Thailand and China go toe-to-toe in an online war with wonderfully creative memes

Hong Kong and Taiwan join in, too -- to help Thailand.
Cam MacMurchy

A Twitter war between two countries isn’t very common, and even less so in Asia where open confrontation is often downplayed. But when people have the chance to be anonymous, the insults can fly — no matter where they are. That was the case recently when Mainland China and Thailand went after each other in a war of foul language, funny creative memes, and even self-deprecating humor.

What prompted the battle is a bit convoluted without being familiar with the people involved, but here’s my best shot at a simple explainer (thanks to Taiwan News):

Background

  • A TV soap called 2gether is popular in Mainland China and stars a Thai male lead named Vachirawit Chivaree, also known as “Bright”
  • Bright has a girlfriend in real life, actress Weeraya Sukaram
  • Weeraya goes by the name “New”, with the Twitter moniker Nnevvy

The First Offense

  • Bright recently re-tweeted some photos taken by a photographer from multiple places in the world, and wrote “taken from 4 countries”
  • One of the images was of Hong Kong, which is technically not a country, although it has its own boundary, currency, central bank, and laws
  • People active online in China can often be nationalistic, particularly when the country’s territorial integrity is questioned
  • Mainland users blasted Bright for the oversight, reiterating that Hong Kong is a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China
  • Bright apologized

The Second Offense

  • Mainland users then dug up a photo New, Bright’s girlfriend, posted to Instagram while she was in Taiwan back in September of 2017
  • New is in the photo by herself
  • In the comments, Bright opines: “So pretty, just like a Chinese girl.”
  • New responds with some casual Thai which translates as “What?” but in colloquial Thai is more like writing “hmm
  • Chinese internet users took New’s remark as a slight against China, believing she was reaffirming that Taiwan isn’t Chinese
New on Instagram

The Third Offense

  • Mainland users then dug up a post re-tweeted by New, that said the coronavirus had originated in China
  • Some have said the re-tweet referred to the virus as the “Wuhan Virus”; the translation isn’t quite clear

The Outcome

  • All hell breaks loose online

Mainland China’s internet users can be intimidating for any person or company that runs afoul of conventional thinking in China. Naturally the argument centered around politics, with Mainland people blasting Thailand and the Thais firing right back.

Over time, the Thais ended up turning to self-deprecating humor to make their point. Thailand is known as the “land of smiles”, so it doesn’t usually take itself too seriously. There has even been a study on the positive and playful nature of Thais, which I recommend checking out if you’re interested in Thailand.

Anyway, the flame war has resulted in some pretty creative memes, of which I’ve posted a few below. This should be apparent, but I’ll repeat it anyway: I do not endorse or stand by the messages or sentiment in any of the Tweets listed below. I do enjoy a good meme war though!

A couple of definitions so you don’t get lost:

  • NMSL – shorthand for very offensive, Chinese language insult that involves one’s mother
  • SB / CNMB / TMD – all shorthand for very offensive Chinese language insults
  • wu mao – translates to “50 cents”, which is the amount the Chinese government reportedly pays people per comment online to defend the nation
  • milk tea – popular drinks in select Asian “economies” like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand

Aside from the embeds below, you can also do a simple search with the hashtag #nnevvy to find a trove of material. Enjoy!

Cam Macmurchy

Hi! My name is Cam MacMurchy. I was born and raised in Canada and worked as a journalist before moving to China in 2004.

Today I work in Hong Kong as the Vice President of Corporate Communications of a listed company. I write about marketing, communications, and journalism, as well as technology and productivity, and anything else on my mind! I also occasionally contribute to 9to5Mac, one of the top Apple websites in the world, and run Executive Productivity. Contact me anytime.

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