Chinese social media comments on Ukrainian women provoke backlash

Society & Culture

On Chinese social media, reactions to Russia's aggression toward Ukraine varied from disbelief to outrage to support and everything in between. But misogynistic comments about potential Ukrainian refugees began trending — and extended beyond the virtual borders of the Chinese internet.

Ukrainians protesting Russia in front of the Russian consulate on Istiklal street in Istanbul on February 24, 2022. Umit Turhan Coskun/Reuters

On early Thursday morning, as Russia launched a full-scale military invasion of Ukraine, Chinese social media exploded with different reactions to the crisis. On Weibo, news about the rapidly changing event dominated its list of trending topics, with hashtags like “the latest update on the Russia-Ukraine situation” (#关注俄乌局势最新进展# ) amassing millions of views in a matter of a few hours.

On the Chinese internet, responses varied from disbelief to outrage to support and everything in between. While some commenters expressed anti-war views and voiced opposition to Russia’s actions toward Ukraine, others sided with China’s official stance on the dispute, blaming the U.S. and its allies for provoking Moscow and cheering on Russia’s aggression. 

But in some corners of the Chinese internet, a cohort of Chinese men “jokingly” said they could “take care of” pretty Ukrainian refugees if they arrive in China. Here’s a sample of such comments that are happening on Weibo and Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok:

“I only care about the girls in Ukraine.”
“I am withdrawing myself from participating in the discussion about Russia’s attacks on Ukraine. But due to my humanitarian beliefs, I am open to taking in Ukrainian teenage girls who become homeless because of the war.”
“I am saddened by what Ukrainian citizens have to deal with. I propose that China should give entry to 10,000 Ukrainian refugees. Unmarried Ukrainian girls need to be protected from the misery of the war.”
“Ukraine being caught in a war means that many male soldiers will be killed and many women will be left behind. Looks like I’ll no longer be single soon.”
“I only care about whether pretty women from Ukraine can be safely imported into China.”

Naturally, these comments provoked (in Chinese) discomfort and ire from internet users, who wrote they were disturbed. In a Weibo post (in Chinese) that has received nearly 200,000 likes so far, chītǔshǎonǚfēnggéjì @吃土少女风格纪 called out some of the more pervy comments made about Ukrainian women, writing that these words showed what “ordinary” Chinese men are like. She later revealed that after making the post, she was harassed on Weibo, with users calling her a “bitch” and other pejoratives in private messages.

However, most of the 2,800 comments on her post shared her disappointment and disgust. “When seeing the suffering of civilians in another country, instead of showing any sympathy, these men are delighted that a new group of women will become available to them. Their brains are completely dictated by their dicks,” a Weibo user wrote. Another person said, “I think Ukrainian women would rather stay single than date an ugly pig.”

Many also pointed out that those posts were particularly unsettling in light of the case of the chained mother of eight, who made international headlines in the past month after a viral video showing her being shackled by her neck and locked up in a freezing shed in Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province. In the most recent official statement regarding the matter, Chinese authorities confirmed that the woman was trafficked and sold as a bride twice. Her plight has caused national outrage and drawn renewed attention to the persistent problem of gender-based violence in China, where, in some parts, women are still viewed and commodified as sex objects.

Editor’s Note, 2/27/22: This piece originally appeared under a different headline, which we regret. A further update on this story: Chinese state media has recently addressed this issue: