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I feel it's impossible to participate in a balanced discussion with the C word comes up on hacker news and elsewhere online (China). I was going to reply to a couple comments but retrained myself because I feel like there's no point arguing with a shill or what feels like organized, state funded astro turfing.

I do NOT advocate the US getting into this game tit/tat through manipulating/commenting on US based media but I wonder what other technical solutions there are to counter what feels like a massive communications operation to shift all digital discussions concerning China; without throwing the baby out with the bathwater

This thread - like every other which involves China - is rife with straw man arguments and a lot of 'so what' false equivalencies.

I agree with your first sentence, but that's about it. What I see on HN and Reddit when "C word" comes up is endless bashing (some of which are perfectly legitimate criticism btw) and ignorance. Anyone who dares ask for evidence, proof, or even just basic objecticity commonly observed in discussions of other topics, are met with personal attacks and shill accusations. Attempts at pointing out the hypocrisy and double standards are almost always silenced by yelling "this is whataboutism" ad nauseam.

I agree that there's no point in arguing with low-quality comments, but for different reasons.

The other kind of comment that predictably appears in threads about China are suspicions that astroturfing is going on. When dang bothers to respond asking for proof, it usually later turns out that the comments in question were made by completely ordinary members of the community who happened to voice a dissenting opinion. (Those kinds of accusations are against the guidelines, by the way.)

There is also not just one group making such comments, but at least two different ones:

The first are all about whataboutism. Whenever the topic is the Chinese government doing evil thing X, they start talking about the US government doing something similar to X. Those people are highly likely to be US citizens (their obsession with US politics is a strong hint) and they only use China to segue into the topic they're actually interested in discussing.

The second are Chinese cheerleaders. They think that China is overall on the right track and point to rapid economic growth as proof. You don't usually see them in threads about Chinese human rights abuses (because even they agree that those are evil), but in other cases, like here at the bottom, they make an appearance. There's no need for the government to pay those supporters, because the natural supply of nationalist types is large enough.

There is a third kind that's easily confused with the second. Some people will agree with specific developments because they feel that the previous situation was even worse. For most people, Google censoring search results would be a bad thing, because for them the change is (uncensored Google -> censored Google). But for Chinese people who see the change in terms of (censored Baidu/Bing -> censored Google) it's still an improvement.

Then there's a fourth kind on the opposite side, for whom everything about China is connected to everything else. They're somewhat of a mirror image of the first group; instead of using China doing X as a prompt to talk about the US doing X, they'll talk about China also doing Y and Z instead.

I think none of those trends are much to worry about, though. Although HN voting on political topics tends to be quite a bit noisier, well thought-out responses are still more likely to end up closer to the top than to the bottom.

Fair enough, but I like to stay abreast of the latest propaganda narratives.

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