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Cablegate: Government Reins in Anti-French Protests On

VZCZCXRO8055
OO RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #1618/01 1161156
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 251156Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6897
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BEIJING 001618

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/25/2033
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KIFR CH
SUBJECT: GOVERNMENT REINS IN ANTI-FRENCH PROTESTS ON
BEIJING CAMPUSES, ANGER AT WESTERN "BIAS" REMAINS

REF: A. BEIJING 1570

B. BEIJING 1454

Classified By: Political Internal Unit Chief
Dan Kritenbrink. Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

Summary
-------

1. (C) Chinese authorities this past week have moved to
curtail anti-French and anti-Western demonstrations in China.
Official propaganda has tried to steer the public toward
more "rational" displays of patriotism, with security and
Party officials bluntly telling university students in
Beijing to halt all protests. (Note: One contact told us
the Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC) decided on April 18
to take steps to rein in the current wave of nationalism that
central authorities had, in part, been fanning. The next
day, official media began running stories calling for
"rational" patriotism.) Students appear to be taking heed,
though some have told us they remain frustrated and angry at
the West's "unfair" criticism of China's Tibet policies and
the humiliation of Olympic torch runners. "Patriotism" is
running high, our contacts say, but "destabilizing
nationalism" remains in check. End Summary.

Anti-French Protests
--------------------

2. (SBU) Prior to this past week, anti-Western, especially
anti-French, sentiment had been on the rise in many parts of
China, as manifested by fiery on-line rhetoric among China's
netizens and demonstrations in a number of Chinese cities.
For example, demonstrators gathered outside locations of the
French supermarket giant Carrefour throughout China April
18-20. The protests started in part due to a widely held
belief (later denied by the company) that a major Carrefour
stockholder has provided financial aid to organizations
advocating Tibetan independence. France's "mishandling" of
the torch relay and French President Sarkozy's potential
"snubbing" of the Olympic opening ceremonies also fueled the
demonstrations. While largely peaceful, demonstrations in
some cities took a xenophobic and violent turn. In Zhuzhou,
Hunan Province, a mob reportedly attacked an American English
teacher, whom they apparently mistakenly assumed was French,
as he emerged from a Carrefour April 20. Other signs of
rising patriotic and anti-French sentiment included a photo
circulating on the Internet showing a taxi in Shandong
Province with a sign in the back window that reads, "Refuse
to carry Frenchmen and dogs." An Internet cartoon widely
circulated among Chinese youth via e-mail depicts a character
severely beating a would-be Carrefour shopper. On Saturday,
April 18, there were small demonstrations in Beijing front of
the French Embassy and a nearby French school.

"Patriotism Should Be Rational"
-------------------------------

3. (C) As the anti-French protests reached a peak over the
weekend of April 19-20, China's propaganda apparatus on April
19 began a campaign to calm public anger. According to
XXXXXXXXXXXX this new propaganda phase grew out of a
decision made at an April 18 Politburo Standing Committee (PBSC)
meeting. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX , at the meeting, China's leadership
decided that the goal of utilizing the Chinese public to "protest
against and warn" Western countries had "already succeeded."
Therefore, before nationalist sentiment spun off in unwanted
directions domestically or led to a dramatic shift in Western
countries' attitudes toward China, the Center should move to
curb growing patriotic fervor. Prior to April 18, central
authorities had been deliberately fanning the flames of
nationalism, XXXXXXXXXXXX said, claiming that acquaintances in the
Party Propaganda Department had been posing as bloggers or
online commentators, purposefully posting rhetoric designed
to fuel anti-Western feelings, assisted by the official
media's exceptionally hard-line propaganda. Party Propaganda
Department head Liu Yunshan was reportedly directly behind
these policies. Now, however, the Center has decided to
"stop playing with fire," XXXXXXXXXXXX stated.

4. (C) Following the April 19 Xinhua News Agency piece
calling for more "rational" expressions of nationalism, other
media pieces appeared emphasizing the same line while also
attempting to directly dampen anti-French sentiment. In a
story that ran in Chinese papers April 21, the Xinhua News
Agency reported denials by Carrefour's CEO that the company
supported Tibetan independence. The cover of the April 22
edition of Beijing News (Xinjing Bao) carried a photo of a
dormitory building at the Beijing Institute of Technology
with numerous Chinese flags flying outside the windows. The

BEIJING 00001618 002 OF 003


caption quotes school officials as saying that displaying the
flag is a "rational" (li xing) and "normal" expression of the
student's patriotism. On April 23, newspapers printed
another Xinhua story, this one quoting a Ministry of Commerce
official praising Carrefour for providing 40,000 jobs in
China, selling mostly Chinese products and supporting the
Beijing Games.

Students Told To Stop Anti-French Protests
------------------------------------------

5. (C) This pro-Carrefour propaganda campaign, according to
our contacts, corresponded with more direct efforts by
security and Communist Party officials to stop university
students in Beijing from participating in further
demonstrations. XXXXXXXXXXXX, told PolOff that two
Ministry of State Security agents approached him
XXXXXXXXXXXX to demand that the Institute cancel
a public discussion on nationalism scheduled to take plac
the following day. According to XXXXXXXXXXXX,
security forces had also "spoken with" at least XXXXXXXXXXXX
activists to warn them against any further anti-Western activities.
At XXXXXXXXXXXX told PolOff XXXXXXXXXXXX that
the university's Communist Party committee had likewise
issued instructions to students to cease all demonstrations.
XXXXXXXXXXXX, added that all class-level Party representatives
were enlisted to ensure the message reached the entire
student body.

"West Blindly Sympathetic Toward Dalai Lama"
--------------------------------------------

6. (C) While protests have subsided, students we spoke with
still expressed frustration at the West's reaction to events
in Tibet. XXXXXXXXXXXX. The students all said they were
angered by "biased" Western media reports of the March 14
Lhasa riots, singling CNN out for special criticism.
XXXXXXXXXXXX told PolOff that she sensed in
Western media reporting a reflexive sympathy for Tibetans
and a deliberate downplaying of the violence ethnic Tibetan
rioters in Lhasa inflicted on innocent Han Chinese. France
had become the focus of nationalist anger, according to
XXXXXXXXXXXX because Paris police seemed to favour
the pro-Tibet protestors and allowed them to attack the torch.
While many Chinese are angry with the United States for
supporting the Dalai Lama, they said, just as many appreciate
President Bush's rejection of an Olympic boycott.

7. (C) While all the students acknowledged problems in Tibet,
especially the difficulty in ensuring that more Tibetans
benefit from China's economic growth, they accused the West
of ignoring the "real progress" China has made. While none
of the students has participated in the anti-French protests,
all said the unrest in Tibet and the disruptions of the
Olympic torch relay had made them feel more patriotic.
XXXXXXXXXXXX added that her undergraduate classmates
who are currently studying abroad have had the strongest
reaction and many have added patriotic slogans to their instant
messaging IDs. XXXXXXXXXXXX and her classmates, however,
cautioned against exaggerating the long-term impact of the
anti-French/ anti-West protests. While emotions are still
running high XXXXXXXXXXXX said, "all of this will be
forgotten if the Games go well."


Singapore Media "Most Reliable"
-------------------------------

8. (C) While focusing most of their ire on Western media and
governments, the students also had harsh reviews of the
Chinese leadership. XXXXXXXXXXXX criticized the Chinese
Government's rhetoric on Tibet as "overly shrill" and
"ineffective" in swaying international opinion.
XXXXXXXXXXXX said China's official press provided inadequate
coverage of the Lhasa riots and did not provide enough information
to counter the "biased" Western media reports. XXXXXXXXXXXX
and other students said that, in addition to Beijing University's
internal Internet bulletin board, they rely most heavily on
Singapore's Lianhe Zaobao newspaper for information on Tibet
and the torch relay. Singapore's media "understands" China
better than Western papers, they said, yet is not subject to
Chinese Government censorship. The same could not be said of
Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television, they told PolOff. Though
widely available on Beijing University's campus, Phoenix is
"too close to the Chinese Government" to be of much use.

"We Saved the Tibetans"

BEIJING 00001618 003 OF 003


-----------------------

9. (C) Two twenty-something professionals, both of whom were
recently accepted into Duke University's MBA program, echoed
the frustrations of the Beijing University students in a
conversation with PolOff April 23. XXXXXXXXXXXX ,
complained about the "bias" of CNN. Westerners do not understand
the "true story" about Tibet, Li asserted, adding that China "saved
Tibetans from slavery." XXXXXXXXXXX said his
generation is more "pro-establishment" than young people in
most other parts of the world. Members of China's "80s
generation," XXXXXXXXXXXX added, have benefited greatly
from China's reforms and, though young, still remember the relative
poverty of the late 1980s and early 1990s. While this does
not mean all Chinese youth support the Communist Party,
XXXXXXXXXXXX explained, pride in China's recent
accomplishments does make them rally around the flag when
they see China criticized abroad. XXXXXXXXXXXX, however,
said China's Government has moved quickly to limit the anti-French
protests because it wants to avoid a repeat of 2005, when
anti-Japanese protests "got out of control."

10. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX said young Chinese tend to be
suspicious, even dismissive, of government propaganda except
when it comes to issues of national unity. A lifetime of political
indoctrination has conditioned Chinese of all ages to react
emotionally to perceived separatists threats, which makes China
appear irrational and thin-skinned to the outside world.
XXXXXXXXXXXX, however, noted positive differences between
recent anti-French demonstrations and the 2005 anti-Japanese
protests. First, he said, the number of actual demonstrators
outside Carrefour branches was very small. In most cases,
spectators greatly outnumbered the protestors. Second, in
contrast to previous nationalist incidents, there was a much
wider debate on the Internet about the appropriateness of
anti-Western protests. XXXXXXXXXXXX said he was struck
by the large number of Chinese netizens who voiced opposition
to the Carrefour boycott. He said this is a "positive sign" that
may indicate Chinese attitudes towards the outside world are
growing more mature.

Comment
-------

11. (C) Patriotic sentiment, especially among students,
appears sincere and on the rise, even though the Government
has clearly played a role in fanning such feelings. Chinese
Government efforts over the past week to put a lid on overt
nationalist demonstrations has so far been effective. The
message now emphasized by China's propaganda organs is that
holding a successful Olympics, not rash protests, is the best
answer to Western criticism. Our contacts quoted above, all
of whom are well-educated and internationally oriented, agree
with this sentiment. Nevertheless, they do appear to have
been genuinely stung by what they see as a sudden and
"unfair" rejection of China by many Western countries.
PICCUTA

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