An article on Chinese state media that said Taiwan’s new leader Tsai Ing-wen has an “extremist style” because she is unmarried has prompted outrage online.
The opinion piece, published by the Xinhua news agency, said Ms Tsai did not have the “emotional burden” of a family, leading to an “erratic style”.
Chinese social media users largely rallied in support of Ms Tsai, who has been outspoken about her single status.
She was sworn in on Friday as Taiwan’s first female president
Her Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which leans towards independence from China, won January’s elections, ending eight years under pro-Beijing President Ma Ying-jeou.
Ms Tsai’s singleness was a central focus of a commentary by Wang Weixing, originally published by Xinhua.
The article has since been removed from Xinhua’s website, but can still be found on other news portals and micro-blogging accounts.
Mr Wang, a senior military officer, pointed to an “extremist political-style development” displayed by Ms Tsai.
“As a single female politician, Tsai Ing-wen does not have the emotional burden of love, of ‘family’ or children so her political style and strategies are displayed to be more emotional, personal and extreme,” the report in Chinese read.
It continued that her “erratic behaviour” influenced her political style and advised that she should take that into consideration, rather than “focus on long-term goals” for Taiwan.
Alex Huang, a spokesman for Ms Tsai, told BBC News that her office had “no comments” in response to the piece.
‘Typical discriminatory behaviour’
But thousands of Chinese-language social media users have expressed outrage and anger towards the article, which has been reposted by several accounts on China’s popular micro-blogging site Sina Weibo.
“This was the stupidest and most offensive thing I have read in ages,” said a post from a Weibo user from the Chinese capital, Beijing.
“Many women abroad admire Ms Tsai’s tenacity and drive, especially the fact she is strong and independent and does not need a man to rule.”
“If the tables were turned and Ms Tsai was a man, she would be celebrated for being single. This is typical discriminatory behaviour but it still disgusts me,” said another user on the site.
Su Mei Cho, a teacher from Shanghai, left a comment in response to a post that was being circulated on the site: “If Xinhua wanted to criticise Tsai Ing-wen, do it on fair grounds and look at her ability to lead Taiwan and revitalise areas like defence and the economy.
“What does her private life have to do with the way she governs Taiwan? Taiwanese celebrate her and her strong achievements and I doubt they will care as much about who she decides to date, such trivial writing and opinions expressed in this report.”
Over in Taiwan, netizens on the popular PTT forum were discussing the “poor taste” of opinions expressed towards their leader.
“Even a woman’s singlehood can make the news?”
“They are probably threatened that a cat lady like Ms Tsai could beat any men she sets her mind to – they are intimidated,” said another.
But not everyone disagreed with the article.
A user from China’s Yunnan province said it was not an attack, and the article was based on facts. He questioned whether it would also be an attack for a psychologist to point out a patient’s personality faults.
Another user from Henan province, central China said the article was all based on public information, and said it was right to use public information to study a politician.
Reporting by the BBC’s Grace Tsoi, Heather Chen and Yashan Zhao.