You would think this was a celebratory moment in the Chinese government’s campaign for “soft power,” in which it lauds international recognition of Chinese citizens and people of Chinese descent. But few people in China got to know about this historic moment. Chinese social media platforms removed news about Zhao and her film’s Oscar wins. Authorities went to extra lengths to block a virtual private network service that some netizens used to circumvent China’s Great Firewall to livestream the award ceremony.
When Zhao became the first Asian woman to win the Golden Globe for directing in March, news about Nomadland, which portrays itinerant lives in the American West, was initially celebrated. But after a nationalistic backlash erupted online over a comment Zhao made nearly a decade ago, it was scrubbed from the Chinese internet. In a 2013 interview, she said China is “a place where there are lies everywhere.”
Zhao had a point. The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has spent 70 years censoring much more than Oscar ceremonies. It routinely jails its critics and fills the internet, newspapers, and textbooks with propaganda; there is no independent media.