An attempt by Beijing to celebrate the stoicism and bravery of their troops has backfired dramatically. In what was supposed to be a story of heroism, state-controlled Chinese press are facing a wave of scorn on Chinese social media after a showing a group of starving Chinese soldiers while the citizens (Yemen refugees) they were protecting ate like kings. "While on the navy ship, the soldiers ate pickles, but we had an eight course meal, and beer as well," one man is reported to have said, "I am moved, I feel the warmth of the motherland." As The BBC reports, rather than being impressed, however, many Chinese people online seemed to be furious about the story, as it was a reflection of incompetence among senior army officials.
This week two giant warships rescued 571 Chinese nationals stranded in Yemen, where a crisis appears to be escalating fast. The ships were manned by Chinese soldiers, who sailed their countrymen home to safety... It was supposed to be a story about heroism, but as The BBC reports, it is creating a major backlash...
On Wednesday Beijing News interviewed one of the evacuees as they returned home. "While on the navy ship, the soldiers ate pickles, but we had an eight course meal, and beer as well," one man is reported to have said. "I am moved, I feel the warmth of the motherland," he went on.
China's state controlled media seized on the story, seeing it as a chance to celebrate the stoicism and bravery of their troops. The government's Xinhua News Agency and other commercial outlets reworked the article and gave it a punchy new headline: "An Evacuee's experience: we eat eight courses, soldiers have pickles." Images of the passengers' feast were published as well.
Rather than being impressed, however, many Chinese people online seemed to be furious about the story. The scenes were either a misjudged publicity stunt, or simply a reflection of incompetence among senior army officials, they said. "Where is military expenditure going?" read one comment on Sina Weibo, the Chinese social network.
If an eight course meal was on offer, the passengers and soldiers could've had four courses each, many pointed out, and "pickles aren't nutritious" one added. The story attracted tens of thousands of comments on Sina Weibo and on Tencent QQ, another Chinese social network.
This follows a similar story published last summer, in which soldiers arriving in Yunnan province in the wake of an earthquake were pictured eating dirty instant noodles because of a lack of clean water, and many online were furious at what the soldiers had to put up with.
Both episodes appear to suggest a growing rift between what traditional state-controlled news media are portraying about soldiers sacrifices - and the genuine demands of its citizens to see their soldiers better provided for, at a time when spending on the Chinese military, especially on hi-tech equipment, is rising.
* * *