Lines of fracture in Chinese public opinion: A conversation with Ma Tianjie


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Three controversial topics — murder-suicide, celebrity divorce and patriotic fervor — have recently ignited debates on Chinese social media that illuminate the divides within the nation's digital citizenry. To explain the complexities and contradictions of the conversations, the Sinica Podcast welcomes Ma Tianjie in his second appearance on the show.

On this week’s episode, our guest Ma Tianjie, editor of the bilingual environmental website China Dialogue and the blogger behind Chublic Opinion, untangles the complexities and contradictions of online discussions in China. Tianjie shares insights into three key events in China’s public-opinion landscape that inflamed hordes of online commentators: a shocking family murder-suicide; a famous actor’s cheating spouse; and a mass online action in the name of patriotism against a popular film director and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

The conversation also delves into the origin of the “little pink” patriots who combine cutesy pop culture with nationalistic cyberactivism, as well as Chinese critiques of “white liberalism” and the urban elites who espouse its values.

You can find background reading for this podcast here, which includes summaries and links to the Ma Tianjie articles discussed in the podcast, along with a supplementary Q&A by Jeremy Goldkorn in which he discusses Tianjie’s background and the roots of his interest in environmental issues.

You can also listen to Tianjie’s previous appearance on the Sinica Podcast in this episode: Public opinion with Chinese characteristics.


Jeremy: Aeropress coffee maker.

Ada: Fact checking websites:, for example.

Ma Tianjie: Fan Hua 繁花, a novel in Chinese by Jin Yucheng 金宇澄.

Kaiser: The Goldfinch, a novel by Donna Tartt.