Monday, March 31, 2008

The Chinese media responds to Tibet with tough talk

A few weeks ago I made a few predictions about the challenges the Chinese government would face over the Tibetan unrest in the runup to the Olympics:

... most Chinese do not sympathize with the Tibetan independence movement. According to the New York Times, Chinese-language news outlets are not reporting the riots in Lhasa. But when the news starts to leak out into unregulated, free-wheeling discussion forums and blogs in China, watch out. I believe many Chinese will demand that authorities crack down even harder in Tibet ...
The Chinese blog chatter started almost immediately. You can see a translated sample here, keeping in mind that this is the relatively tame stuff. And according to today's New York Times, now the Chinese media has weighed in, and not surprisingly, the government is playing up the nationalism angle and trying to look tough to its Chinese readers:
For two weeks, as Chinese security forces have tried to extinguish continuing Tibetan protests, Chinese officials and state news media have tried to demonstrate the party’s resolve to people like Ms. Meng. They have blasted the foreign news media as biased against China, castigated the Dalai Lama as a terrorist “jackal” and called for a “people’s war” to fight separatism in Tibet.

If the tough tactics have startled the outside world, the Communist Party for now seems more concerned with rallying domestic opinion — both by responding to the deep strains of nationalism in Chinese society and by stoking it. Playing to national pride, and national insecurities, the party has used censorship and propaganda to position itself as defender of the motherland, and at the same time to block any examination of Tibetan grievances or its own performance in the crisis.
What I also found interesting in the NYT report was the reference to overseas Chinese getting involved, by joining the anti-Tibet, anti-foreign media online crusade.

Former Berkman fellow and CNN journalist Rebecca MacKinnon has lots of commentary and links on her blog. See Tibet... is discussion possible? and Anti-CNN and the Tibet information war.

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