Nnevvy: Chinese troll campaign on Twitter exposes a potentially dangerous disconnect with the wider world

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang seen during a visit to Thailand in 2019. This month, netizens from both countries engaged in a trolling war on Twitter and other social media.

James Griffiths is a Senior Producer for CNN International and author of "The Great Firewall of China: How to Build and Control an Alternative Version of the Internet."

Hong Kong (CNN)At first, it seemed like a straightforward Chinese internet controversy.

After Thai actor Vachirawit Chivaaree liked a photo on Twitter that listed Hong Kong as a "country," Chinese fans inundated his Instagram and other social media with comments "correcting" him, and he soon posted an apology for his "lack of caution talking about Hong Kong," which is a semi-autonomous Chinese city, and not an independent nation.
Vachirawit, who goes by the name "Bright," was not the first foreign celebrity or brand to cause offense in China by mischaracterizing issues related to Hong Kong or Taiwan, or by crossing numerous other political red lines familiar to those within China's Great Firewall.
    Nor was he the first to try to apologize, only to have more alleged transgressions dredged up by nationalist Chinese web users looking for a new scalp.
    For years, Chinese internet nationalists have leapfrogged the Great Firewall to go after the country's critics on banned social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. They've attacked pages run by the Taiwanese government, pro-Uyghur groups, and businesses deemed to have offended China, inundating them with abusive posts and clogging up their timelines.
    How Chinese internet trolls go after Beijing's critics overseas