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Over Half of Chinese Polled Were Saddened by Osama Bin Laden Death

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Over Half of Chinese Polled Were Saddened by Osama Bin Laden Death

What could cause 59.5% of Chinese to view Osama Bin Laden as a heroic “Anti-American fighter” as reported recently by Phoenix TV in China?

This thought raced through my mind as I first read the report.

How could such an intense level of anger or hatred be directed at the USA by one of our largest trading partners – China?

Could it be true that behind many of those smiling Chinese faces that are traveling to, and doing business in the US market, is a hidden hatred or resentment toward America?

Deng Xiao Ping once told China to “Hide your strength, bide your time”.

What this not so cryptic message meant was that China should not disclose how far she had come, but to feign weakness and humility and then, when their adversary was lulled into a sense of security, they could spring forth.

Well, it may just be that China no longer feels it necessary to bide their time. One symptom of China’s new found confidence may be in the way she chooses to express herself in politics and to the media. Another may be in how the typical Chinese view the world and their place in it.

The Chinese Opinion about Bin Laden’s Death

Over the past week, the Chinese media has been inundated by discussions about the death of Osama Bin Laden and the US.

Much of what is being said, however, may come as a shock to most Americans.

For instance, in praising Osama Bin Laden for his actions, Zhang Zing, the director of the China Central Television’s National Security and Military Channel, said that Osama Bin Laden should be commended, for Bin Laden used, “His own power to fight the most powerful country in the world, America.”

At first blush, the statement could be seen as a knee jerk reaction to the death of the mastermind of 9/11, or maybe the quote was taken out of context. Upon further exploration, however, Mr Zhang had this to say as well:

“Whether Laden is dead for real or not, it’s not important anymore. He has already become a spirit, an anti-American system of thought.”

While I was shocked at the man’s words, it is easy to consider them as an anomaly, and not representative of the country as a whole.

How can it be possible to have such an anti-American undercurrent in a country that seems in a rush to purchase the latest gadget from Apple or watch the entire series of shows like Friends and Prison Break? A country that seems intent on inundating the US stock market with IPO’s.

Were his words an example of what the Chinese truly feel about America, or something else?

Initially, I thought Mr. Zhang’s feelings were only representative of a small percentage, a minority of the Chinese society. I credited it to a sub group of disenchanted people, much like we find in all corners of the world.

But is this really the case? Do the Chinese see us as a threat, a people to be feared and/or despised? Is this anti-American sentiment more prevalent than large corporations and/or regular Americans may wish to believe?

Understanding Chinese Hatred of the US

According to China’s Presidential heir in waiting, Xi Jinping, the Korean War was “great and just war for safeguarding peace and resisting aggression.”

Although this statement was later white washed by the press, it is telling in terms of how some party officials view their relationship with the USA and our history. So just what does this tell us about how the Chinese view America and what does it mean for US-Chinese relations?

In order to better understand Chinese anger and supposed fear mongering of the USA, one should analyze recent Chinese history.

In Chinese school systems they are taught about the century of humiliation that China had suffered. This period, which generally is considered to have started around the mid 19th century and ended with the formation of the PRC, is used both to educate the masses, but also a tool used by the Communist party to leverage anti-foreign sentiment, or so they say.

To the Chinese, those one hundred years represents the “bad” of the last Chinese dynasty, the horrors of opium addiction and the embarrassment that followed.

It is seen as a time when China suffered abuse at the hands of foreign invaders and what unchecked foreign presence could mean to China. The ruling Communist party leverages the use of this embarrassing legacy as they lay claim to be the force that once again unified a humiliated China, and ended foreign intervention and rule.

Although the USA had not been part of the opium wars, they did play a role in the Boxer Rebellion, which ended in the Boxer Protocol. This was considered one of the ‘unequal treaties” China was forced to sign during this period of Chinese humiliation.

As such, the presence of the US in China at that period makes them part of the black eye in China’s history.

Honor and Pride

A large part of the problem is that for the Chinese, “face” is extremely important. And a country like China, which represents the oldest continuous culture in the world, has much to be proud of.

The Chinese are accredited with a standard of living that eclipsed that of the western powers for over a millennium. Thus, to the Chinese, their history is one of their biggest legacies.

In fact, the Chinese, according to many of my colleagues, are taught this about the proud history of China. It has been said that while in school, the teachers would explain the greatness of China and her history of enlightenment as such:

They would take a world map and place it on a desk, then above the map they would shine a light directly over China. The teacher explained that the light, centered on China, represented the illuminated minds of the world and the illuminated peoples.

They also said that the area not directly covered by light represented the ignorant or barbaric foreign countries.

Although the teacher used it in a historical context, the power of its meaning is evident.

The farther one was from China, the less aware or educated they were said to have been. It is common knowledge that nationalistic zeal is promoted heartily in the Chinese school system. Thus, it is easy to see how the Chinese are proud of their history and have a strong interest in righting what they see to be the wrongs of the past, or re-gaining face.

Chinese Delight in American Misery

Thus, one could ask if there could be lingering resentment over events that occurred over a century ago that still influence how China view us, or could it be something else?

Could it be true that China, while possessing thousands of years of history, may find it difficult to accept that a younger country has managed to garner as much power, wealth and might as it has in such a short period of time?

Could an element of envy be part of the reason that the Chinese at times have delighted in our catastrophes?

For instance, according to VOA, after the space shuttle Columbia disaster, “Over 50% of the posts on Chinese bbs’s supposedly “delighted in the event”- the explosion of the shuttle and loss of life.

One Chinese poster even went so far as to say: “The Columbia disaster is the most beautiful fireworks visited upon us in the new Year of the Ram!”

In addition, according to a Chinese poll conducted in the wake of the September 11th attacks, “90% of the Chinese polled ‘express approval’ of the terrorists’ mass killing of Americans,” according to Mo Zhixu, a media commentator in Beijing.

What can explain such a depth of hatred for another country and its citizens? Can the answer be explained by economics, history or is it a product of education in China?

The Hidden Chinese Anger Toward America

After looking at the numbers, one has to ask what China really thinks about the USA?

Behind all of those people rushing to trade Chinese products for dollars, is there an undercurrent of repressed anger or resentment? What would lead over half of a people to mourn the death of the man behind the most horrific attack on American soil, an event that so many Chinese seemingly approved of?

Is it possible that the Chinese have not forgotten the Boxer Protocol and are finished waiting patiently as Deng Xiao Ping had commanded? Are the Chinese counting the days until the American empire tumbles? Or is this phenomenon a more benign symptom of the type of angst metered out against the world’s current powerhouse?

While I cannot answer those questions, I would say that if we took a map and shone a light down upon it, the light found covering China would represent a country of mixed messages – of a people who, while eager to love much of what America stands for, still finds so much to dislike.

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Originally published on

  • Vinny

    What!? this article is totally bogus! I have many Chinese friends (from China) and they have no more resentment to the U.S. than do us Canadians. 

  • Jvaughn9742

    I agree with Vinny… I am dating a Chinese professor, and have many Chinese friends- they all love the US.  My boyfriend is more American than I am!  I just moved to China, and all the people I have met have been happy to meet me and love to take pictures of me. 

    Something important to mention is how the author of this article says that Chinese are masking discontent against the US… That is a GOVERNMENT tactic, surely you don’t believe that all Chinese are going to hide their discontent…  This article is pure horseshit, something that my China-hating relatives in the southern part of the US would probably love.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the comment – I do think it’s important to keep in mind that, as you point out, the information comes from Chinese television, so there’s no telling how accurate the “survey” actually was. As you said – that is in fact a tactic of the Chinese Government.

    I have noticed that WC’s focus in each of his China articles are on the Chinese government’s focus – I don’t think WC believes the Chinese survey about what the Chinese people feel about Americans is accurate. However, the existence of the survey raises questions, and I believe the questions WC mentions are important ones.

    As you point out – the Chinese people we know are nice. I have Chinese friends as well…so does this survey reflect deceit on the part of the people or the Chinese government. I’m confident WC would agree that it’s likely on the part of the government.

  • realist

    Vinny maybe you do not understand statistics. You are talking about a small sample size. But polls are taken from a large sample size which are more reliable. Your comment is like saying that all Chinese are short because all of my Chinese friends are short. It has no validity what so ever. 

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