We always knew that China doesn’t understand soft-power display. But the paper Dragon has made a massive blunder even by its own standards, as the Communist hardliners in China tried to take on the most popular K-Pop Boy Group- BTS. Worse still, the Chinese propaganda machinery led by the CCP mouthpiece Global Times had to back off after it proved no match for BTS’s worldwide fanbase- ARMY (Adorable Representative M.C. for Youth). BTS alone was enough to quell shallow Chinese nationalism and boycott calls.
It all started after Beijing’s fragile, nationalist ego got hurt due to an award-acceptance speech, which apparently didn’t even mention China. Earlier this month, the chart-topping South Korean boy band- BTS commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Korean War while receiving the Korea Society’s James A. Van Fleet Award. The award itself is named after an American General in the Korean war.
James A. Van Fleet Award honours those contributing to US-Korean relations. So, BTS too acknowledged US-Korean friendship. BTS leader Kim Nam-joon, who is more famously known as RM said, “We will always remember the history of pain that our two nations shared together and the sacrifices of countless men and women.” RM added, “As members of the global community, we should build a deeper understanding and solidarity to be happier together.”
RM didn’t say anything provocative. He did not even talk about China, but such is Beijing’s propaganda machinery that it gets triggered at the drop of a hat. Chinese authorities live in the delusion that they have enormous soft power and effective propaganda machinery. China runs heavily-funded state media outlets, apart from trying to curry favour with media houses in other countries.
However, the BTS episode has shown that China has no credibility and fast-receding goodwill, due to which BTS alone could take on the fake Chinese narrative.
So, the Global Times tried to mount an assault on the BTS for no good reason, only in order to invite the wrath of BTS fan base, ARMY. On October 11, Global Times ran a story titled, “BTS hurts feelings of Chinese netizens and fans during speech on the Korean War.”
The CCP mouthpiece also claimed, “South Korean boy band BTS is strongly condemned on China’s social media for their speech after receiving James A. Van Fleet Award. Chinese netizens said the band’s totally one-sided attitude to the Korean War hurts their feelings and negates history.”
South Korean boy band #BTS is strongly condemned on #China's social media for their speech after receiving James A. Van Fleet Award. Chinese netizens said the band's totally one-sided attitude to the #KoreanWar hurts their feelings and negates history. pic.twitter.com/NaycIBzJwH
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) October 11, 2020
As a part of its campaign to encourage a BTS boycott, Global Times again ran a story on October 12 titled, “Samsung removes BTS-related products from China’s e-commerce stores after the band angered netizens.” It also claimed, “Chinese netizens applauded Samsung’s decision to take down K-pop group BTS products from stores on China’s e-commerce platforms http://JD.com and Tmall, after the group’s remarks about the Korean War annoyed Chinese netizens.”
Chinese netizens applauded #Samsung's decision to take down K-pop group #BTS products from stores on China's ecommerce platforms https://t.co/AqU6BpfZ74 and Tmall, after the group's remarks about the #KoreanWar annoyed Chinese netizens. https://t.co/ld4H5YPQGZ pic.twitter.com/CtHkkrGgZq
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) October 12, 2020
China’s State media propaganda is often curated for heavily-monitored social media. Therefore, the Global Times’ meltdown was followed by Chinese social media outrage. But the Chinese meltdown hardly mattered. BTS’s popularity is sky-rocketing even today and after receiving the Van Fleet Award, the K-Pop band went on to script history by becoming only the fifth music group in human history to simultaneously occupy top two spots on Billboard’s Hot 100 songs chart.
BTS’s ARMY has put it in the league of Beatles and Bee Gees, even as China tries to boycott the K-Pop boy band. Hostile Chinese propaganda has only made BTS stronger and more popular. Last week, the Initial Public Offering (IPO) of Big Hit Entertainment, BTS’s production company, turned out to be one of the most successful IPOs in the history of Korean stock market. Big Hit Entertainment’s share prices nearly doubled on the first day. And this happening when China is apparently annoyed with BTS and RM.
Humiliated by BTS’s growing popularity, China has gone into damage control. According to Foreign Policy, Global Times has reportedly deleted some of the hate-filled stories that it had written about the kings of K-Pop.
Even the Chinese social media vitriol against BTS is fast vanishing and the Chinese government itself has gone into damage control mode. On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian spoke about the BTS dispute and said, “I want to say that we all should learn lessons from history and look forward to the future, and hold peaceful and strong friendships.”
The BTS episode shows how Beijing’s reckless authoritativeness and desire to assert itself on others has led to China enjoying literally no goodwill or soft power, even after being the most populous country on the face of the planet. Even a boy band coming from a country of little more than 51 million people has more soft power than all of China combined. Global Times’ extensive boycott calls and China’s desperate attempt to take on K-Pop legends BTS has thus done more harm than good to China.