China and the US - Internet Reaction: Nationalist Chat

Some twenty-three million Chinese officially have access to the internet and the number is quadrupling each year. While the leadership in Beijing has limited the international sites that can be visited, it has not reckoned with the strong domestic criticism of its own policies now being heard.

The World Today
3 minute READ

Chris Hughes

Emeritus Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics

Put the crew on trial – execute their commander!’ This message posted on a popular Chinese Internet chat room was typical of much of the emotional outpouring following the collision between a US surveillance plane and a Chinese fighter jet. Within hours the incident had become one more episode in a long list of complaints against the way in which Washington treats Beijing. It is criticised for support for Taiwanese and Tibetan independence, using human rights issues to lever trade concessions from China, accusing Chinese people of engaging in nuclear espionage, and oppressing China’s ‘friend’ North Korea.

The first inklings on Chinese websites that something dramatic had occurred began to appear at around 6.15 pm Beijing time on 1 April. Debates over issues such as reassessing the Cultural Revolution and the achievements of the ongoing anti-corruption campaign were interrupted by messages asking for confirmation that the incident had taken place.

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