Modi’s debut on Sina Weibo evokes mixed response

Updated - November 17, 2021 02:04 am IST

Published - May 04, 2015 12:30 pm IST - Beijing

A screenshot of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Sina Weibo page.

A screenshot of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Sina Weibo page.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reached out directly to Chinese netizens by opening an account on Sina Weibo — the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

But the unorthodox move, ahead of his visit to China on May 14, could turn risky as it is evoking a mixed response, hours after the account was activated. Warm messages welcoming the Prime Minister on Weibo have been punctuated with caustic remarks regarding the status of Arunachal Pradesh and Pakistan, Beijing’s “all-weather” ally.

The Prime Minister’s inaugural post: “Hello China! Looking forward to interacting with Chinese friends through Weibo,” evoked a swift response. Within five hours, Mr. Modi had logged in more than 20,000 followers.

He then went for the common denominator between India and China -- Buddhism and Asian solidarity. “I wish everyone happiness on Buddha's birthday. Today we remember Buddha’s ideals and commands, he preached the ideals of harmony and brotherhood and had a vision of a peaceful world. Buddhism is a unifying force across Asian countries. It can be one form of strong cohesion as the world enters the Asian era,” Mr. Modi observed

It is estimated that around 18 per cent of the Chinese people are Buddhist, but it remains to be seen whether the Prime Minister’s evocation of India and China’s common Buddhist heritage is striking a chord. Though the Communist Party of China is officially atheist, President Xi Jinping spoke highly of Buddhism’s profound impact on China, during a visit to the headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in Paris last March.

Around 8,000 likes welcomed the Prime Minister’s debut on Chinese social media. “China and India are the countries that have the biggest influence in Asia and are fast developing nations. There is no reason why we can’t advance together,” one user observed. Many invited Mr. Modi to visit their provinces.

But the status of Arunachal Pradesh and Pakistan were two other themes, drawing 2,000 likes, which were triggered by Mr. Modi’s social media outreach. Many highlighted that Zangnan or South Tibet, the Chinese nomenclature for Arunachal Pradesh should be given to China.

“Zangnan belongs to China”, and “Welcome, welcome! By the way, Zangnan is ours,” said one of the responses. Another said: “The southern part of Tibet belongs to China, and Kashmir belongs to Pakistan.”

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