By Yang Sheng, Chen Qingqing and Liu Xuanzun
Patriotism and profound respect toward the People's Liberation Army (PLA) martyrs who sacrificed their lives to defend China's territory in the Galwan Valley conflict with India in June 2020 have been the hottest topics trending on Chinese social media networks in recent days, but Chinese authorities and the public are demonstrating sophistication of not letting antagonism overwhelm rationality.
Chinese analysts said the high-profile commemoration of four PLA soldiers shows that there is an unshakable consensus shared by the mass public - unconditional support for the military to defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the Chinese government also hopes the public will understand that stability and prosperity of the country, even in an era of peace, comes at a cost, sometimes even the lives of the soldiers to protect the nation.
India should learn that this kind of public opinion could turn into a huge force to be reckoned with against any foreign aggression, and if India doesn't appreciate China's sincerity in easing border tensions and engages in aggression further, India will again be the side who pays a heavy price, said experts.
Lin Minwang, a professor with the Institute of International Studies at Fudan University, said that it is human nature for Chinese people to have negative sentiments toward India after the details of Galwan Valley skirmish were released, but unlike New Delhi who continually hyped its nationalism and populism against China, Beijing didn't play up public sentiment against India.
In the firsthand official information released by the PLA Daily on Friday, China used the words "foreign forces" instead of "Indian troops".
This is to minimize the unnecessary impact that could in turn embarrass India and disturb the ongoing disengagement process, Lin said, adding that "But unfortunately, India could mistakenly interpret this as 'China is afraid of India,' so strength is actually much more useful to deter further provocation from the Indian side," Lin said.
China and India reportedly held the 10th round of corps commander-level talks on Saturday, and Chinese analysts predicted on Sunday that the two countries' troops could further disengage at other previous hot spots after smooth disengagement at the northern and southern banks of Pangong Tso days earlier.
More stories in detail about the fallen heroes in the border clash continued circulating on Chinese news sites and social media over the weekend, arousing the collective empathy and commemoration of the Chinese public, and rendering the heroic spirit in peaceful days much more valuable, many Chinese netizens said.
A comment wrote by a netizen that went viral on Sina Weibo, a Chinese Twitter-like social media platform, read "Near sunset, I was eating my rice and drinking coke as usual, and I couldn't understand why these strong soldiers got killed. I woke up at the night and suddenly realized: They died for us."
The hashtag "They died for us" got 1.47 billion views and was discussed more than 181,000 times on Weibo, which has become the hottest topic on the social media network in recent days.
Song Zhongping, a military expert and TV commentator told the Global Times that every country needs to eulogize its heroes, especially during a peaceful era, in which people likely forget the peace and stability they are enjoying is hard-won, and "we also need to be aware that the world is not peaceful, and there are heroes who are risking their lives to protect us and ensure China remains peaceful and safe every day."
After the remains of four PLA martyrs were brought back to their hometowns by a Y-20 military transport aircraft, local governments in East China's Fujian, Central China's Henan, Northwest China's Gansu and Shanxi held funeral honor ceremonies for the four martyrs. Local veteran affairs offices administered a one-off sum of compensation for the families of the martyrs and qualified family members started to receive regular compensation, according to China Veterans, a magazine under the Ministry of Veterans Affairs.
The local veteran affairs offices also designated officials to take care of family members of the martyrs and assist them in solving difficulties in their daily lives. The public has been paying close attention to the situation of injured PLA officers and soldiers, as well as the family members of those four martyrs.
Qi Fabao, a regimental commander of the Chinese military who bravely fought in the Galwan Valley border clash and suffered severe head injuries has recovered well and took pictures with his friends on Saturday, smiling, a video posted by Ankang Television in Shanxi on Sunday showed.
When battalion commander Chen Hongjun sacrificed his life in the hard-fought battle during the clash, his wife was five months pregnant. With the help of local veteran affairs authorities, she was provided with conveniences during her pregnancy. After Chen's son was born on October 25, 2020, local authorities helped the family acquire household registration in Xi'an, the capital city of Shaanxi, according to media reports on Sunday. The local government in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province also helped Chen's wife find a job at a conservatoire after learning that she holds a master's degree in vocal music.
Some stories shared by their family members, friends, teachers and classmates kept touching the hearts of many, as those martyrs, just like many ordinary Chinese, who could be sons, fathers, friends and even a fiancé who was very excited to marry his beloved one.
While Chinese society commemorates the martyrs, several individuals have angered the public by defaming the heroic martyrs who defended the border. Some were immediately detained by local police in accordance with the law.
On Saturday, Beijing's Haidian district police bureau detained a netizen who spread multiple rumors and unsubstantiated claims in a WeChat group smearing the border soldiers. Nanjing police in East China's Jiangsu detained a Weibo influencer with the pen name "Labi Xiaoxin" surnamed Chou, on the suspicion of provoking insensitive arguments. His account, with more than 2 million followers, has also been shut down by Sina Weibo.
Experts said that patriotism and firm support toward the military who defend the country is the consensus widely shared by Chinese people, so India, and any other foreign force, should learn that China's sincerity in easing tensions doesn't mean China will tolerate or be afraid of aggression.
What should India learn?
China didn't immediately release information about the PLA's casualties and combat details after the clash in June 2020, because China doesn't want to escalate tensions, said Chinese experts, and if China had done what India did last year - using the clash to incite nationalism and hatred domestically, the two militaries wouldn't have the chance to disengage as they have today, the experts noted.
When Chinese and Indian troops began to disengage in the border region, China had the opportunity to tell its people and the world the truth by releasing details and videos about the clash, without further worsening the situation. This is a goodwill gesture that India should appreciate since China has remained rational and calm upon handling this matter, the experts noted.
In contrary to the majority of Indian media reports, which appeared to misinterpret the message conveyed by China commemorating four martyrs and further instigated anti-China sentiment, the Indian military and government both acted in a restrained manner with no apparent irrational moves in response to the disclosure of the heroic deeds from five PLA soldiers in the clash, which is a good sign, according to Chinese experts on India issues.
"The mentality of ignorance and arrogance from Indian netizens led Indian side to believe it's unacceptable to disclose the truth of the border clash, but until now, there's no overreaction from the Indian troops or government, which has created certain conditions for both sides to 'heal their wounds' amid deteriorating relations," Qian Feng, Director of the Research Department at the National Strategy Institute at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Sunday.
"Although we believe China helped India save face after Indian troops were beaten badly by the PLA, India is unlikely to appreciate this, and border conflicts in the future are still possible, so China should be fully prepared. In communicating with India, strength is much more useful than sincerity," Song said.