Chinese Nationalism Prevalent in Reaction

By MacLeod, Calum | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), April 6, 2001 | Go to article overview

Chinese Nationalism Prevalent in Reaction


MacLeod, Calum, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


BEIJING - From government officials down to ordinary citizens, goodwill toward the United States is giving way to anger, fed by a nationalism that has become a vital if perilous prop to China's communist regime.

"President Bush and the head of U.S. Pacific Command are making stupid, unreasonable comments," said Wang Xiaodong, an influential ultranationalist writer, in one of the more extreme comments heard this week.

"Bush and the head of U.S. Pacific Command should shut their stupid mouths and only open them again to apologize," he said.

It is not only the government and intellectuals like Mr. Wang who are spewing bombast over what is seen here as America's "arrogant" refusal to apologize for a midair collision that sent a Chinese airman to his death and forced 24 Americans to crash-land on China's southern coast.

Chinese Internet sites, which for the first time in decades have given a voice to ordinary Chinese, are filled with invective.

"Hang the U.S. spies and take revenge for Xu Xinhu," said a writer using the e-mail name "SpicyKnife" on the Strong Country Forum of the People's Daily, the Communist Party-controlled newspaper.

Xu Xinhu was a journalist killed in NATO's bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in May 1999. The United States maintains that the bombing was an accident.

Chinese have a love-hate relationship with the United States, feeling awe and respect for the wealth and power of a country whose name they translate as "the beautiful country."

But for many Chinese it is also the arrogant superpower that became the heir to the colonial invaders who carved up parts of China in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a view that comes to the fore in times of conflict between the two countries.

The trend was seen most dramatically in 1999, when angry crowds protested the embassy bombing.

Years of isolation after the communist revolution in 1949 only hardened this sense of outraged nationalism against the foreign powers that were seen to have bullied China since the Opium Wars.

Since the rule of Chairman Mao Tse-tung, Chinese leaders have learned to use strident nationalism to deflect attention from many domestic ills to shore up support for the Communist Party.

But party leaders must walk a fine line in letting their people voice such public anger, warned a political commentator in Beijing who requested anonymity.

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