Tuesday, May 10, 2011



The Chinese authorities seem to be concerned over the admiration for Osama bin Laden as an "anti-US warrior" that seems to prevail among some sections of its growing community of netizens These sections seem to believe that OBL's war against the US indirectly helped in countering the US threat to China by keeping the US forces preoccupied in dealing with OBL and Al Qaeda. Now that OBL is dead, the US may have more resources for being used against China. So they fear. An interesting analysis on this subject carried by the Chinese Communist Party controlled "Global Times" on May 10,2011, is annexed. (11-5-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com )


Chinese view of bin laden's death

Source: Global Times
May 10,2011

By Shen Weihuang

When US President Barack Obama announced to the world that the most wanted terrorist in modern history has been killed, public opinion was naturally split along the geopolitical divide with most Westerners celebrating, while many in the Middle East mourned.

In China, however, the public's reaction, as measured by a number of unscientific online polls, was split amid concern that Bin Laden's demise might refocus dormant tensions between the US and China.

Almost 60 percent of the 500,000 people who took an online survey conducted by Hong Kong based Phoenix television, agreed with the statement that Bin Laden's death was a sad event because "he was an anti-US warrior."

Barely 18 percent clicked the statement to indicate they were happy that "the head of terrorism" had been killed, while almost 10 percent of respondents selected the option that indicated they didn't care.

Meanwhile, the Chinese government didn't waffle in its support for the killing of Bin Laden. After his death the Chinese Foreign Ministry welcomed the news, saying his death was an "important event" and that terrorists are a public enemy that China opposes terrorism in all its forms.

Another online survey posted on the Global Times' Chinese website asked participants whether they thought the US would get tougher on China now that Bin Laden is out of the picture. More than 75 percent of the 17,000 respondents clicked "yes."

Other online portals carried irreverent, even virulent discussions relating to Bin Laden's death.

A thread on mop.com, one of China's leading online bulletin boards, suggested Bin Laden's death should be revenged by "attacking the most vulnerable parts of the US."

One writer suggested that Bin Laden had been a helpful foil to a number of US presidents. "Thirty years ago, he helped President Reagan take down the Soviet Union, 10 years ago, he helped President Bush begin his military campaign in the Middle East, and now his sacrifice will surely help President Obama win re-election."

While many experts discount the veracity of online surveys to provide a true measure of public opinion, they also agree that the responses are worrisome.

"Many of the opinions expressed online are irrational and ill-informed. People need to calm down and reflect on what they are saying," said Shen Dingli, professor of international relations from Fudan University in Shanghai.

Shen has no doubt that the world is now a better, safer place without Bin Laden. "Osama bin Laden was a terrorist, and his death will not only save many people's lives, it will also bring comfort to the families of those who died. His death is good for humanity," he said.

Another scholar, Xu Zidong, from Hong Kong's Lingnan University, believes the decade-old hunt for the terrorist mastermind distracted the US from engaging China on a number of contentious issues.

"Before the 911 attack, the US saw China as its biggest threat. Relations between the two countries were very tense after George W. Bush took the office in January 2001," Xu said.

In February that year, the US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, upped the pressure on China by ordering a re-evaluation of Sino-US military communications strategy. A month later, Bush ordered all departments to re-evaluate their China strategy.

Two months later a US navy aircraft collided with a Chinese military fighter jet near Hainan Island, killing the Chinese pilot Wang Wei. The US aircraft made an emergency landing on Hainan and its crew of 24 were detained until the US delivered a written account of the incident to the Chinese government.

Three weeks after the military jet incident, Bush announced a $4.5-billion weapons sale to Taiwan, the largest since the president's father sold 150 F-16 fighter jets to the island almost decade earlier.

President Bush added fuel to the fire and caused an uproar in China when he told American reporters that the US would take all necessary means to protect Taiwan.

"The Taiwan question has always been the most contentious issue between the US and China and Bush's remarks were intolerable. To be honest, we believed the situation was going to continue to escalate," said Zhu Feng, professor of International Relations at Peking University.

In September of that year, New York's World Trade Center buildings were attacked and US attention become firmly fixed on to the Middle East.

"After 911, I had a sense of relief that the pressure between China and the US would ease off, but the discontent and anger among Chinese isn't easily forgotten," Xu said.

Over the past decade, China and the US have cooperated on a number of fronts to combat terrorism. Two weeks after 911 officials from both countries met in Washington to develop an anti-terrorism framework.

China also agreed to provide greater political and diplomatic support to the US in the United Nations after 911, noted an essay published by the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. The authors also suggest China played a role in improving ties between the US and Pakistan.

As well, China helped hem in Al-Qeada militants by closing its border with Afghanistan and allowed an American aircraft carrier to refuel and re-supply in Hong Kong.

In response to China's moves, the US listed the "East Turkistan Islamic Movement" as a terrorist organization in 2002, and killed it's founder, Hasan Mahsum, during a joint military operation with Pakistan in 2003.

Relations were strained again in 2004 after the US released members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement who were being held as prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and refused to hand them over to China.

Many political scientists believe that China and the US have too much at stake on too many other fronts to allow their country's hawks to force a serious deterioration of relations. The two countries' economies are all but dependent on bilateral trade, financing and investment. The countries have also cooperated on international legal issues such money laundering, human trafficking and piracy.

"The death of Bin Laden won't have much influence on current Sino-US relations. The war on terrorism is far from over and the US will be on high alert for a terrorist attack for the next five to 10 years," said Sun Zhe, director of the center for Sino-US relations at Tsinghua University.

"It's unlikely the US will continue to give China a hard time and the political situation is totally different than it was in 2001. The US seems to have realized that pressure tactics can only harm relations," he added.

And indeed relations continue to move apace as witnessed by the Third Sino-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue, which ended in the Washington yesterday. At the meeting Vice Premier Wang Qishan perhaps offered a hopeful insight into future bilateral relations when he said "China and the US have far more shared interests than differences."

"So the voice from the Internet is just a flash in the pan, the greater trend can't be stopped, no one wants to see giants like China and the US in conflict," said professor Shen.

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