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.

The Discussion: 56 Comments

Aw did you guys delete my comment

Is it because I said ass?

May 10, 2011 @ 9:26 am | Comment

PS: That’s a lot of personal attacks in one post friend
The butthurt is palpable

May 10, 2011 @ 9:27 am | Comment

I haven’t been watching this thread, and now I see it’s gotten kind of nasty. Yourfriend-ferin, I’ve been very magnanimous, letting you comment at will, but you are pushing it. You were doing well for a while, avoiding the ad hominems but now you’re relapsing. Do it again and the ban will go back into effect.

Xian, what are you talking about? None of your comments have ever been deleted.

May 10, 2011 @ 9:54 am | Comment

“Likewise, most other nations do not have banking institutions with decades of experience in money laundering”…
—news flash for the ol’ YF there. We’ve already been through #44 and 45. Among others, #46 and 47 have happened since then. Why did you ignore some of my observations in #47? You are running through the CCP apologist checklist with expert efficiency. First, argue against what you hoped someone had said, rather than what they actually said. Second, when pressed with points and questions to which you have no response, ignore them and go over things that were already previously discussed. Why is it that CCP apologists display such a dearth of character? Is that a prerequisite or something?

But hey, if you can’t handle #47, and want to dance with #45, I’m game. So you said “Likewise, most other nations”. Great. So is Switzerland among that illustrious group? Seems like you’re going to go with “no” for the time being (recognizing of course that you reserve the right to “evolve” that answer if necessary). Well ok then, so in that same paragraph I go on to say “And other nations should be applauded for their apparently rigorous and systematic mechanisms for rooting out funds invested in their country by criminal elements and “dictators”. Could you perhaps name some of these “other nations”?”. So your answer is…??? Bueller??? Bueller??? Oh, I get it, the CCP apologist runs away and hides when he doesn’t have an answer. Seen that movie before. And you had been so helpful with your definition of “most” being that of “a majority of instances”. There must be so many countries with exactly such rigourous rules in place to ensure that their banking institutions would not have extensive experience with money laundering. Yet you can’t even name one…pity. And funny.

Anyway, feel free to go over #45 again and again. And then when you finally grow a pair, you can steel yourself to address the first 5 paragraphs of #47. Don’t worry, I know you’re slow, so I’ll wait.

“Like I said, the CIA, US Senate and the UN are the ones calling the money dirty.”
—ummm, you need a conviction before the proceeds of crime can be labeled as such. It’s that annoying rule of law thing. Ever heard of it? Besides, this is another hilarious example for a CCP apologist. Usually, it happens with “western media”, when you guys go on and on about “bias”, only to turn around and use a “western media” story when it suits your POV, proving that it’s not the media that is biased, but the particular consumer. In this case, you are happy to concur when the CIA and US Senate call something “dirty money”. Hmm, I wonder if you are quite as keen to concur with the CIA and US Senate when they affix certain other labels to certain other nations like China when it comes to things like human rights. Like I said last time, you are an endless source of entertainment.

“I’m not even going to dignify your idiotic “name a country that doesn’t” comment with a response.”
—of course you won’t, because you don’t have one. And you lack the depth of character to admit it.

““name one country that doesn’t violate human rights” or “name one country that doesn’t pollute”.
—it’s pretty hilarious when your attempted parallels aren’t even parallel. Can you even see straight? Your contention is that the US is rather unique in her capacity to launder money. Well ok, it can’t be too hard in that case to name even one (1) country that has a systematic mechanism in place to prevent “dirty money” from entering their financial system, right? On the other hand, have I ever contended that China is rather unique in her capacity to violate human rights? Have I ever contended that China is rather unique in how she pollutes? If I had, then you can issue your retorts as a parallel. But I haven’t. So your retorts are rather obtuse. Logic, my friend. You should meet him sometime. You could use his help…and lots of it. Just as a hint for next time (and let’s face it, with your low-rent logic, there is sure to be a next time), it is you CCP apologist types who constantly feel the need to compare. Me, not so much. I just say that China sucks with human rights. Doesn’t matter if she sucks more or less than someone else. And if you suck at something, you should work at it, independent of what others do (and that advice is particularly timely for you right about now). Herein endeth the lesson for today.

“so I doubt you will see the parallel”
—like I said, it’s not parallel…so I guess that’s why I’m not seeing it. And it’s quite funny that you thought it was. Once again, you bring a smile to my face. Thank you.

“you’re also too much of a moron to remember your own words.”
—yes, I could learn. So maybe you can show me some examples. Kinda like what I’ve done for you here…not to mention #47. I should really charge tuition soon. Then again, maybe I’ll just consider this community service. Paying it forward, as they say.

“you don’t get to define when capital benefits a nation.”
—when did I “define” that? I just said you can’t confiscate proceeds of crime unless and until you’ve established that a crime occurred in a court of law. Are you arguing against something I didn’t say again. Gosh, you folks just can’t help yourself sometimes.

“Doubt that’s what you and your fellow shills thought before Harry Wu…”
—and the basis for your doubt is…? Oops, sorry, just asked you another question you can’t answer. Can’t help myself. Your failure to answer makes me laugh, and your actual attempts at answers make me ROFL, so I guess the reward for asking you a question is just too great to ignore sometimes.

So it looks like you addressed a smattering of my points from the latter half of #47. When you’ve gathered yourself, maybe you can summon the strength and character to address the first half. Like I’ve said before when it comes to you, I can’t wait.


BTW, that response to Slim doesn’t make sense. “less criminal” is still criminal, so how is that “neither”? You seem slick with a dictionary, so you should look up “neither” for future reference. And another nice comparison there. You folks simply and uttering cannot help yourself.

May 10, 2011 @ 12:53 pm | Comment

Is YF the same as Ferin? Didn’t he have some other moniker a while back? Maybe he needs a different handle for each of his colourful personalities. I would suggest man’sbestfriend, since that would mesh nicely with the reference to the Pavlov test subject that I made in #47.

May 10, 2011 @ 1:08 pm | Comment

Oh I missed it, nvm

May 10, 2011 @ 1:14 pm | Comment

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