A day after Chinese State Councilor and Foreign minister Wang Yi’s visit to Nepal was announced, my Chinese professor cited a Nepali news source which he received from a foreign colleague to inform the class about the three-day visit to Kathmandu.
Without timely reporting, Chinese netizens who are dependent on the official press and social media for news had been largely unaware about Wang Yi’s ‘Journey To the West’ until he was already in Nepal on 25 March.
‘Journey to the West’ is a proper noun in Mandarin and derived from an extended account of the Tang dynasty Buddhist monk Xuanzang, who travelled to the ‘Western regions’ of Central Asia and the Subcontinent in the 7th century to obtain sacred texts.
Compared to delay in reporting Wang Yi’s Pakistan, Afghanistan and India visits, news on Weibo that he was in Kathmandu on the second day was relatively more timely. The late media reports and posts of his ‘Journey To the West’ could have been deliberate so as to make the news stale, and not create a big fuss.
Although Global Times, Xinhua and other state media published articles on the visit, it was not shared on their Weibo pages because it could have likely created undesired discussions. Moreover, the visit coincided with the tragic crash on 21 March of a China Eastern Boeing 737-800 that diverted the attention of netizens.
Similar low-key reporting was observed when Global Times and other state-owned media took more than a day to react to the ratification of the American MCC grant by Nepal’s Parliament on 27 February.
At that time, Chinese cybersphere was rife with reference of other international websites and expressing curiosity about why the MCC news was not trending on Weibo yet. Whether this was intentional or not, it successfully suppressed the hashtag ‘Nepal approved US aid deal’ (尼泊尔通过美援助协议) which reached the Top 11 on Weibo as soon as the state media reported about it. (Screenshot below)