Social media played a crucial role during Hurricane Sandy. Many on the East Coast used these minute-by-minute updates to find out about weather changes, power outages, and damage in their areas.
Social media was just as active in following Hurricane Sandy all the way over in China. China’s version of Twitter, Sina Weibo, also had thousands of Sandy-related updates and posts. As Chinese netizens watched the destruction from afar, many were impressed with the American government’s preparation procedures.
One user in Beijing said “The American hurricane Sandy has killed 18 people at present; a hurricane that big and only 18 people dead. I don’t dare think about what would happen here.”
The Chinese blogosphere was referring to the torrential rainfall that hit Beijing this summer, killing 77 people. Many Chinese, especially those with a voice online, criticized the government's preparation in infrastructure, especially the lack of a proper drainage system, accusing it to fail to protect the city and its people.
Another microblogger in the Fujian province expressed the same concern over China’s preparedness if a storm like Sandy were to ever hit.
“If China were the one being attacked, I trust a lot of numbers would at least double,” he said, presumably referring to the death toll and rebuilding costs.
Another user made a more detailed commentary on the silencing powers of China’s government.
“The transportation system isn’t working, but at least they have a transportation system. Our nation’s transportation system operates without any system at all. The U.S., definitely has a lot of flaws, but they’re prosperous because they encourage questions to be raised, while our country is precisely opposite,” said one blogger from Xinjiang province.
But it was not just criticism that Chinese bloggers were talking about. They also expressed deep concern for the many Chinese, often their family members, who have emigrated to the U.S.’s East Coast.
Some other netizens commented snarkily on the continued foreign media blackout in China, and how it has hampered updates about Sandy.
“What does the New York Times have to say? I want to follow!” said one blogger from Jiangsu, referring to the government’s decision to block mainland Chinese access to the New York Times website, in addition to other foreign news sites, after the newspaper published a story about Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s family wealth.
Though firsthand sources like the New York Times were not accessible to China’s digital population, netizens were able to keep updated as Weibo users on the American East Coast sent out pictures and posts, just as American Twitter and Facebook users did.