Monday, April 21, 2008



BY Terry Bankert 4/22/08 early edition
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The journey of the Olympic torch around the world has been marred by protests and anti-China demonstrations, but the situation seems to be calming down.[t]


Demonstrators staged rallies in several Chinese cities on Saturday to demand a French goods boycott following protests during the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay against China's crackdown on dissent in Tibet.[R]


After a series of demonstrations in Chinese cities in which young men burnt French flags and insulted French "heroes" from Jeanne d'Arc to Napoleon, President Sarkozy took a series of actions to demonstrate French goodwill towards the Chinese people. [i]


Now it appears that the Chinese are unhappy about the way their nation has been targeted and have decided to take to the streets to register their protest against those countries they believe displayed sympathy for pro-Tibet agitators. [t]


Chinese anger against France, though partly spontaneous, has been carefully whipped up by the official media. A handicapped Chinese athlete, Jin Jing, 27, who fought off a pro-Tibetan demonstrator in Paris while carrying the Olympic torch in her wheelchair, has become the subject of hero-worshipping articles and television programmes. [i]


There are signs that the Beijing government is concerned the upsurge in Chinese nationalism in response to Olympic Games protests may harm internal investment and the essential task of maintaining economic growth.[v]


Reports suggest that thousands of people are calling for a boycott of French goods, and blaming the western media of biased reporting about the unrest in Tibet. Some commentators have advised the Chinese to come to terms with dissent. But don't the Chinese equally have a right to protest like people in France or Britain? [t]

"It has to be understood that a large part of the Chinese population was very shocked by the incidents that occurRed during the passage of the Olympic flame in Paris."[R]


French supermarket group Carrefour has not felt a serious effect on sales from anti-French protests in China but is concerned by the anger felt there, the group's head Jose-Luis Duran said in an interview.[R]


Although the protests may be stage-managed, as some have suggested, there is every indication that the depth of nationalistic fervour in China has taken even the government by surprise. Restraint is being urged at every step, though the government has stopped short of outright condemnation.[t]

Handling outbursts of nationalism in China is always a delicate matter for the Communist Party, as it was for the imperial dynasties before it.[v]

A deep pool of unquestioning nationalism is an important reservoir for Beijing to be able to call on in difficult times. But once roused, inflamed passions can quickly turn on the pinnacle of power, as they have on many occasions in China's history, sometimes bringing down the dynasty.[v]


In any case, these protests are as legitimate as those in Paris or London. Portraying the outcry as merely a sham is to ignore the danger that an alienated China poses to the world. If the Chinese are feeling offended, perhaps it is time for the rest of the world to try to understand their grievance. [t]CHINA HAS A RIGHT TO BE ANGRYPushing China into a corner is unlikely to help the world. It will merely achieve a growth in militant Nationalism that will, in a sense, allow the government to continue its human rights violations. In other words, an image of China as a nation beset by unfair attacks might lead to it becoming even more hostile to the views of the western world. [t]

What it does not want is a lasting breach, especially with the industrialized countries whose investment in China is maintaining growth in job creation and the ability to buy control of overseas resources.[V]

So late last week, the official Xinhua news agency applauded the "sincere demonstration of public opinion" that spurred the Carrefour boycott campaign. But the commentary urged the Chinese to channel their "patriotic zeal to concentrate on development."[v]


The divide between how the Chinese view themselves and how they are perceived in the world should be narrowed instead of making it wider. It will be wise, therefore, to engage China on different terms and avoid tensions from spiralling out of hand over the Olympics, which the Chinese are justifiably proud of being called upon to host.[t]

China has conspicuously singled out France for more blame than other countries which gave the Olympic torch a bad time, such as Britain. That seems partly to have been motivated by anger at the mixed messages generated by Paris in recent weeks. France's Human Rights minister, Rama Yade, was quoted as laying down a series of "conditions" for M. Sarkozy's attendance at the Olympic ceremony, including "autonomy" for Tibet. Mme Yade and other ministers later repudiated these remarks. [I]

China is equally convinced the Dalai Lama instigated March 14 riots by ordinary Tibetans that led to the deaths of 18 people, most of them shopkeepers and their families.[v]
People known in China as "cybernationalists" say the Carrefour chain is owned by luxury goods group LVMH and ultimately controlled by French billionaire Bernard Arnault -- who, it is claimed, financially supports Tibetan separatists.[v]

Calls in Chinese internet chatrooms for a boycott of French goods and contracts have had little impact so far, according to French businessmen in China. They are concerned, however, that the anti-French feeling could spin out of control.[i]

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