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What could cause 59.5% of Chinese to view Osama Bin Laden as a heroic “Anti-American fighter” as reported recently by Phoenix TV in China?|
This thought raced through my mind as I first read the report.
How could such an intense level of anger or hatred be directed at the USA by one of our largest trading partners – China?
Could it be true that behind many of those smiling Chinese faces that are traveling to, and doing business in the US market, is a hidden hatred or resentment toward America?
Deng Xiao Ping once told China to “Hide your strength, bide your time”.
What this not so cryptic message meant was that China should not disclose how far she had come, but to feign weakness and humility and then, when their adversary was lulled into a sense of security, they could spring forth.
Well, it may just be that China no longer feels it necessary to bide their time. One symptom of China’s new found confidence may be in the way she chooses to express herself in politics and to the media. Another may be in how the typical Chinese view the world and their place in it.
The Chinese Opinion about Bin Laden’s Death
Over the past week, the Chinese media has been inundated by discussions about the death of Osama Bin Laden and the US.
Much of what is being said, however, may come as a shock to most Americans.
For instance, in praising Osama Bin Laden for his actions, Zhang Zing, the director of the China Central Television’s National Security and Military Channel, said that Osama Bin Laden should be commended, for Bin Laden used, “His own power to fight the most powerful country in the world, America.”
At first blush, the statement could be seen as a knee jerk reaction to the death of the mastermind of 9/11, or maybe the quote was taken out of context. Upon further exploration, however, Mr Zhang had this to say as well:
“Whether Laden is dead for real or not, it’s not important anymore. He has already become a spirit, an anti-American system of thought.”
While I was shocked at the man’s words, it is easy to consider them as an anomaly, and not representative of the country as a whole.
How can it be possible to have such an anti-American undercurrent in a country that seems in a rush to purchase the latest gadget from Apple or watch the entire series of shows like Friends and Prison Break? A country that seems intent on inundating the US stock market with IPO’s.
Were his words an example of what the Chinese truly feel about America, or something else?
Initially, I thought Mr. Zhang’s feelings were only representative of a small percentage, a minority of the Chinese society. I credited it to a sub group of disenchanted people, much like we find in all corners of the world.
But is this really the case? Do the Chinese see us as a threat, a people to be feared and/or despised? Is this anti-American sentiment more prevalent than large corporations and/or regular Americans may wish to believe?
Understanding Chinese Hatred of the US
According to China’s Presidential heir in waiting, Xi Jinping, the Korean War was “great and just war for safeguarding peace and resisting aggression.”
Although this statement was later white washed by the press, it is telling in terms of how some party officials view their relationship with the USA and our history. So just what does this tell us about how the Chinese view America and what does it mean for US-Chinese relations?
In order to better understand Chinese anger and supposed fear mongering of the USA, one should analyze recent Chinese history.
In Chinese school systems they are taught about the century of humiliation that China had suffered. This period, which generally is considered to have started around the mid 19th century and ended with the formation of the PRC, is used both to educate the masses, but also a tool used by the Communist party to leverage anti-foreign sentiment, or so they say.
To the Chinese, those one hundred years represents the “bad” of the last Chinese dynasty, the horrors of opium addiction and the embarrassment that followed.
It is seen as a time when China suffered abuse at the hands of foreign invaders and what unchecked foreign presence could mean to China. The ruling Communist party leverages the use of this embarrassing legacy as they lay claim to be the force that once again unified a humiliated China, and ended foreign intervention and rule.
Although the USA had not been part of the opium wars, they did play a role in the Boxer Rebellion, which ended in the Boxer Protocol. This was considered one of the ‘unequal treaties” China was forced to sign during this period of Chinese humiliation.
As such, the presence of the US in China at that period makes them part of the black eye in China’s history.