An Analysis of the Anti-American Sentiments Among Some Chinese Internet Users 

(The full report, please refer to the 2005 Annual Report of  U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission )

After the demise of the United States space shuttle, Columbia, some celebratory cheering was posted on Chinese websites. Liu Xiaobo, a renowned writer, published an article on overseas websites analyzing this unfortunate turn of events propagated by some Chinese Internet users. Some Chinese listeners of Voice of America have also made comments via call-in phone lines on the Anti-American sentiments among some Chinese.

A Roman Holiday for Some Chinese
After the Columbia space shuttle tragedy, people and their leaders in many nations expressed sympathy and condolences, paying their utmost respect for the American scientists dedicated to the human exploration of outer space. The Chinese president, Jiang Zemin, also sent a telegraph to President Bush to convey his sorrow. However, on some of the major websites of China, web users have made comments expressing their delight in this tragedy. In an article written for the United States web forum, the Beijing-based Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo conducted some quantitative analysis on the postings of the major Chinese Internet opinion forums. His study leads him to the conclusion that although the rejoicing rhetoric on these Internet sites are not as prevalent as that in the immediate aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the U.S., aA whopping 50% of the postings that have appeared on China’s two leading Internet services, "" and "" are anti-American gloating over the tragedy of the Columbia. For example, some Chinese Internet users "thanked Allah for protecting Iraq"; some believed the Columbia tragedy was "a punishment from Heaven upon the U.S. for its desire to control the world"; some predicted that "with this disaster the U.S. would finally decline and China would rise up eventually defeating the United States; some even regarded the explosion of the Columbia as the "the most beautiful fireworks for Chinese New Year’s Day!!!" Some held the sentiment that "today we are really happy...Thanks to the U.S.A. for giving us such pleasure." And there was also this: "No fireworks for the Chinese New Year? Now the U.S. has given us the biggest fireworks to say bye-bye to the past and to welcome the New Year."

Poisoned by Ultra-Nationalism:
What do we make of these poisonous outbursts of extreme anti-American venom? Again, the writer Liu Xiaobo analyzed his study in Beijing: "The outpouring of such extreme anti-Americanism is the result of the poisonous ultra-nationalism, which undermines common human values, destroying a decent sense of justice and sympathy, blurring the substantial difference between liberty and dictatorship, between humanity and anti-humanity, between goodness and evil, between truth and falsehood, and between civility and barbarism. Its only sentiment is cold-blooded hatred, its only message is vulgarity and venting, and its only expression is obscene indelicacy."

Misled by the Government Media Reporting
One listener from Shandong Province in China called in via VOA’s hot line today, and provided his own analysis of the anti-American outburst. He believes that the anti-Americanism in China has resulted from erroneous interpretations of news events conducted by the Chinese government-controlled media. The listener stated that "Among today’s Chinese people, there exists an anti-American feeling. I believe this has been caused by the state and government that have been deceiving the people. For example, the common folks do not know the good side and the bad side of the U.S.-China relationship. And the Chinese government only lets its media outlets tell one side of the story, twisting the facts this way or that way, thus resulting in anti-American feelings."

One Should Not Celebrate Over Others’ Misery
However, in the Internet discussion group "Strong China Forum" under the auspices of the People’s Daily, an Internet user named "MBOY6" has a different perspective on the festive mood of some Chinese over the Columbia disaster. He states that "a considerable number of "netizens" who have celebrated over the Columbia disaster are by no means cold-blooded. They are not celebrating over the loss of human lives, but for the setback of the United States space programs, which makes him/her happy about one failure of the American hegemony in its unlimited expansion." Yet one netizen from disagrees with such a view. He believes that even if the U.S. is a competitor of China, the Chinese people should still not exude happiness over America’s setback. This netizen, with an Internet name of "Cold Heart," says thatsays "Seven people disappeared forever on their way home. In the eyes of the despicable, this loss of lives constitutes beautiful celebratory fireworks, with which they decorate their contemptible and shameless vanity. Jealousy has made these callous people lose basic human sympathy. Even if the United States is China’s competitor, we should not rest our hope for superiority on the failure of our opponent. If our superior opponent tripped and fell, should we applaud for such misfortune? If the majority of Chinese people think this way, it would be better to move the 2008 Olympics somewhere else."

Internet Alone Won’t Bring Down Dictatorship
With the rapid spread of Internet applications, many people believe this will precipitate the democratization process in some totalitarian countries, even bringing down the dictatorial governments. Yet other scholars point out that despite the fact that the Internet has provided a new venue for obtaining information, the Internet has not become a serious threat to the governments in many non-democratic countries due to governmental monitoring and control.

Internet Used by the Government to Rule
Two researchers, Shanthil Kalathil and Taylor C. Boas, from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, have conducted a study on Internet use in eight authoritarian countries. Their study concludes that the Internet has not necessarily posed a threat to authoritarian regimes, especially those that endeavored to control the Internet from the early stages of its development, despite the belief held by many that widespread use of the Internet would constitute serious challenges to dictatorships and states in self-imposed isolations. "According to our study of eight countries," says Kalathil of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, "we believe that the Internet does not necessarily pose a threat to dictatorial regimes. They not only view the Internet as a virus that spreads freedom, but also view it as a tool. The impact of the Internet is conditioned by the socio-politico and economic environments in which it is used. This is not to say that the Internet is completely useless in creating challenges to dictatorial regimes. But we have found that the Internet is often used by these regimes to strengthen their power to rule."

Technology to Monitor the Internet Becomes More Advanced
The target countries of the study conducted by the Carnegie scholars include China, Singapore, Vietnam and Myanmar in Asia, and Cuba, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. In China, Kalathil points out, the government strictly controls the use of the Internet, blocks en masse the dissident websites and BBS forums, and restricts the contents of online expressions, thus making the Internet unable to effectively promote social openness and democratic values–despite the fact that more and more people in China are obtaining information from the Internet, and the emergence of public online forums where expressions and exchanges of ideas are allowed. Kalathil further points out thatout "the authorities in China have used laws, surveillance, intimidations, and arrests to restrict this new form of information dissemination. At present, the methods used by the Chinese government seem to be working. Internet users in such dictatorial and closed societies are fearful of persecution by the government, therefore they avoid touching politically sensitive topics in their self-expressions. The increasingly sophisticated and complete cyber surveillance technology the Chinese government has been able to obtain has made the Internet users unwilling to take the risk of being arrested to check out restricted websites, or to take part in political activities by using the Internet."

Self-Censorship by Yahoo! and Others
Kalathil states that some organizations such as the Falun Gong spiritual movement and the Chinese Democratic Party are now limited to exerting their influence overseas through their Internet websites, despite the fact that they had some initial success in using the Internet to organize, communicate and to spread their views. This is because of restriction and obstruction by the Chinese authorities. In addition, the Chinese government has realized that it is impossible to build a perfect firewall, so it has resorted to encouraging self-censorship mechanisms, demanding Internet service providers such as Yahoo! to sign agreements with the Chinese government to voluntarily filter the information going through their networks. The government of China however does occasionally allow certain critical views online under certain circumstances to let the people blow off steam. The government of course uses the Internet as a tool for propaganda. These developments indicate that the Chinese government has successfully controlled the development and usage of the Internet in China.

The Internet Alone is Not Enough
Taylor C. Boas, who is Kalathil’s co-author of the new book entitled "Open Networks, Closed Regimes–The Impact of the Internet on Authoritarian Regimes," concludes in the research that their case study of the eight authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, Cuba and Asia revealed that the fundamentalist Islamic views expressed on the Internet in some Middle Eastern countries have posed direct challenge to the governments in the region that have chosen to join the United States in the war against terrorism; that the mere existence of the Internet alone does not guarantee the advancement of social democracy or regime collapse. Yet in the long run, the Internet may cause some changes in these societies, and may gradually strengthen the improvements of social institutions and precipitate economic development, thus; exerting positive impact upon national development. The two authors urge the decision-makers of Western countries to recognize this reality, and promote gradual reforms in these countries through international infrastructures such as the World Trade Organization and through dialogues on human rights, because it may take a long time for the Internet to show its impact upon politics.