A post on WeChat by a Chinese user named Yong Bo on Friday blamed Australians for being too lazy and unpatriotic to control the wildfires raging across their country, unlike the hard-working and patriotic Chinese who battled a massive fire in 1987.
The South China Morning Post summarized the WeChat article – which has accumulated over 23 million views, 100,000 “likes,” and many approving comments from Chinese nationalists, while receiving a considerably less enthusiastic reception from Australians and other international observers. According to the report:
Friday’s article, titled “If it weren’t for the Australian bush fires, I would’ve never known that China was so powerful 33 years ago”, also suggested that Australian firefighters were lazy and unpatriotic for taking rest days, and claimed that “human rights and democracy” were responsible for the continuing fires.
“That’s right, Australia has the world’s best firefighting technology. But putting out fires depends not only on technology, but also on how much you love the people who live on this land,” wrote Yong Bo on the little-known WeChat blog Youth Courtyard.
“In Australia, everyone thinks that these bush fires have nothing to do with themselves.
“Because of so-called ‘human rights and democracy’, the Australian government and firefighters are taking holidays and celebrating Christmas while their country burns to a crisp and the fires kill everything in their path.”
The blogger also criticized the New Year’s Eve fireworks display in Sydney and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s Christmas holiday to Hawaii while the devastating bush fires raged on.
Blogger Yong Bo brimmed with praise for the Chinese firefighters who battled a wildfire in Daxingangling over 30 years ago, even though at the time many Chinese viewed the fire as a national tragedy and massive failure of China’s calcified bureaucracy, and to this day Chinese firefighters have a disturbingly high mortality rate due to poor equipment and training. A total of 211 people died battling the Daxingangling blaze, compared to 27 known deaths so far in Australia.
“The article, which has not an ounce of respect for history, simplified the painful lessons of the Daxing wildfire into a heroic narrative about the firefighters’ great sacrifice, and turned a huge natural disaster that prompted nationwide reflection into evidence of ‘how great China was 33 years ago,’” communications professor Fang Kecheng of the Chinese University of Hong Kong wrote in response to Yong’s post.
Other Chinese critics of the post castigated its author for showing insensitivity to Australians affected by the fires and for using facile appeals to Chinese nationalism to drum up clicks.
Australian officials, all the way up to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, have faced plenty of criticism for their handling of the bush fires. Morrison apologized for taking his Christmas vacation to Hawaii, while noting that he received constant updates on the disaster while he was out of the country.
On Sunday, Morrison called for an inquiry into how various government agencies responded to the fire. “There are things I could have handled on the ground much better,” he admitted.
Also on Sunday, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced a donation of $1 million Australian dollars (about $690,000 U.S.) for wildfire relief. Bezos was immediately assailed by critics who calculated that $690,000 is a minuscule fraction of his $100 billion net worth and demanded he contribute more.