People’s Daily’s curious rebuke of “Cold Warrior” Deutsche Welle

Note: Someone pointed out this is an old story, even though the version I was alerted to is dated May 21. Sorry – this is old news.

One of the oddest editorials I’ve seen, even for People’s Daily. Let’s dive right into it. Here’s the main premise:

Germany’s international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) recently fired another four editorial staff of Chinese origin working for the China-Redaktion der Deutsche Welle (DW’s Chinese Department), for what it claims were financial reasons, but in actuality, as a result of expelling “dissidents” with “Communist background”. The four dismissed Chinese editors have probably fallen victim to DW’s intense censorship and deep-seated prejudice.

Syntax aside, there is so much wrong here, at least from a journalistic perspective. First, where do those scare quotes — “dissidents,” “Communist background” — come from? Did Deutsche Welle call them that? Or is the editorialist second-guessing and putting words in their mouths? Then there’s the audacious and breathtaking assertion in the last sentence: The four dismissed Chinese editors have probably fallen victim to DW’s intense censorship and deep-seated prejudice. Probably? Probably why? What makes this probable?

This entire opening is nothing less than a sweeping indictment of DW, but the sole source, cited toward the end, is an open letter written by the fired editors, who might be a bit biased, no? (If they even wrote the letter.) But obviously People’s Daily’s wrath toward DW goes way back, and the firings are simply a catalyst for the new scathing attack.

The editorial then gets better (that is to say, worse):

Deutsche Welle has been eagerly appeasing overseas Chinese dissidents. DW hired a disputed Sinologist based in Germany, whose job is to sniff out all reports with even the slightest hint of friendliness toward China.

After two and a half years on his throne of censorship he has amassed venomous remarks on not only China-friendly reports but also the editors working at the China-Redaktion der Deutsche Welle and he even clamors for recognizing Taiwan as an “independent country”.

What the Sinologist and DW have said and done underlines their hostility toward China and clearly deviates from Germany’s persistent stance on the “one-China” principle.

For a long time, Deutsche Welle has been lambasting China and the Communist Party of China in its anti-China reporting, which, it claims, arises from the rigorous journalistic censorship imposed by the Chinese government.

It is really sad for a news organization to lose its dignity and objectivity and choose to publish or broadcast only the negative side of a particular country or even tarnish it with lies.

Has the writer ever heard of people living in glass houses? What media on earth is less objective, and what media is more bent on conveying “the negative side of another country” (like the U.S.) than China? And the bizarre allusion to the “disputed Sinologist” whose sole purpose is to make sure China is always vilified, and who sits on “a throne of censorship”? People’s Daily, lambasting censorship? And if they’re so certain this “disputed Sinologist” exists, why not give his name? Is this a secret?

This way-too-long editorial keeps on going, and soon its larger purpose emerges: the whole point is to bang the drum of “the Media War Against China,” a now familiar if hysterical complaint, and one that my trolls adore:

Behind the anti-China biased reporting in the Western media is the broader fear that China poses a threat to the West. With that preconception, some Western media believe that they need to undermine China and seek to bring about the collapse of this socialist country.

This is really convenient. Whenever a “negative” story (real or perceived) is written about China, it can be dismissed with the argument that the Western media seek the collapse of China. It’s the tired old antiCNN argument, but at least antiCNN tries to offer up evidence to back up its ridiculous claims. This editorial is one long list of groundless assertions, without the slightest hint of evidence that DW fired the employees because of their “Communist backgrounds,” except that the employees say so.

Do take a minute to read it all. It’s a stunning example of “journalism” run amok, and of the hysteria that so often makes China’s English-language newspapers the world’s laughingstock. What this reductio ad absurdium boils down to is the same argument as always: China is the victim of Western prejudice and the West is mean to them and wants them to collapse. Same script, a few different actors. Have they no idea how childish it sounds?

Thanks to the commenter who tipped me off to this.

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The Global Times and brain-eating worms

Just go here now for the whole slippery story. Parody can never be this funny.

Just one tiny snip: Here’s the headline from the print edition of the Global Times:

‘Brain-eating Parasitic Worms No Cause for Alarm’

What would our lives be like without English-language Chinese media?

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Father of the GFW Fang Binxing pelted by Wuhan students

This story has certainly ignited a lot of joy on twitter:

The man known as the father of the so-called “Great Firewall of China” was pelted with eggs and shoes by a students protesting against China’s draconian online censorship regime, online reports in China claimed.

The attack on Fang Binxing – a figure popularly reviled by China’s young tech-savvy elite – caused instant uproar and delight on the Chinese internet after the students posted an account of their protest on micro-blogging platforms.

The unusually daring protest comes as China’s leaders move to tighten internet controls following the wave of Jasmine revolutions in the Middle East, and indicated the depths of frustration felt by some young Chinese towards the censorship.

Four students apparently sought out Mr Fang as he gave a talk at the Computer Sciences Department of Wuhan University in central China, pre-arming themselves with eggs purchased for the occasion at a nearby market, according to their own account on Twitter.

“I definitely hit Fang. As for whether there are pictures will depends on the two students,” read a post by one of the students, @hanunyi, “I came by myself. It was not difficult to hit with my shoes but a little bit harder to target him really successfully.” Two others, @zfangzhou and @yinhm, said the protest has been organised spontaneously after hearing word that Mr Fang was on the campus.

Could it have happened to a nicer guy? To the guy who earlier this week said foreign websites were blocked because they create extra costs for Chinese ISPs? The man behind the Great Firewall who, rather humporously, boasts that he uses no fewer than six VPNs?

So what does it all mean? I’m hesitant to say it indicates a wave of popular outrage over the GFW. It sounds like a bunch of computer science students took it on themselves, spontaneously, to show how they feel about the man most responsible for cutting China off from a sizable chunk of the Internet and making a lot of Web surfing there an exercise in torture. Computer Science students have a very special ax to grind when it comes to the GFW.

I wish it were a signal of a groundswell of outrage, and I hope it leads to more expressions of frustration/anger. But for now, I see it as simply generating a microburst of comments on twitter and weibo and Chinese web portals, many of which will probably soon vanish. For what it’s worth, all the Chinese people I know hate the GFW. None of them would have pelted Fang with shoes and eggs. Internet censorship is a favorite obsession with the chattering classes, but is usually taken in stride by the teeming masses.

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Child Abductions in China, Then and Now

A close friend of mine in Shanghai sent me an email a couple of weeks ago, and I’d like to share it here. It looks at two newspaper articles, one from a few weeks ago and one from five years ago, and compares them for language and content. The topic of both is one of the grimmest, namely the abduction of children by officials who then sell the children to foreigners for adoption.

Today I saw this article in Shanghai Daily, about government officials in central Hunan confiscating babies from local families who violated the “one child” law. The babies were then sold to foreigners for adoption – apparently a very lucrative practice.

This sounded so familiar to me. I searched my own archives, and found the 2006 story I was thinking of, in the Washington Post:

The article is about the staffs of orphanages (“welfare homes”?) who paid kidnappers for stolen babies, which they would then sell to foreigners for adoption.

That does sound familiar!

Some striking parallels:

– 2006 story: “Twenty-three local government officials (…) have been fired.”

– 2011 story: “Officials with the family-planning authority (…) have been taking away babies from families (…) and putting them up for adoption,

– 2006 story: “Hengyang [Hunan], the city at the center of the case (…)”

– 2011 story: “(…) the family-planning department of Longhui County in Hunan [Note: Shaoyang, the seat of Longhui County, is just 75 miles from Hengyang]

– 2006 story: “They were purchasing infants from traffickers

- 2011 story: “The homes were even reported to have conspired with human-traffickers

– 2006 story: “(…) in exchange for mandatory contributions of $3,000 per baby.”

– 2011 story: “(…) overseas families usually paid US$3,000 to adopt a child.”

– 2006 story: “(…) a ring that since 2002 had abducted or purchased as many as 1,000 children”

– 2011 story: “They just abducted your babies starting from 2000 (…),”

Good god! It sounds like the very same story! The 2006 article said that 23 officials were fired over the practice, yet – it sounds like nothing at all has changed.

I wonder, is this some kind of central Hunan “specialty”? Or does it happen in other places, too? Maybe it’s just a bigger operation in Hunan, or for some reason it gets more attention in the press?

First, I need to congratulate my friend on his remarkable memory. Second, I wanted to quote from his email to me today, further expounding on this unhappy phenomenon.

You know the routine well: if you note a morally outrageous incident in China, someone is sure to pipe up that you are being racist, or that terrible things happen everywhere that people are poor and desperate, or China’s huge population raises the incident rate … blah blah.

Of course poverty and population size are factors behind lots of things. But … you know how it is, in China, sometimes you encounter incidents that are so beyond the typical moral pale, usually in some “mamu”-related way, that you cannot simply chalk it up to those factors.

For me, this story was an all-time classic of that genre.

I have no doubt babies are stolen and and sold in numerous sad places on earth. But … when the trading is being done by gov’t officials! And not just any gov’t officials, but gov’t officials in charge of … orphanages! And not just one orphanage, but apparently an entire regional *network* of orphanages! Over the course of many years! I mean … fuck. That’s not an act of impulse or poverty-spawned desperation. That’s an organized, large-scale, long-term operation. And now we learn that the operation is still apparently chugging away! Good god.

I have to agree with my friend. While China has made strides in dealing with corruption and other nasty problems, child trafficking still runs rampant. (Go over to China Geeks and dig around for some excellent posts on both child abductions and child beggars.) What can we chalk it up to? As with the dairy and melamine scandals and so many others, it’s about money and corruption (they go hand in glove) but it’s also about mamu, as my friend mentioned: a lack of concern for anyone who’s not in your family or circle of friends/co-workers.

In my last few trips to China I saw big improvements in this area. Most people lined up for the subways, and even the driving seems a lot more civil than in 2001, when I would frequently see cars drive onto sidewalks or fan out into the oncoming lanes. The “me-first” attitude is definitely changing, for the better. But stories like these are reminders that when it comes to making money, a relatively small group of corrupt Chinese will do nearly everything imaginable to get their piece of the pie. Even selling abducted babies to orphanages.

And yes, I know of the horrible things that go on elsewhere. But I also believe that China takes the lead when it comes to child abductions and, sadly, it makes the entire country, just about my favorite in the world, look bad. If ever there was a crime to crack down on hard, this is it.

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Global Times on Blocked Foreign Web Sites in China

This is one of those Global Times stories that leaves you scratching your head, raising a topic that is usually considered off-limits, but never going quite far enough to lay blame where it belongs. It seems to put the blame for blocked overseas Web sites in China on Chinese ISPs, who block the sites for economic reasons. Or maybe it’s due to router issues. The reporter, of course, never approaches the third rail, namely that these sites are blocked by the government, no matter what ISP you’re using.

But the fact that they’re writing about this at all is extraordinary.

Web users in a number of major Chinese cities reported difficulties in getting to overseas websites as their access has been seemingly frequently interrupted since early this month.

Overseas websites, including Gmail and Yahoo, became inaccessible as requests to log onto these websites returned error messages, while connections to MSN Messenger were unstable and Apple’s App Store was off-limits, Web users in cities including Beijing and Shenzhen reported since May 6.

This stop-and-start access to sites whose servers are located outside of the Chinese mainland was mostly reported by corporate users and businesses, where demands to visit overseas sites are large.

A number of institutions, including Zhejiang University in Hangzhou and Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, posted notices earlier this month, attributing instability to “restrictions on visits to foreign websites by the Internet service providers – China Unicom and China Telecom.”

….Global Voices Advocacy, a pressure group [?], said the interruption followed the use of “monitoring software on routers that direct Internet traffic within and across China’s borders,” the Guardian reported. It added that the new software appears to be able to detect large amounts of connections being made to overseas Internet locations.

Fang Binxing, president of Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, attributed the interruptions to Internet service providers’ economic concerns.

“Service providers have to pay the bill of the international Internet flow for their users. So there is incentive for the companies to discourage users to visit foreign websites,” he said.

So we have some theories, but no answers. Not a single word about censorship, needless to say. The article even mentions that VPNs have been failing lately, but then it leaves you hanging as to why that is. Closing lines:

The [MII] official referred the Global Times to the State Internet Information Office, a newly established department to administer both online publishing and Internet access management.

Calls to the office went unanswered Tuesday. The Internet Surveillance Department of Beijing Public Security Bureau said they were not aware of this matter.

That’s a closer you’d expect to see in the Wall Street Journal, not the Global Times. What is this article actually about? Are the GT journalists really trying to be investigative reporters, stymied by China’s security bureaucracy? How often does a Chinese newspaper say they tried to contact a government agency but got no response? As I said, rather bewildering.

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Hu Fayun’s Such Is This World@sars.come

Ruyan@sars.come is the original Chinese title of this novel, a beautifully written book that got wide attention when it was published online in China a couple years ago, and a book that has since been “banned” by the Chinese government, for whatever that’s worth.

Hu Fayun has written the book I’ve dreamed of: historical fiction that truly captures what China was like during the time of SARS, and that in doing so opens a panoramic historiographical window on modern China.

Just as impressive as the book is its translation by A. E. Clark, who has annotated the text with more than 400 footnotes, rather unusual for a novel, and these notes provide nothing less than a primer on modern Chinese history and politics. References to Chinese literature and poetry, slogans from throughout the Mao era, the names of the various purges Mao initiated and their victims, the songs of revolution, euphemisms for the Great Famine and the TSM, hundreds of colloquial expressions and lines with veiled meanings…. These painstaking notes help hold together a book that, to most Western readers (and probably most contemporary Chinese readers), would often be mystifying, or at least incomplete.

Before I go on about the book, let me mention that the breakout of SARS in 2003 defined my outlook on China for years to come. It was my first face-to-face encounter with the government’s capacity for deceit and flat-out dishonesty and I wasn’t at all ready for it. If you dig back into my posts in April of 2003, you’ll find it was all I wrote about. I was obsessed — just like everyone else in Beijing. It was SARS that made me take blogging seriously, and it was SARS that turned this into a “real blog,” as opposed to a place for me to jot personal notes. For several months, it was SARS that caused me to look on the CCP with nothing but contempt and loathing.

That explains why this book resonated with me, why I read it with such fascination, though even had I not been in China at the time I’d still find it invaluable.

Set in “City X,” Such Is This World tells the story of a 40-something widow, Ru Yan, whose son gives her a PC and a little dog before he leaves to study in France. Ru Yan discovers the Internet, and new doors open for her everywhere, universes she never knew existed, tools for talking with her son via video, and forums that allow her to express herself, and that allow her creative talents to blossom. Describing a video chat with her son:

In the video frame he waved to Ru Yan, and then the window closed. His voice, too, disappeared in the darkness. Ru Yan thought of fairy tales she had read when she was little, with their mirrors and crystal balls and genies’ lamps haloed in the light, where supernatural beings appeared and disappeared without a trace.

She joins the Empty Nest forum for parents whose children are studying abroad, and her life takes on a whole new dimension. Under the screen name Such Is This World, her essays are picked up and published on other sites, and her life has a new purpose. Through the forum she becomes friends with a brilliant essayist, Damo, and through him Damo’s mentor, Teacher Wei, once a renowned party official and theoretician, a victim of Mao’s purges and later of the Cultural Revolution. By telling Damo’s and Teacher Wei’s past, the author immerses us in the horrors of Mao’s China, an irrational world in which one day you are purging people under you, and the next day they are purging you, where words innocently uttered years ago can put you at terrible risk today,where no one is safe, where guilt by association can instantly ruin the lives of individuals and families whose sole crime was having known the wrong person.Teacher Wei’s family is ripped apart, partly by his association with the disgraced writer Hu Feng, who criticized Mao’s writings, with disastrous consequences for Wei. Later his wife and children’s lives are all but ruined when it’s discovered that decades ago Wei’s brother emigrated to Taiwan.

Tales of guilt by association and never-ending persecutions is a recurring theme in the book. Banishment to the countryside, condemnation during the Cultural Revolution, getting swept up in this purge or that — most of the characters have been traumatized. The most eloquent voice on the sufferings China has gone through is Teacher Wei’s.

In a few decades we lost the ability to express pain and grief. We lost the ability to express love. What we got instead was something paltry and preposterous….When the revolution came full circle and hit me on the head; when I was cast down so low, with almost no hope of ever being rehabilitated, only then did certain questions occur to me. But by then the cataract of revolution was unstoppable, and thousands upon thousands of intellectuals were engulfed in the flood and washed away.

Ru Yan’s Internet essays come back to haunt her when she writes too honestly, especially about a strange new disease that soon creates dread throughout the country. It is with the introduction of SARS about half-way through the book that it takes on a new and page-turning intensity. Her essays destroy a promising romance between Ru Yan and a highly regarded deputy mayor and subject her to hateful abuse in the Empty Nest forum.

Three incidents converge at once. The hysteria over SARS, the US invasion of Iraq, and the murder by the police of the young graduate student Sun Zhigang. Again, this resonated with me because it was SARS and Sun Zhigang that most molded my view of China that same year. Yes, there was much more than that to China, but in 2003 I was there, alone, and these disasters became a big part of my world. Hu Fayun reminds us of the outrage the murder generated, and all that it said about the government and its vile “vagrancy” law, that was soon after eliminated. Hu recreates the terrifying scenes of yellow tape covering houses and buildings that housed SARS victims. It brought back to me the day when SARS was discovered in my own office building. I can still hear the shouts in my office, the panic. The book also brings back the insanity I witnessed every day, the huge snaking lines at the supermarket, the face masks everywhere, the empty streets, the taxis that refused to pick me up — Such Is This World @sars.come brought it all back as if it were yesterday. (If you’re new to this blog you may want to visit my April 2003 archives to understand just how much my life revolved around SARS.)

But SARS is really a small part of this book. The book is about freedom, about artistic liberty, about integrity, and of how even the most ardent of reformers can be bought and paid for by a government dangling goodies and perqs. It’s also all about Mao and the fear he incited. It’s about the intellectual vacuum that Mao ushered in. One of the most poignant moments comes when Teacher Wei cries out that no great author or artist captured first-hand the horrors of Mao’s China. Russia in WWII had the great Vassily Grossman, who chronicled both Stalingrad and Treblinka, and Victor Klemperer who documented the day-to-day sufferings of Germany’s Jews as the noose tightened. Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon chronicling the miseries of the Western Front of WWI. And on and on. But no one, Teacher Wei despairs, was there to capture the pain and misery of post-revolutionary China. Terror. The book is really all about terror, for terror was what life under Mao was all about, terror of being informed on, of being attacked by Red Guards, terror of saying just about anything that might be perceived as critical of Mao or the party. Terror, and cynicism, too, as sincere believers in reform become disillusioned and powerless.

According to pieces I’ve read, Ru Yan has become something of a hero to many Chinese, which makes sense. She expresses herself freely and, though by nature unpolitical, she stands up to authority, especially in one of the most grueling scenes of the book, when security guards butcher pet dogs on the streets, literally pulling them apart, another idiotic government decree to fight SARS. But this leads me to my one issue with the book, namely a stretching of one’s credibility. Ru Yan’s essays on both the massacres of pet dogs and the spread of SARS to her northern Chinese city get picked up by bloggers and news sites around the world. This leads to companies canceling their plans to hold conventions in China, and makes the entire world afraid of the country. This is a bit much, as China-based foreign correspondents were pumping these stories out on a daily basis, and the idea that one Chinese woman posting essays in an obscure chat room ignited the international attention that isolated China is hard to swallow.

Doesn’t matter. This is a great novel and an unequaled look into contemporary China and how/why it is what it is today. I don’t know if it’s for sale yet in the West, but when it is, buy a copy. It has everything — suspense, intrigue, history, pathos, romance, sex (briefly), philosophy and politics. A great novel with a great translation.

A note on the somewhat awkward title, Such Is This World @sars.come. From the translator’s footnotes:

The Chinese title ruyan@sars.come involved an untranslatable pun on a phrase and a name, both pronounced Ru Yan… The spelling “.come,” though emended by many a journalist, is not a typographical error but rather a punning experience to the coming of the SARS epidemic which shapes Ru Yan’s experience both on the Internet and off.

For excerpts of the book, go here. For a biography of Hu Fayun go here.

Update: You can order the book here. Your order will help ensure that great Chinese books like this will continue to be translated and distributed.

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Mao’s divided legacy

I know, we’ve talked this subject to death, and everyone knows where I stand: I see Mao as having being nothing but bad for China, notwithstanding the few golden years of the pre-GLF 1950s when it looked like he was going to be a true reformer. I respect the rights of Chinese people to view Mao however they choose, and I understand why many of them see him as a hero, even if I disagree.

The NYT takes a look today at this question and notes why Chinese citizens on the “right” see Mao as a Machiavellian killer while those on the “left” see him as a liberator and the man who brought stability to China. It’s good to see that these topics are at least debatable, and to see there are a lot of Chinese “netizens” who aren’t toeing the party line. And this story includes an interesting twist.

…45 years ago, on May 16, 1966, this same man began the Cultural Revolution, an orgy of political violence that killed perhaps two million Chinese.

Mao’s preeminence in China is linked to his role in founding the People’s Republic in 1949. Yet his controversial political legacy, of which the Cultural Revolution is just one example, is growing more, not less, disputed, with time.

At stake is nothing less than long-stalled political reform, say some Chinese analysts and retired Communist Party officials.

“An honest, earnest, serious assessment of Mao based on facts” is “necessary,” Yawei Liu, director of the Carter Center’s China Program in Atlanta, said in an e-mail.

Mao’s legacy overshadows China to this day, so “without such a thorough verdict, it would be hard for China to launch meaningful political reform,” Mr. Liu said.

In China, the debate over Mao’s legacy is growing increasingly heated, conducted via Web sites, articles and books.

Here’s the “news”part of the article. Is the CCP really considering writing Mao out of the government’s policies and documents?

A recent essay by the liberal economist Mao Yushi, “Returning Mao Zedong to his Original Person,” has highlighted the controversy.

Mr. Mao, who is no relation to Mao Zedong, accused the former leader of hypocrisy and unusual cruelty.

The Cultural Revolution was merely a ploy to destroy his many critics after the disaster of the Great Leap Forward famine, which killed around 30 million people, Mr. Mao wrote.

Evidence of cruelty is found, for example, in Mao’s indifference to the fate of friends he drove to suicide, wrote the economist, and that of President Liu Shaoqi, whom Mao first attacked, then pretended to save, only to have Mr. Liu expelled from the party on his 70th birthday, before dying, untended, in jail in 1969.

A document circulating online purporting to detail a proposal by top Communist Party officials to remove Mao Zedong Thought from party work, documents and policies, has also sharpened debate.

The supposed Politburo document, No. 179, dated Dec. 28, 2010, is said to have been proposed by Xi Jinping, the man expected to become China’s next president, and Wu Bangguo, the head of the National People’s Congress.

No one knows if it’s real or fake (I presume it’s fake), but it has ignited the issue again. And I see that as a good thing. I think the more people look hard at all that Mao actually did they’ll have no choice but to see he was far from 70 percent good. And I have no illusions; people won’t let go of their opinions easily, and Mao’s legacy is one of those burning issues that inspire extreme opinions (and a lot of irrationality). At least now more people will be discussing it.

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Trip to Guizhou

My travel companion Lisa has put up a great post with stunning pictures of our recent four-day trip to Guizhou, one of the most beautiful places on the planet. We were both speechless as we drove by towering mountains and deep valleys, with poor farmers tilling the fields, terraced into the mountains, in their bare feet, helped by their water buffalo. It is a paradox that Guizhou is China’s poorest province, and one of the most gorgeous. Go see Lisa’s post now.

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Bin Laden, and China

In Singapore in 2003 a friend told me that he and many of his friends were delighted when they heard the news of September 11th two years earlier. In China, a colleague told me how he and his classmates applauded and cheered in school the following day. Obviously this isn’t representative of all Asian people, but I also think they were hardly isolated incidents.

I understood it. I understood that there was a lot of joy, and even more schadenfreude, to see the world’s superpower, the one that arrogantly appointed itself police officer of the world, weakened and devastated. It wasn’t right, but it’s not hard to explain.

With that in mind, I was interested in a much-tweeted WSJ blog post that appeared yesterday dealing with the complex range of emotions Chinese people were expressing on the Internet over the news of Bin Laden’s death. Of course, picking out comments from the Web is not a scientific method of measuring public sentiment, especially when vocal fenqing can easily drown out more reasonable voices. Still, I found the contrasting emotions quite fascinating. Here are a few of the examples:

“Deeply mourning Bin Laden,” wrote Weibo user Jiajia Nuwu in comments echoed fairly widely across the site. “Yet another anti-American hero is lost.”

“Is this real? Excellent!” wrote another. “Now the only terrorist left is the United States!”

….“Thank you America for helping us,” wrote user Zhaoling Tongzi, noting Beijing’s assertion that that the Al Qaeda leader had supported a Muslim separatist movement in Xinjiang. “He wasn’t a friend. He was an enemy.”

….In another oblique reference to Chinese politics, a number of Chinese Twitter users passed around a message reading: “Of the ten most evil people in the world, the U.S. has killed one. Now there are nine left.”

Nine is the number of members on the Chinese Communist Party’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee.

….In a more analytical vein, former journalist and prominent political blogger Wen Yunchao argued on his Twitter account that the death of Mr. bin Laden would have consequences for China’s foreign policy.

“In the past, the U.S. needed China to join the fight against terrorism and so made more than a few concessions,” Mr. Wen wrote. “Now that bin Laden is dead, there’s one less constraint. The Free World now has more power to encircle China on the issue of universal values.”

So I don’t think we can pigeonhole exactly how “the Chinese people” feel about the news. I’m assuming the usual suspects were unhappy to see America achieve what can only be described as a major victory, while the more sober observers realized it was something that had to be done, and perhaps was even a good thing for the entire world. I appreciated the blog post because it showed there’s more to Chinese opinion on the Web than just angry, jingoistic young men.

While we’re on the topic I’d like to get down some of my own thoughts on what has been an extraordinary couple of days in America.

Osama Bin Laden had become increasingly irrelevant and weak as each year passed. But the jubilation over his capture is unsurprising and is not misplaced (though the circus of ecstasy and shouting of “USA, USA!” is misplaced). After all, he did plan and provide the resources that led to a horrific attack on American soil, nothing less than an act of war, and he was also at least partly responsible for the deaths of thousands of Muslims, usually Shiites, who were butchered with religious fanaticism by Bin Laden’s point man in Iraq, Zarqawi. And he was responsible for many other acts of bloodshed against totally innocent victims.

(For anyone who might have doubts about the savagery of Zarqawi and his intimate relationship with Bin Laden, I suggest you read Bruce Riedel’s The Search for Al Qaeda and Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower.)

So while Bin Laden’s relevancy was diminished, the breadth and scope of his evil remained, and he was deservedly the most wanted man in the world.

Franz Stangl, the commandant of Treblinka, was captured in the 1960s, decades after Treblinka was destroyed, and he was in no way “relevant” to any cause at all (he was working at an auto plant in Brazil when he was captured). And yet, his relevancy was not the issue, but his evil deeds were, and justice had to be served. He spent the rest of his life in a German prison. For Bin Laden as well, justice had to be served, and news that it finally happened ignited a not-so-surprising sense of relief and national pride.

I just finished reading the aforementioned Search for Al Qaeda, which explains beautifully why Bin Laden did what he did. It was nearly 100 percent a reaction to Western colonialism in the Middle East following WWI, culminating in the creation of the State of Israel. The breaking point was the stationing of US troops in Saudi Arabia for the 1991 invasion of Iraq, which Al Qaeda sees as desecration of the sacred Arabian peninsula. They saw the USSR as colonizers of Afghanistan in the 1980s and we gave the Mujaheddin, supported strongly by Bin Laden, aid to defeat the Soviets, then we left them in the lurch, and the rest is history. So it’s quite fair to say the West played a pivotal role in the creation of Al Qaeda. But that’s no justification for global terrorism and mass murder.

I’ve actually read opinions that we should not have killed Bin Laden because it would inevitably lead to a reaction resulting in more violence. I find this point of view extraordinary. Do we actually not go after mass murderers because it would inflame other murderers? Do we turn the other cheek to the architect of an act of evil as heinous as 911, because we’re afraid his followers might respond violently?

On the other hand, I found the reaction by many Americans equally extraordinary, watching them dance in the streets and celebrating as if it were the end of World War II. It wasn’t the end of anything (aside from the hunt for Bin Laden), and celebrating anyone’s death in this way is undignified, . But again, I understand this reaction, even if I don’t admire it.

Bin Laden’s death is a good thing. It was an incredibly large achievement for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, not to mention the Navy SEALs who carried out the operation like clockwork. It was a deservedly proud day for America (how could it not be; the murderer of 3,000 Americans has been brought to justice), but one that needs to be kept in perspective. There are a lot of depraved men out there willing to sacrifice themselves to kill as many infidels as possible. They aren’t necessarily Al Qaeda, the size and strength of which has been exaggerated and mythologized both by the media and by the government. But they do exist, and I doubt Bin Laden’s death will have much impact on them, except to give them added reason to kill. It will, however, deprive them of their charismatic figurehead, and that counts for something.

Update: Nice analysis and screen captures here showing how China’s major media are playing the Osama story.

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