Arnold Schwarzenegger’s video addressing the Russian people with an antiwar message made the rounds on Chinese social media, drawing both criticism and praise while bringing action from censors.
Chinese internet users have accused Mr. Schwarzenegger of hypocrisy by filing to speak out against American invasions of other countries, a point that was amplified by Chinese state media. Others have described his words, particularly when he shared his personal story, as moving and sincere. Some posts provided a full translation of his speech.
The discussions followed rare flashes of online anger at Beijing’s perceived support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. China has sought to present itself as a neutral party to the conflict, a position questioned by observers who noted Beijing’s reluctance to distance itself from Moscow.
By Saturday, some links to the video or about the speech were no longer accessible on China’s Twitter-like Weibo. And the clip was not viewable on some accounts on WeChat, a ubiquitous messaging app in the country, suggesting China’s censors had stepped in. But some critical voices have remained.
“The double standard of Americans is disgusting! Was it the US that just did evil in Afghanistan? ” a user wrote on Weibo on Friday evening, adding a nauseated, green-faced emoji. The sentiment was echoed by other Weibo users, who similarly invoked the US invasion of Iraq.
In a widely shared article about the video, the Global Times, a nationalist state-run tabloid, took screenshots of English tweets that called out Mr. Schwarzenegger for not posting similar appeals against America’s wars. A military affairs blogger with more than 900,000 followers on Weibo shared an edited clip on Friday that juxtaposed Mr. Schwarzenegger’s words to Russian President Vladimir Putin— “You started this war, you’re leading this war, you can stop this war” —with his critics’ accusations of US hypocrisy, which was viewed hundreds of thousands of times.
But the 74-year-old’s message, which urged Russian soldiers and people to see through the Kremlin’s propaganda, also earned some support in China. He said his father, who fought for Nazi Germany during World War II, was also “pumped up on the lies of his government” and lived the rest of his life in pain, both physically and from guilt.
“On the big screen, Schwarzenegger is always fighting in raging war atmospheres, but tough guys like him are the same as many ordinary people who want peace,” read a post by a Weibo user named “A Wave on the Ocean” on Saturday.
Another comment by a Weibo user named “Old Wong Living Next Door” that praised the actor as “a man of iron with gentle sensibilities” was scrubbed. As of Saturday, Mr. Schwarzenegger’s clip is still viewable on parts of the social-media platform.