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China’s Hit Video Site Serves Teens Anime With a Side of Marx

Alongside clips about manga and Grand Theft Auto are virus conspiracy theories and anti-American rhetoric.

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Illustration: Rebekka Dunlap for Bloomberg Businessweek

Like many Chinese teenagers, Shan Bingxin turns to Bilibili to alleviate his pandemic ennui. For about three hours a day, the 15-year-old scours the online entertainment hub for anime clips, gaming tutorials, and news. But increasingly, the site that began as a forum for gaming- and animation-obsessed geeks is emerging as an unlikely hotbed for current affairs—with an ever more nationalistic bent.

Alongside typical posts about Grand Theft Auto or the Japanese manga series Naruto are clips generated by government-sanctioned influencers and hawkish news outlets. Shan recently watched a livestream showing Wuhan rapidly erecting temporary hospitals for virus patients, which filled him with pride in his country. Another clip showing U.S. President Trump calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus” infuriated him.