Taiwan Earthquake: Concern and Solidarity Emerge on Chinese Social Media

A 7.2- earthquake that struck local time at 8:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 3, sparked a wave of worried messages on social media in mainland China. This led to a shift away from the usual hostile rhetoric towards self-governing islands.

Earthquake Taiwan
Earthquake Taiwan

Share Footage posted online of the eastern Taiwanese county of Hualen, the epicenter of the quake, showed collapsed buildings and multi-story buildings leaning at about a 45-degree angle.

As of 12:00 local time on Wednesday, four people were killed and around 50 injured in the earthquake. About 20 people are still trapped and in need of rescue, Reuters reported.

The earthquake quickly became the most talked-about subject on Weibo, garnering 520 million views within just one hour, as reported by Business Insider.

On Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of X, the initial discussions about with Taiwan were soon overshadowed by an outpouring of thousands of comments expressing concern for the safety of those affected by the earthquake. Similar to numerous social media platforms in China, Weibo is subject to strict censorship and moderation.

Read More: LIVE breaking news: Biggest Earthquake 7.4 Hits Taiwan

“This time, it feels like the earthquake was very strong in many places. Wishing for safety,” one top comment said.

The response reflects prevailing online sentiments regarding Taiwan, with persistently asserting that the island should be integrated into mainland governance and its populace identified as part of China's unified entity.

Chinese leader Jinping has adopted assertive stances concerning potential military confrontations to achieve this objective — paving the path for an uptick in antagonistic discourse online aimed at Taiwan. Nevertheless, the prospect of armed conflict is predominantly perceived across social media as merely one among various avenues for achieving unity.

“I hope everyone is safe (except the Taiwan independence separatist forces),” one person wrote in a top-liked comment for a state media report on the earthquake.

“May the patriotic Chinese be safe” was a frequently posted phrase on Wednesday.

Many have suggested the People's Liberation Army, China's armed forces, step in.

“In such a big earthquake, I personally feel that it is necessary for the People's Liberation Army to provide support,” one person wrote.

The text mentions that there is a jab at Taiwan's autonomy, but it does not pose a direct threat of invasion.

In China, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is usually mobilized to provide manpower for relief and rescue efforts after major disasters.

An example is given from 2008 when the PLA deployed around 130,000 troops to respond to an earthquake in Sichuan province. However, some soldiers were reportedly unprepared for the relief work.

Concerns about a potential war between Beijing and Taipei have increased in recent years. Chinese President Xi Jinping has been emphasizing military readiness, while Taiwan's ruling party is building support for resisting mainland China.

Observers warn that if a war were to occur, it could involve the United States and have disastrous consequences for the global economy. One expert even suggests that the impact could be worse than the 1929 stock market crash.

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