News Excerpt
Recently thousands of internet users from Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong have formed a pro-democratic front on social networks, known as the “Milk Tea Alliance”, against the authoritarianism of the Chinese Government and its supporters.

The term ‘Milk Tea Alliance’ is used to describe the online democratic solidarity movement by social media users from Thailand, Hong Kong and Taiwan against the authoritarianism of the Chinese Government and its supporters.
The movement, which calls itself the “Milk Tea Alliance” after a shared passion for sweet tea drinks, has triggered a wave of online criticism of China at a time when Beijing is trying to improve its image hurt by the coronavirus crisis.

What is the ‘Milk Tea Alliance’?
The ‘Milk Tea Alliance’ is an informal term coined by social media users because in the region, tea is consumed in many nations with milk, with the exception of China. Memes were formed showing flags of the countries in the “Milk Tea Alliance” with China as a lone outsider.

What started this online war?
•    The online battle started when Sukaram (a Thai model) was accused of retweeting and sharing a Thai Twitter post that questioned whether coronavirus had emerged in a laboratory in Wuhan.
•    The Chinese social media users then called for a boycott of ongoing hit television drama, ‘2gether: The Series’.
•    This situation precipitated a flare-up not only between fans but also among social media users in the two countries. Users started bombarding social media with abusive comments against Sukaram using the hashtag #nnevvy, which was adopted because of her Twitter and Instagram handle, @nnevvy.
•    The outpouring of nationalist slurs and hatred online was fuelled by China’s state-controlled news media. Social media users from across East Asia, from Hong Kong through Taipei to the Philippines, enjoined the online meme war with Thailand against China. Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists came onto the scene.

China-Thailand relationship
    During the Asian financial crisis, middle-class Thais praised and were thankful for Beijing’s decision not to devalue its currency, thus upholding the rhetoric of kinship between China and Thailand at the people’s level.
    But after Xi Jinping assumed power, the image of China in Thailand’s public opinion gradually deteriorated because of both internal and external factors. Internally, urban, middle-class Thais, especially the younger generations, have doubted and felt disappointed by the unpopular Thai government, installed after the 2014 coup, whose direction in foreign policy appears to lean on and accommodate China.
    Externally, the global pandemic of COVID-19 that originated in Wuhan has rapidly intensified anti-Chinese sentiment in Thailand. China’s coronavirus culpability and its donation of defective medical supplies have reaffirmed the deeply embedded bias among Thais toward the Chinese people and made-in-China products.

The younger generations of Thais no longer perceive China as a benign big brother. Further, as a new generation of middle-class Thais will soon replace those currently ruling the country, their changing attitudes about China and the Chinese people do matter. The latest online war of words might be better perceived as a political message to policymakers in Beijing about the future. Rising anti-Chinese sentiment has started damaging the people-to-people basis of Sino–Thai ties, often claimed to exist by both the Chinese and Thai governments.

One China Policy, One China Principle, Hong Kong pro-democracy Protests