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2nd Step of China’s Propaganda Pattern: Tries to cool down ‘patriotic fervour’ over Tibet

Posted by Author on April 19, 2008

AFP, Apr. 18, 2008-

BEIJING (AFP) — China has urged its citizens to rein in their “patriotic fervour” in a sign control-conscious Beijing may be growing uncomfortable with a nationalist outburst over Tibet as the Olympics approach.

China’s government and state media have repeatedly railed against allegedly biased foreign media coverage of China’s crackdown on Tibetan riots, which appears to have emboldened a range of Internet-based anti-Western campaigns.

But state-controlled Xinhua news agency cautioned in a late Thursday dispatch that nationalist energies should remain “rational” and focused on building the nation.

“Patriotic fervour should be channelled into a rational track and must be transformed into real action toward doing our work well,” said the report, published only in Chinese, suggesting it was meant for domestic consumption.

The statement appeared to fit a pattern in which the government — which swiftly quashes any expressions of public opinion it does not like — gives free rein to attacks on foreign targets when it serves Beijing’s political interests, only to reel them in when they threaten to spiral out of control.

After US forces mistakenly bombed China’s embassy in Belgrade in 1999, greatly embarrassing Beijing, Chinese were allowed to vent their anger in large anti-US protests before authorities later reined them in.

A similar situation occurred in 2005, when anti-Japan protests triggered by a range of grievances were permitted.

Anti-China rioting burst across the Tibetan plateau capital last month, triggering a massive crackdown.

China’s propaganda machine has portrayed the violence as a “separatist” push by the exiled Dalai Lama, dismissing any suggestion of deep Tibetan anger over Beijing’s strict rule of the region.

While barring foreign media from affected areas, China has accused Western media of bias, mainly based on a few photos by foreign media that were wrongly captioned online or cropped in a way that suggested Chinese heavy-handedness.

But as it prepares to open its doors to the world for the Olympics, Beijing may be worrying that the subsequent nationalist outbursts had gone too far, said David Zweig of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

“It clearly has gotten out of hand. Clearly, (China) can’t control the netizens, who are much more active these days,” said Zweig, a China foreign-policy expert.

The netizens campaign includes a boycott of French goods in retaliation for protests against China’s Tibet policies that threw the Beijing Olympic torch relay’s Paris leg into chaos last week.

They also have set up the website http://www.anti-cnn.com to criticise the US-based news network’s alleged anti-China bias.

On Friday, major news organisations in Beijing including AFP were flooded with emails furious over “vicious distortions” in Tibet coverage. Some Western media in China have also reported receiving threatening phone calls.

A separate Xinhua story on Friday, however, quoted a Chinese academic criticising any boycotts of western companies by Chinese people.

“Rashly waving a club has no benefit in luring foreign businesses or bringing jobs to the common people,” it said.

Exiled Tibetan leaders say more than 150 people in their Himalayan homeland died in the Chinese crackdown, while China says Tibetan rioters killed 20 people.

While criticising foreign press, Xinhua itself has occasionally employed inflammatory language, such as branding US Congressional leader Nancy Pelosi as “disgusting” for criticising China.

While China’s people are rightfully outraged about the killing of ethnic Chinese in the riots, Beijing may now be realising the anti-foreign backlash could hurt its international reputation, Zweig said.

“China is playing to two audiences. They are winning domestically but losing internationally. This is not going to win China any friends,” he said.

Original report from AFP: China tries to cool down ‘patriotic fervour’ over Tibet

Related:
China’s Defame Propaganda On Tibet A Verbal Blast From The Past

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