Vietnamese online patriots target Netflix, Jackie Chan over depiction of China's 'nine-dash line' map

·3-min read
Representative Image
Representative Image

Singapore, July 11 (ANI): Growing hordes of online patriots have proved increasingly vocal in defending Vietnam's image abroad by flagging content they deem controversial and inappropriate, especially the depiction of Beijing's 'nine-dash line' map.

Dien Luong, in an opinion piece of Nikkei Asia, said that Netflix, DreamWorks, Swedish fashion brand H&M and Hong Kong movie star Jackie Chan, all recently found themselves caught in the crossfire of intense nationalist debates inside Vietnam, the thread linking each controversy being Beijing's unilaterally declared "nine-dash line" that defines its expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea.

The latest incident flared up last month when Vietnam's Authority of Broadcasting and Electronic Information demanded that Netflix remove Australian spy drama "Pine Gap" from its programme lineup because the show "angered and hurt the feelings of the entire people of Vietnam" by featuring a map depicting the nine-dash line, which Hanoi has long bristled at, reported Nikkei Asia.

While Netflix confirmed that the show had been pulled from Vietnam -- "Pine Gap" remains available to subscribers elsewhere -- Vietnamese authorities said they had flagged similar breaches of the country's sovereignty in two other Netflix programmes over the past 12 months.

Netflix is not the only offender. In October 2019, Vietnamese netizens spotted that "Abominable," a film co-produced by DreamWorks and Shanghai's Pearl Studio, also showed a map that included the nine-dash line. The film was immediately yanked off Vietnamese cinema screens.

In the Vietnamese cybersphere, anti-China sentiment, fuelled either by territorial disputes or Beijing's influence, has been the main trigger for nationalist expressions, wrote Dien.

Over the years, Vietnamese authorities have become well aware that any move to repress nationalism, anti-China sentiment in particular, only alienates the very audience whose support they need to shore up.

In that context, Vietnamese authorities have displayed an acute sensitivity to nationalist sentiments expressed online, often using them to serve their own agenda.

Nowhere was that dynamic more manifest than the online backlash against Swedish apparel brand H&M and Hong Kong-born film star Jackie Chan, wrote Dien.

In April, H&M was savaged online after Chinese authorities asked the fashion retailer to correct a "problematic map of China" on its website.

Even though it was not clear what the problem with the map entailed, in Vietnam it was quickly framed as a sign that H&M had capitulated to China by using a map that included the nine-dash line, triggering boycott calls that ricocheted online and in the state-controlled media.

In November 2019, Jackie Chan had to scrap a visit to Vietnam after a furore erupted online alleging that he had spoken in support of the nine-dash line.

All of these cases follow an eerily similar pattern: Despite a lack of compelling evidence, Vietnam's online patriots have been only too happy to pounce. Moreover, Vietnamese authorities have then seized on such nationalist sentiment to telegraph significant messages to a broader international audience, wrote Dien.

Chief among these messages is the fact that strong nationalist sentiment at home should not be trifled with. Second, nothing risks stirring up controversy quicker than appearing to validate China's South China Sea claims.

Finally, even though Vietnam's economy is dwarfed by China's, in some cases, winning over online patriots -- or at least not ruffling their feathers -- should be a crucial consideration for companies seeking to enter the Vietnamese market, reported Nikkei Asia.

China claims most of the South China Sea, often invoking its so-called nine-dash line to justify its alleged historic rights to the key waterway that is also contested by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brunei. (ANI)

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