Li Fan, a 21-year-old student, attempted suicide after posting a brief message on the Chinese Twitter-like platform Weibo just after Valentine's Day.
"I can't go on anymore. I'm going to give up," he wrote. He was in debt, had fallen out with his mother and was suffering from severe depression.
Some 8,000km (5,000 miles) away from his university in Nanjing, his post was detected by a program running on a computer in Amsterdam.
It flagged the message, prompting volunteers from different parts of China into action.
When they were unable to rouse Mr Li from afar, they reported their concerns to local police, who eventually saved him.