SupChina illustration by Derek Zheng
When Thai actor Vachirawit Chivaaree retweeted a photo of Hong Kong, he didn’t intend to set off a Thai-China political dispute. But what happened next was one part dystopian sci-fi, and one part a regular occurrence in the age of Chinese nationalist trolls: They attacked. He apologized. And a bizarre sequence of events happened.
An army of Chinese nationalists made their way to Twitter, which is blocked in China, to demand a public apology from the Thai actor and his girlfriend named New, who got mixed up in the debate. In addition to personal attacks, some also spewed out vitriolic, violent, and flat-out racist comments about Thai people and their government.
When it comes to international social networks, bullying their opponents into submission and silencing criticism has been a common and mostly effective tactic employed by Chinese nationalist trolls. But this strategy didn’t work this time: Thai internet users masterfully handled the trolls with a meme-fueled online campaign targeting aggressive Chinese nationalists.