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Viewing cable 08BEIJING1618, GOVERNMENT REINS IN ANTI-FRENCH PROTESTS ON

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08BEIJING1618 2008-04-25 11:11 2010-12-04 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beijing
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