"China needs politicians like Chairman Mao"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Fri Apr 6 18:20:56 MDT 2001

NY Times, April 6, 2001


Students' Unease Over Weakness Could Threaten Beijing's Leaders


HAIKOU, China, Friday, April 6 — While Washington and Beijing worked to
bridge the gap between the regret expressed by President Bush and the
apology demanded by President Jiang Zemin over the collision of an American
spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet, many young Chinese insisted on
Thursday that there could be no middle ground.

"Regret is not enough," said Claire Chen, a senior at the Hainan University
law school here, not far from where the plane's 24 Americans are being
held. United States diplomats in Beijing said today that American
representatives would be allowed a second visit with the crew members this

Speaking beneath the whispering palm trees of the university campus as
students strolled by through the soft evening air, Ms. Chen said young
people across China would protest if the American crew members were
released before there was an American apology.

"Students would go into the streets," she said, providing a glimpse of the
hard-line attitudes that Mr. Jiang has to appease in resolving the
diplomatic dispute.

China's leaders are no doubt mindful of how popular dissatisfaction with
weak governments developed into rebellious movements in the past. In 1919,
student protests against the government's frailty in negotiations at the
Versailles peace conference after World War I led to the May 4 Movement,
from which the Communist Party eventually emerged. The Communists came to
power to a large extent because of popular perceptions that their forces
had taken a strong lead in fighting Japan in World War II while other
groups had colluded with or retreated from the Japanese advance.

On the Web site of People's Daily, the Communist Party newspaper, several
people have posted messages that express a desire for a strong leader like
Mao, revered for standing up to foreign domination.

"We miss Chairman Mao," read a posting by someone who used the name "New
Force of Laid-Off Workers." Under the name Road to a Strong Nation, another
posting read, "China needs politicians like Chairman Mao who have strategic
vision," a thinly veiled criticism of Mr. Jiang, who many Chinese say has
failed to articulate a clear vision for China's future.

The spy plane incident has reinforced young people's perceptions of the
United States as a careless bully that throws around its weight without
considering the views or feelings of people from other nations. On Thursday
Ms. Chen repeated a common Chinese complaint that the United States "acts
like an international policeman, interfering in situations all over the

Those perceptions spread after the NATO bombing of China's Embassy in
Belgrade in 1999, an act that most Chinese continue to regard as having
been intentional despite Washington's insistence that it was an accident.
The Chinese government has done little to dispel those views.

Most Chinese have apparently been led by domestic press reports to believe
that the American plane was in Chinese air space when the collision on
Sunday occurred.

"This is the second time America has hurt China, and we're very angry,"
said Huang Zinai, 28, an engineer at a compact disc company who is studying
English at the university. "America is fond of war. But the Chinese people,
because they have experienced the Japanese invasion, are more concerned
with peace."

Many students on the campus echoed Ms. Chen's assertion that there would be
larger demonstrations if the government released the crew members before
the United States had made an apology.

"The Chinese people won't accept the release of the crew without an
apology," Mr. Huang said as he sat near a group of 50 students who had
gathered on a broad lawn on Thursday to discuss the incident. "If President
Jiang does that, they won't forgive him and I won't forgive him," he said.

A young woman blamed the impasse on the Bush administration's semantic
shift from the Clinton administration's characterization of China as a
potential "strategic partner" to a characterization of it as a "strategic

"Now when something like this happens," the woman said, "it is natural for
us to be defensive and to be suspicious of America's motives."

On a wall of the university dining hall, Chinese characters written in bold
black brush strokes on a large piece of white paper read, "Wipe Out Our
National Humiliation, Severely Punish the American Military." Another
poster read, "Put the American Military Personnel Involved On Trial."

Louis Proyect
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