China on bin Laden
Anti-American sentiment continues to be rampant among Chinese Internet users, most of them educated elites. Reacting to the death of Osama bin Laden, large numbers of Chinese overwhelmingly viewed him as a heroic “anti-American fighter.” Immediately after the Navy SEALs’ successful mission that killed bin Laden, China’s Phoenix TV website conducted an online poll on the death of the world’s No. 1 terrorist. By midnight May 3, more than a halfmillion people responded. Asked “How do you feel about the death of Osama bin Laden,” 59.9 percent said they were “saddened, because an anti-American fighter has fallen.” About 20 percent indicated that they were “happy that he is dead.”
The same poll showed that while a clear majority strongly endorsed bin Laden’s anti-American “heroism,” almost 60 percent of those polled expressed disapproval of bin Laden’s indiscriminate killing of innocent people.
Some Chinese commentators were not surprised by the vitriolic anti-American feeling among so many Chinese. One of them, media commentator Mo Zhixu in Beijing, noted that the poll results represent progress since 90 percent of Chinese he polled right after the Sept. 11 attacks expressed cheering approval for the terrorists’ mass killings of Americans.
The strong anti-American hatred was reflected in website after website, microblog after microblog, across China’s vast cyberspace. In the most popular online chat room, Strong China Forum (qiangguoluntan), hosted under the aegis of the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, the People’s Daily newspaper, almost all comments on bin Laden’s death predicted a gloom-and-doom future for the United States, as the death of bin Laden, they say, will expedite America’s decline. Or, as a blogger writing anonymously as “1235” opined on the People’s Microblog (renminweibo): “Laden’s death is just like the passing of a brother of the USA because American hegemony and terrorism are like twin brothers.”
Considering China’s highly controlled and censored Internet, it is difficult to ascertain the accuracy of these online polls. However, if pro-American senti- ment is censored and deleted voluminously from polling data by China’s state propaganda organs, such polling results should reflect the Chinese government’s official anti-Americanism. If these results are accurate and uncensored, they are indeed revealing and shocking. Either way, the United States may have a far bigger problem in dealing with China in years than most Americans know.