By Koh Hui Xin
The South China Morning Post reported that top Chinese supermodel Liu Wen has sparked a row after wishing followers a happy “Lunar New Year” instead of “Chinese New Year” in an Instagram post on Feb 18, the third day of Chinese New Year.
Liu, consistently ranked one of Forbes magazine’s highest-paid models in the world, had posted a photo of herself with Chinese-American businesswoman Wendi Deng Murdoch, with the caption “Happy Lunar New Year!!!” This was then quickly changed to “Happy Chinese New Year!!!” when netizens started bombarding her in the comments section with unkind remarks.
There were sarcastic comments such as “do you still know that you are Chinese” and “she is not an international supermodel for nothing”. Some accused her of “trying to appease the Koreans and the Vietnamese”.
Instagram user baijingting999 wrote, “If even Chinese people don’t respect their own culture, how can you expect others to respect you?”
Others also told her to “get out and don’t come back to China.”
“Lunar New Year” is a generic term used outside China, where the annual festival is celebrated by millions of people in countries including Korea (Seollal), Vietnam (Tết), and Mongolia (Tsagaan Sar).
Chinese news portal Thepaper.cn reported that the term “Lunar New Year” is more widely used in the United States because it includes people from other Asian countries celebrating the same festival.
Festive events promoted on the website of Disneyland in the United States use the term “Lunar New Year”, while Hong Kong and Shanghai Disneyland use “Chinese New Year” on their English-language pages.
However, there were also many comments that defended the model, calling those who abused her “ridiculous nationalists” and likening them to the patriotic “Red Guards” of Mao Zedong during the Cultural Revolution.
Some argued that both phrases were valid and she was not wrong. Many told her not to care about the nasty comments and in turn, wished her “Happy Lunar New Year”.
While Instagram is blocked in China, many users have found ways of bypassing the firewall. Liu’s post was also reposted on Chinese social media, which added on to the barrage of online abuse.