China on bin Laden

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

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.

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