If in the geopolitical sphere the world seems to be moving towards a polarization in pro and anti-China blocs, among Brazilians on Twitter, one side has dominated the debate. An unprecedented report shows that right-wing profile posts account for 70.44% of social media activity in the past six months in the Asian country. Even with a small number of registered users in Brazil (the network estimates it has around 14 million Brazilian profiles), the results help understand the tone of discussions about China since the start of the pandemic.
The study was carried out by the media intelligence company Oros in partnership with F451 and delivered to Folha. Analyzing a universe of over 111,000 Twitter posts, the Oros researchers identified that the conversation on Brazilian networks is focused on a very critical and anti-Chinese tone. In this category, articles by journalists Augusto Nunes and Rodrigo Constantino, the Terça Livre blog, the O Antagonista portal and influencer and former volleyball player Ana Paula Henkel are the most shared.
On the left side — responsible for 29.56% of the volume analyzed — the posts reconcile criticism of the Chinese government and geopolitical analyzes. The profile of the most shared influencers is however less diverse: they are all politicians. PT members Lula and Fernando Haddad, São Paulo Governor João Doria, and former presidential and vice-presidential candidates Guilherme Boulos and Manuela d’Ávila stood out in the report.
The definition of left and right in the methodology is delimited by the “bubble” in which each profile is inserted. The two spectra are divided into colors (red on the left, green on the right), and the robot performing the analysis checks the branching of a profile, assigning scores ranging from 1 red (entirely inside the bubble of left) to 1 green (entirely inside the left bubble) in the right bubble). The method explains why Doria does not enter the analysis as a right-wing politician.
The graph generated by the Oros analysis shows the dominance of profiles linked to the right (in green) in the debate on China. Oros Media / Disclosure
Founding partner of Oros, master’s in communication and economist Daniel Guinezi affirms that the mapping identifies “who is the most vocal in the network”. Thus, people with a more militant profile can quantitatively dominate the mentions.
“The tone of the conversation on Twitter was primarily driven by the conspiracy. These are accusations that the virus is Chinese, that it was made in a lab and that they point to China as the world’s biggest enemy, ”he said, adding that the most used hashtags relating to China in the period analyzed were # ViruséChinês, #ChinatemquePagar and #ChinaGenocida.
Guinezi also observes that Twitter is a “highly politicized” network, in which the debate takes place “not so much by thematic, but ideological axes”. For him, “the articulation of the right during the pandemic has made China the great enemy, the result of numerous negative mentions”.
“That’s not to say the China debate in the country is right-wing, but it is undoubtedly the most virulent. Nonetheless, we have identified several geopolitical-focused pages, with in-depth analyzes on China, which seem to indicate that there is still fertile space for the continuation of these long-term discussions, ”he comments.
The pandemic drives cyber attacks
Brazilians’ worsening view of China in a virtual environment has also increased xenophobia among the Asian community, especially the Chinese. Since last year, the Brazil-China Sociocultural Institute (Ibrachina) has maintained a center for denouncing racism against the Chinese. The aim is to centralize information on crimes, collect data and build a bridge with the Brazilian authorities to help with investigations. More than 97 complaints have been received since March 2020.
For the president of the institute, Thomas Law, the attacks are linked to a structural problem in the dynamics of racism in Brazil and were encouraged by the authorities. The organization, which also monitors social media discourse, has identified the upsurge in opinions posted about the Asian country.
“The speeches of influential people and the dissemination of fake news have led to the intensification of these attacks. When a person in a position of power has an attitude, others feel entitled to act in the same way. Prejudice comes from not knowing what is different, from judging without knowing. From prejudice to discrimination and racism is a step, ”he said.
With the rise of cyberviolence, the Chinese community has acted with caution. Chinese consulates in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have issued warnings asking Chinese living in Brazil to “be careful when they go out on the streets.”
Founder of the online school OiChina Mandarim and followed by more than 840,000 people on TikTok, teacher Yili Wang has directly felt the growth in the number of online attacks.
In Brazil since 2007, while enrolled in a Catholic high school, Yili says she was well received by her colleagues, even though she did not speak Portuguese at the time and was considered a “panda bear, somehow. exotic thing ”. Since then, what she once considered ignorance has turned into waves of racist and xenophobic messages.
“As a Chinese teacher, I have always been surrounded by people who love and want to know and learn our language and culture. But during the pandemic, I discovered that despite more than ten years since I arrived in Brazil, the lack of knowledge about the country has not only increased, but has worsened and turned into prejudice and hatred. », He laments.
In Brazil since 2007, Mandarin teacher Yili Wang says she has felt an increase in xenophobic attacks online.
The teacher also says that she has been referred to on the Internet as “virus”, “garbage can”, “bat, mouse and dog eater” and “Chinese government agent”. In addition, many messages sent her back to China. She reports that the attacks left her scared to leave home and worried for the safety of her family.
“I was very shaken. I started to really think about my goal. It seems that all these years of efforts to spread the culture and demystify China have been in vain. I concluded that my mission was becoming more important than ever: to spread a more real China and to try to change the limited and racist view of my country, ”explains the teacher, who says to avoid talking about attacks with the children. Chinese family members so they don’t worry about their safety.
For the professor of international law and coordinator of the Brazil-China Center of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, Evandro Carvalho, the authorities must act to curb business. According to Carvalho, the pandemic has made the Chinese new targets of racial discrimination, especially in countries where leaders have started using phrases such as “Chinese virus” and “vachina” as a form of attack.
“It is always good to remember that racism is an imprescriptible and imprescriptible crime. The offense of racial insult can result in a racist being sentenced to one to three years in prison, plus a fine. Our Federal Constitution has an important civilizing precept which states that one of the fundamental objectives of our country is to promote the good of all without prejudices of origin, of race. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go before we achieve a more inclusive and respectful of differences society. After all, here in Brazil it’s not just the Chinese who suffer from discrimination.
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