They say they are just volunteers who translate Internet posts into Chinese. State media calls them a “despicable anti-China smear campaign” and “psychological warfare”.
The Great Translation Movement (TGTM) started on Reddit after Russia invaded Ukraine.
Users have posted translations of some of the nationalist opinions trending on Chinese social media.
For example, on a story of retired British soldiers who volunteered to fight, the top-rated comment was “Demons in Angels’ Costumes. Ridiculous.”
Another wrote: “Ukraine is a sharp knife stabbed against Russia in the hands of the United States.”
The account went beyond the war in Ukraine to cover the lockdown in Shanghai, COVID conspiracy theories and the online reaction to international news, such as an earthquake in Japan (to which one user reacted: “Wonderful, when will Mount Fuji erupt?”), as well as the occasional racism that often characterizes Chinese social media.
“We are just Chinese people who hate the Chinese echo chamber, and with a passion big enough to translate these comments over a sustained period of time,” says a person behind the Twitter account, contacted by Sky News via direct messages, who wishes to remain anonymous. .
They say a number of volunteers are involved, from different countries, and Chinese tends to be their first language.
TGTM’s popularity prompted a fierce response from Chinese state media.
The Global Times, which is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), published a number of articles, describing the volunteers as people of Chinese descent who “hate their homeland”, accusing it of fueling the racism against Asians and claiming he cherry picks “kind and drastic comments”.
“The picture of China and the Chinese in their portrayal have been arrogant, populist, cruel and bloodthirsty,” the Global Times wrote.
TGTM agrees with some of that.
“We have selected our comments, but we have selected the most upvoted, which most of the time (well every time in fact), happen to be radical lunatics,” TGTM told Sky News.
“We sometimes showed the sensible comments, all got fractions of the upvotes and were criticized by nationalists, calling them traitors, for example.”
He added, “The growing number of nonsensical comments on the Chinese Internet that we see today are the culmination of what the CCP intended them to be, the long-term effects of censorship and mass propaganda, exclusion from the outside world exacerbated by barrier language, the collectivist Confucian culture of unconditionally obeying its leaders, however despotic, memories of the political consequences of student protesters during the nascent democracy of Tiananmen 1989, the destruction of the thought and scholarly values during the Cultural Revolution.
And despite the backlash from Chinese state media, TGTM has no plans to stop.
The group told Sky News: “However, it is important to continue to reach out to the rest of the free world to show them the Chinese internet, Chinese popular feelings and what the CCP is doing.