China and Osama’s Death

On 9/11, I encountered resentment towards the US from some of my Mexican peers at the international high school in Mexico City. They whispered comments behind my teachers’ backs in true pre-pubescent form to which I retorted equally rehearsed jibes. Although I can’t say what Chinese high schoolers thought of the attacks at the time, the government welcomed the US’s War on Terror as it provided a distraction to China’s growing economy and eased Sino-US relations. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Chinese government called Osama’s death a “milestone…for international anti-terrorism efforts.” Chinese blog and forum postings, on the other hand, were more conflicted.

The posts from Weibo, a Chinese microblog, range from “Deeply mourning bin Laden. Yet another anti-American hero is lost,” to “Bin Laden was finally killed by American army. May all people who died in the 9/11 attack rest in peace.” Other netizens have taken the opportunity to comment on China’s government, including a post that circulated on Twitter reading, “Of the ten most evil people in the world, the US has killed one. Now there are nine left,” referring to the nine members on the Chinese Communist Party’s ruling Politburo Standing committee. A few coworkers I’ve spoken to question the truthfulness of the news, echoing comments from other Chinese bloggers.

The few hateful remarks circulating online represent a great minority of the Chinese commentary surrounding bin Laden’s death – most either show their support, or use the story to voice opinions of their own government’s mistakes. On a recent trip to Baiyangdian, a town three hours south of Beijing, I realized that China is the first place I’ve visited where I haven’t claimed Canadian citizenship to avoid unwanted looks or remarks that usually arise when I disclose my nationality. In China, however, most people welcome Americans with open arms. For example, when my rickshaw driver in Baiyangdian found out I was from the US, he slowed down to tell passing pedestrians he was chauffeuring around an American. Contrary to what is inferred by some recent online chatter, when people here discover I’m American, they open up.

Check out New Yorker journalist Evan Osnos’s blog post, The Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time post and ChinaSmack’s photo post for more on China’s reactions to bin Laden’s death.

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