth-wide destruction “if Trump is bent on fighting against China, leaving no living space for the yellow and black people.”
“[The] ultimate result of Trump’s actions,” wrote Zhao, “will be the destruction of all mankind.”
In his post, Zhao argued that a direct nuclear attack on the United States was unnecessary, as the ultimate result in any case would be that “the world will be completely destroyed.” Instead, he suggested three ways that China could more directly achieve global annihilation, depriving the United States of ultimate dominance.
1. China could detonate a nuclear submarine loaded with warheads in the Pacific Ocean, submerging “all areas except the Qinghai Tibet Plateau.”
2. China could detonate “thousands of nuclear bombs in the Himalayas,” thus changing the orbit of the earth.
3. China could drill down into the Sichuan Basin, detonating thousands of nuclear warheads deep beneath the earth, triggering “the collapse of the earth’s core.”
“I admit it’s a very evil idea,” Zhao wrote, “but when we get to the end, it’s the ultimate solution. America can’t be both anti human and save itself.”
Zhao Shengye is a known member of the “Nine-Three Society” (九三学社), one of just nine recognized pro-CCP political parties in China, founded in 1945, that has generally counted among its members intellectuals working in technology. Zhao made the news in China last year when he was accused of defamation by JD.com founder and CEO Richard Liu, who was accused of rape by a Chinese student in the US.
Zhao’s recent post sparked anger on Chinese social media. At his WeChat public account, “Legal Garden” (法律园地), human rights lawyer Liu Xiaoyuan (刘晓原) published a post called, “A Big V Who Imagines the Destruction of the World and the Elimination of Humankind” (一个幻想毁灭世界，灭掉人类的网络大V), in which he archived Zhao’s original post and remarked: “Were he to be supreme military commander, he would most definitely become a ‘madman’ in the event of nuclear war. The earth and humankind would truly be in peril! But we are ‘fortunate’ that Zhao Shengye is little more than an online Big V who speaks wildly.”
Liu added that he felt Zhao’s post had “exceeded the bounds of freedom of speech and deserves to arouse the vigilance of peace-loving people.”
At the time of Liu’s WeChat post on September 14, Zhao’s original Weibo had been shared nearly 3,000 times, had attracted more than 3,000 comments, and had been read more than 23,000 times. Zhao’s post was apparently deleted later that day, as it had been, according to a Weibo notice, “reported by many people.”
Users continued to post comments on Zhao’s account, however, even after the deletion. Most comments were either directly critical or personal attacks on Zhao. “You anti-human scum,” wrote one user. “I would call you livestock if this weren’t an insult to all livestock.”
Another user made what appeared to be a reference to the 1964 film “Doctor Strangelove,” a Cold War black comedy in which B-52 pilot Maj. “King” Kong rides a nuclear bomb cowboy-style as it plunges toward its Soviet target. “Let’s strap your whole family to a nuclear missile so they can earn glory for the motherland at the first opportunity. The glory of the motherland depends on you!”
A screenshot of one page of comments directed at Zhao Shengye follows.