The previous day, a shouting match erupted at a pro-Hong Kong rally at the University of South Australia in Adelaide. In response to chants of “Hong Kong, Stay Strong,” mainland Chinese students countered in unison, “Cao ni ma bi”—an obscene Chinese insult that’s made its way into the Urban Dictionary.
In the meantime, though, Hong Kongers are taking to the streets in defense of their rights — and seeing their young leaders arrested as a result. These clashes aren’t just about disparate politics. They’re the battle lines between two entirely different spheres of information, a form of warfare that will define the 21st century. Inside the world of mainland Chinese control, truth and fiction seem reversed. The Chinese students involved in this aggressive political messaging are pushing their country’s narrative—and getting praise for their behavior at home. But that same message is backfiring outside of the mainland, even among some Chinese communities elsewhere in Asia.