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Chinese Social Media Celebrates Baltimore Bridge Collapse

The Francis Scott Key bridge, located in Baltimore, Maryland, collapsed on March 26th after being rammed by a cargo ship, the Dali, which lost control of its steering. Much of the bridge sank into the river within seconds of being rammed.

The accident immediately drew attention on Chinese social media. On Weibo, for example, a video of the accident has been viewed more than 1.2 million times. On Chinese social media platforms, where anti-American sentiment is prevalent, many netizens celebrated the incident. A Weibo blogger named “Air Sky Toner” wrote: “This is a really beautiful sight, like watching a movie; this bridge is free from now on.”

The bridge was named after Francis Scott Key, the author of the lyrics of the U.S. national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Some Chinese netizens inferred that the bridge collapse signaled the decline of the United States. “It is not a good sign that this bridge collapsed,” one blogger wrote.

Some social media users also used the bridge collapse to mock American democracy. On the Chinese video website Bilibili, a commentary video with 24,000 likes said that the “a ship of democracy” caused the collapse of “a bridge of democracy.” The video went on to criticize the U.S.’ infrastructure problem.

False information about the accident spread widely on Chinese social media. A number of bloggers with large numbers of followers have claimed that the captain of the Dali was from Ukraine and that the accident was staged by the U.S. government. Some bloggers posted photos of the alleged Ukrainian captain’s credentials. The Associated Press found that a Ukrainian captain did indeed pilot the Dali years ago, from March 19 to July 27, 2016.

Some Chinese bloggers also claimed that CNN incorrectly reported that the collision was an attack from China. They posted screenshots with captions reading “A cargo ship loaded with Chinese goods attacked our bridge!” However, unlike Chinese media that often use the term “our country” to refer to China, American media, including CNN, rarely use that term to refer to the United States. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the screenshot was not from CNN, but from NBC’s local channel in Baltimore. In a statement to AFP, CNN said that it had never run a story like that; the image was fake, and the caption, font, and style are not CNN’s either.

Source: VOA, March 31, 2024