Cyberpunk 2077, a highly-anticipated video game released yesterday, was accused of “insulting China,” and calls went out on Chinese social media for an immediate ban. Yet this common solution for dealing with content considered offensive in the Chinese cyberspace has been met with harsh criticism.

A netizen this week hit the Chinese social media site Weibo with a screenshot of a page on Cyberpunk Wiki, an online encyclopedia for the game, in which Taiwan is described as “not really a country and it’s not actually a part of China,” and complained about Cyberpunk 2077’s supposed support for Taiwanese independence.

“Many people in 2020 consider Taiwan to be a separate state/country from China, however the Chinese government still tries to get Taiwan to be an official territory,” the page wrote. “Taiwan in the modern day is very similar to China except being slightly more developed.”

The story of the game is set in a dystopian future, and the user took issue with the fact that Taiwan and China are two separate countries in such a universe.

“I’m reporting the case of insulting China and I demand a ban on the game,” a user wrote on Weibo, addressing CCTV, People’s Daily, and the Communist Youth League of China, all organizations owned by the Chinese government. “I do not want to see this anywhere.”

The Chinese government has neither taken any action nor commented on the issue yet.

In April, China quietly removed Nintendo’s Animal Crossing from the shelves overnight after Hong Kong protesters took the pro-democracy demonstration against the new national security law to the game. Joshua Wong, for example, shared a screenshot on Twitter of his in-game island with a banner reading “Free Hong Kong, revolution now” and a funeral headshot of the Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Chinese players did not simply swallow the bitter pill at the first moment. Instead, some openly criticized the government for censoring an innocent game and sarcastically suggested a ban on the rights to speak and write.

A clash between gamers and the ‘Little Pink’

However, that is not what usually happens when similar controversies emerge. Chinese netizens are known for informing authorities of cases — that involve perceived sinophobia or challenge China’s claims of sovereignty — and demanding action. This group of extreme nationalists are commonly called the “Little Pink.”

Monster Hunter, an American film released last week, has recently been removed from all theaters in China after online critics read a pun about knees as a racist slur that implies Chinese people are dirty.

In the movie, a soldier shouted to his companion, “Look at my knees. What kind of knees are these?” and joked “Chin-ese.” In many English-speaking countries, “Chinese, Japanese, dirty knees” is a racist playground chant mocking children of Asian origin.

By contrast, in the case of Cyberpunk 2077, while some netizens lashed out at the game for the offense, few wanted it to be banned.

A Weibo user posted a meme with words below: “I simply want to play Cyberpunk 2077. I don’t care about anything else now.”

“Some people seem to be itching to have others humiliate their nation,” another user wrote. “Why can’t they be confident when their nation is strong?” Some attributed the phenomenon to a sensitivity on criticism of Chinese culture that prevails in China.

Other netizens believe those who criticize Cyberpunk 2077 for insulting China are aiming to set off a wave of criticism about the game, making it the next Monster Hunter.

In Taiwan, screenshots of these comments have been shared on the popular PTT online forum. “It is more dreadful if they cannot play the game,” a user said, in comparison with having Taiwan listed as an independent nation.

Some cited a previous incident where some Chinese netizens criticized the Steam game platform for not including Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Tibet as a part of China on a map on its official website.

With censorship tightening in China, Steam is one of the few platforms in which Chinese players have access to games developed outside their country.

At the time, many heavy gamers tried to stop the group of Little Pink from calling for a ban, with some saying, “Please don’t censor Steam and give them a break, leaders,” which refer to Chinese officials.

TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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