In the midst of North Korean aggression and provocation, South Korea has deployed its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system. More than 1,300 miles away, citizens of one country are shaking their fists: China.
People all over the country have organized protests and even boycotts of products manufactured by South Korean companies including the Lotte Group, which provided the land that Thaad now rests on. And like any protest these days, it isn’t real without going viral and having a hashtag to go with it.
Chinese social media is a buzz with anti-South Korean sentiment. One highly-viewed video depicts two men standing outside an electronics store with an LG washing machine as the Chinese national anthem blares through a set of speakers. They proceed to smash the washing machine to pieces. Their next target: a large LG flat screen TV. The banner next to them reads: “We would rather destroy these than sell them.”
And this anger penetrates generational barriers. One video shows hundreds of students outside Shijixing Primary School as they shout, “Boycott South Korea! Drive Lotte out of China! This all starts from us! Resist Thaad! Love your country!”
And a big driver for this sentiment could be the country’s notoriously influential, state-run propaganda machine. The news media is echoing the view that THAAD provides a lens to China through which the Americans can gleam through, and it serves to undermine China’s national security.
Chinese are even reacting in South Korea. Last weekend, the Costa Serena cruise ship docked at South Korea’s island Jeju. Eighty charter buses stood by with their guides waiting to take Chinese tourists around the sights of this old fishing community with ancient volcanoes and beaches. Instead, more than 1,000 Chinese refused to leave in protest.
During a social media conversation between a BBC reporter and a Chinese citizen, the journalist tried to undermine the tension. Instead, responses were along the lines of “According to my understanding, our blood is boiling. We’re waiting for the order from our leaders and we won’t turn back. We’re not afraid to die.”