For those who say the pro-China demonstrations in the last one month all over the world were manipulated by Chinese Party, well you are all wrong. Read the following article then you’d have an idea.
Tue Apr 29, 2008 12:51am EDT
By Chris Buckley – Analysis
BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese scholars and officials listened with polite curiosity in mid-March when public relations expert Wu Xu warned the worst risk to the Beijing Olympics could be political shocks from protests over Tibet.
They and the rest of the world are listening much more closely now.
One day after Wu made his warning in a March 13 lecture in Beijing, riots in Lhasa and unrest across Tibet ignited international protests against Chinese policy and then Chinese counter-protests that have cast a shadow over the Games.
Wu, an Arizona State University professor whose specialty is Chinese “cyber-nationalism”, worries the volatile public mood over the Tibet unrest could spill into Games venues in August.
“This could linger on and trigger some unpredictable events — booing at teams, ugly confrontations if an athlete protests — that we don’t want,” Wu said by telephone recently.
He has been invited back to Beijing to train officials in handling the Games’ potential PR nightmares.
Yet even if the stadiums are as friendly as officials hope, China’s surge of popular patriotic anger has exposed powerful currents set to play an increasing role in its politics and diplomacy.
The campaign to boycott the French supermarket chain Carrefour — seized on as a symbol of Western sympathy for Tibetan independence — ferocious verbal attacks on Western media, and rallying around the Olympic torch reflect citizens willing to speak out, when allowed by a cautious Communist Party, but also worried about their country’s standing in a wary world.
“But the Western response to Tibet has ignited this sense that although we’ve become richer, they still treat us like it’s the 19th century.”
TRADITIONS OF PROTEST
China’s current tide of patriotism builds on a pattern of nationalist protest that has flared when sensitivities about the country’s standing nurtured by the Communist Party have collided with international events.
“To a certain extent, China is reaping what it sowed by making nationalism, along with economic growth, the basis for legitimacy,” said Allen Carlson of Cornell University.
“It’s a genie that once let out of the bottle is hard to put back.”
In 1999, demonstrators assailed the U.S. embassy in Beijing after NATO forces mistakenly bombed China’s embassy in Belgrade during the war against Serbia, killing three Chinese. The protesters called the bombing deliberate.
In 2005, rows over Japan’s bid to become a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and memories of World War Two sparked widespread marches, boycotts and occasional violence.
This time the Western protests and calls to boycott the Games dismayed a public that had little idea of widespread international support for Tibetan independence, said Wu Jiaxiang, a Beijing political commentator who was a senior government aide in the 1980s.
“The Tibet issue brings together two of the most sensitive issues for Chinese people — sovereignty — and the Olympics, a moment of great pride for most people, so it’s no surprise that we are where we are,” he said.
CONNECTED AND ANGRY
The protests also reflect changes coursing through Chinese society as it becomes more prosperous, connected and assertive.
China now claims more Internet users than any other country in the world — 221 million or some 16 percent of the population.
News is strictly controlled by the Communist Party, but the sprawling web and an increasingly commercial media have given citizens more scope to voice opinions.
Those changes have been reflected in Internet-driven protests, petitions and denunciations more diffuse and widespread than previous bursts of nationalist anger, said Wu Xu, the PR expert.
“It is so scattered, so decentralized, with so many fronts, so many ‘enemies’, and thus so unpredictable,” he said.
“The government has tried to catch up and then control and tame the emotions. But it didn’t create them itself.”
As public anger swelled, the Party sought to surf the wave of patriotism by loosening some censorship controls and putting public voices to the fore, said an editor at a Party newspaper.
“Initially the message went out to open up the media and the public,” said the editor, who asked to remain anonymous, fearing punishment for talking about policy.
“Since then officials have tried to guide the public reaction without becoming too overt.”
But public protests also carry risks for the Party as it seeks to steer the country towards a trouble-free Olympics.
While state media have stressed calls for “rational patriotism” and chided “narrow nationalism,” pro-boycott protests had not completely died down as of last weekend.
The government’s abrupt proposal for talks with the exiled Dalai Lama’s representatives brought dismay after officials had so loudly blamed him for backing the unrest.
Considering that backlash against the compromise gesture, and continued anti-West feeling, said Shi of the People’s University: “If the purpose of the West in initially supporting the 2008 Olympics was to promote a more open, pro-Western China, they have failed now three months before.”
(Editing by Jerry Norton)
(“Countdown to Beijing Olympics” blog at blogs.reuters.com/china)