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Viewing cable 09BEIJING1378, UNHAPPY CHINA": NATIONALISTIC RUBBISH OR CLARION

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09BEIJING1378 2009-05-21 11:11 2010-12-04 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Beijing
VZCZCXRO9910
PP RUEHCN RUEHGH RUEHVC
DE RUEHBJ #1378/01 1411125
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 211125Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY BEIJING
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4101
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
CC O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BEIJING 001378 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/21/2029 
TAGS: PROP PGOV PREL PHUM CN
SUBJECT: "UNHAPPY CHINA": NATIONALISTIC RUBBISH OR CLARION 
CALL TO PRIDEFUL YOUTH? 

REF: A. BEIJING 303 
B. BEIJING 1249 
C. 08 BEIJING 3546 

Classified By: Political Minister Counselor 
Aubrey Carlson. Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 

SUMMARY 
------- 

1. (C) The book "Unhappy China," a nationalistic 
rant against the United States and China's own 
supposedly West-worshipping elite, sold briskly in 
China following its release in March, but sales 
appear to have tapered off. China's official media 
have been largely critical of the book. Only a 
"small minority" of Chinese citizens subscribes to 
the authors' nationalism and anti-Americanism, 
numerous contacts have told PolOffs. The book's 
radicalism was largely a "ploy" to boost sales, but 
will not sway a sophisticated and internationally 
oriented Chinese public, many contacts said. 
America's image has improved significantly, 
including among recent university graduates, thanks 
to President Bush's attendance at the 2008 Beijing 
Olympics opening ceremony and the election of 
President Obama. While most Embassy interlocutors 
downplayed the idea that "Unhappy China" enjoyed 
high-level Party support, two pro-democracy scholars 
theorized that "leftist" leaders find the work 
"useful" for nudging the Chinese public away from 
Western economic and political models. The only 
contact who warned us that nationalism was on the 
rise was one of the book's authors, Wang Xiaodong. 
Young, educated urban Chinese are "extremely 
nationalistic," and the government is wary of them, 
Wang told PolOff. End Summary. 

UNHAPPY CHINA, HAPPY PUBLISHER 
------------------------------ 

2. (SBU) The book "Unhappy China" (Zhongguo Bu 
Gaoxing) has been billed as a follow-on to the 1996 
book "China Can Say No." Song Qiang, one of the 
five authors of Unhappy China, contributed to the 
1996 volume. After its release in China on March 
12, "Unhappy China" hit the best-sellers list with 
over 600,000 copies sold the first month, according 
to dangdang.com (one of China's most popular online 
bookstores). An April 13 report in China Newsweek 
(Zhongguo Xinwen Zhoukan) put the book's first 
month's sales at a more modest 470,000, though the 
story notes this was enough to net each of the 
book's five authors RMB 1.4 million (USD 206,000) in 
royalties. Two months after its release, however, 
sales have apparently fallen substantially. As of 
May 11, the book failed to register in the top 100 
best-sellers on amazon.cn. 

PRC MEDIA LARGELY CRITICAL 
-------------------------- 

3. (SBU) China's English-language media have mostly 
panned the book. On March 25, the Xinhua News 
Agency's English-language service issued a report 
stating the book had "failed to strike a chord among 
average Chinese" and was selling "poorly" at Beijing 
bookstores. Chinese-language media, while still 
critical of the book's tone, have been less 
dismissive of its impact. The China Youth Daily 
(CYD), the paper of the Communist Youth League, 
published a scathing essay on April 8 that was 
widely reprinted on the Internet. The CYD piece 
drew the distinction between "healthy nationalism," 
such as that championed by Sun Yat-sen or Gandhi, to 
the "narcissistic" (zilian) and "bellicose" 
(haozhan) nationalism espoused by the Unhappy China 
authors, who brag about China's cultural superiority 
and the need for China to take over the United 
States' role as world leader. A March 30 Xinhua 
story headlined "Unhappy China Shakes the West" 
noted the great attention the book had received 
abroad. Though the Xinhua article quoted Chinese 
scholars who denounced the book's extremist 
rhetoric, it also devoted substantial space to the 
authors' defense of their work. People's Daily, the 
mouthpiece of the Communist Party Central Committee, 
has largely ignored Unhappy China, although on April 
8 the paper quoted a scholar as saying that while 
the views in the book were irrational, China should 
allow different voices to be heard. At least one 

BEIJING 00001378 002 OF 004 


paper, the Beijing Evening News (Beijing Wanbao), 
which is published by the Beijing Municipal Party 
Committee, has defended Unhappy China. On April 10 
the paper ran a blistering editorial accusing Hong 
Kong's Phoenix Television of pro-Western bias 
because many of the station's guests and 
commentators had denounced the book. 

INTERNET REACTION LESS HOSTILE 
------------------------------ 

4. (SBU) Though Unhappy China has met with mostly 
harsh reviews in the mainstream media, Internet 
reaction has been more favorable. An on-line 
opinion poll conducted by the web portal Sina.com 
showed that 70 percent of the survey's 19,000 
participants believed Unhappy China discussed 
important domestic and international issues and 
problems "worthy of deep thought." Twenty-one 
percent described the book as "too extreme" and 
"opportunistic." 

FRINGE APPEAL ONLY 
------------------ 

5. (C) Beijing-based contacts universally criticized 
the book in discussions with PolOffs. Most 
described it as representing only a "small fringe" 
of Chinese society and urged the USG not to pay too 
much attention to the tome's anti-Americanism. Some 
journalist contacts (ref B) saw the book as a "joke" 
whose radical tone was meant to shock and sell 
books. XXXXXXXXXXXX said XXXXXXXXXXXX
 that his first complaint about the book was the poor
quality of the  writing. To produce the book, 
XXXXXXXXXXXX said, the authors merely recorded
a series of conversations  that were then edited into essays.
XXXXXXXXXXXX said even  a bad review by the
Economic Observer would have  given the book more publicity
than it deserved, so  his paper had ignored the book altogether.
XXXXXXXXXXXX), told PolOff XXXXXXXXXXXX
that Unhappy China did not represent mainstream views. 
The Chinese public was now much more globalized and 
had a better understanding of the world than was the 
case in 1996, when "China Can Say No" hit the 
shelves. Unhappy China, XXXXXXXXXXXX argued,
thus did not  have the same traction as the earlier book. 
Nevertheless, in a nod to the high level of public 
interest, the Beijing News had devoted a full page 
to Unhappy China in its March 28 edition, including 
an interview with author Wang Xiaodong and critical 
commentary by a scholar. 

UNITED STATES' IMAGE ON THE RISE 
-------------------------------- 

6. (C) In a conversation with PolOff
XXXXXXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXXXXXX, likewise
said Unhappy China  represented a minority view and that,
at most, "20  percent" of the Chinese public subscribed to
the  kind of nationalism espoused by the authors
XXXXXXXXXXXX said Unhappy China was
mainly a  "commercial exercise," with the book'
 extremism  merely a "ploy" to boost sales.
Nevertheless, XXXXXXXXXXXX  said, the book
did appeal to "less educated  Chinese."
XXXXXXXXXXXX said the book had not received 
support from any individual or faction within the 
CCP leadership. The book also did not reflect an 
overall rise in nationalism or anti-Americanism in 
China. The image of the United States, XXXXXXXXXX
 said, was actually quite good thanks to President Bush's 
attendance at the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony 
and the generally warm feeling Chinese have toward 
President Obama. 

7. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX, echoed  XXXXXXXXXXXX 's
analysis, saying that the United States' image  on college
campuses had improved since  the election  of President
Obama. XXXXXXXXXXXX said Unhappy China 
tapped into the "natural pride" young Chinese felt 
at their country's growing power, which seemed even 
more evident since the global financial crisis threw 
most Western economies into recession. When the 
United States was booming economically,
XXXXXXXXXXXX argued, many Americans

BEIJING 00001378 003 OF 004 


showed the same air of superiority  and sense of power 
hat the authors of Unhappy China  now displayed. 


A TOOL OF LEFTISTS? 
------------------- 

8. (C) In contrast, XXXXXXXXXXXX, and
XXXXXXXXXXXX  saw greater political
significance in Unhappy China.  
XXXXXXXXXXXX. XXXXXXXXXXXX said 
that given China's tight censorship, such a book 
could not have been published without support from 
high-level leaders, possibly including President Hu 
Jintao himself. XXXXXXXXXXXX said that most
of the criticism  of Unhappy China had come from
urban professionals,  but the book did resonate with
the wider population.  Nationalism, according to
XXXXXXXXXXX, remained a potent  force in
China even though society as a whole was 
Becoming more mature. XXXXXXXXXXXX  believed
that left-  leaning members of the leadership did not 
necessarily like or agree with the contents of the 
book, particularly its foreign policy prescriptions, 
but saw it as "useful" for pushing the public more 
to the left and reducing popular support in general 
for Western economic and political models. Hu 
Jintao, XXXXXXXXXXXX argued, was not
necessarily pushing the  book but, due to his
background, tended to accept  "leftist" ideas as
"normal." 

WANG XIAODONG SPEAKS 
-------------------- 

XXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXX

AUTHORS' PRO-DEMOCRACY VIEWS CENSORED 
------------------------------------- 

11. (C) Wang repeatedly asserted that nationalists 
were supportive of democracy and human rights. When 
sovereignty issues were not involved, ordinary 
Chinese were not opposed to outside criticism and 
agreed that human rights should be improved. "Only 

BEIJING 00001378 004 OF 004 


the Chinese central government is irritated with 
foreign criticism of China's human rights 
situation." Wang described himself as a "pro-reform 
intellectual," saying his contributions to the book 
"clearly" stated his support for "democracy." 
Censors, however, deleted most passages in the 
original draft regarding democracy or involving 
criticism of Chairman Mao Zedong, Wang claimed. 
Even so, Wang said, overall he had been surprised at 
how much the censors let through. (Note: Song 
Qiang, in an interview with Xinhua, also noted that 
parts of Unhappy China dealing with domestic 
politics were cut in order to ensure publication.) 

12. (C) In person as in his writing, Wang seemed especially
incensed at the behavior of "so-called  liberals" in China
who, he asserted, were really  "reverse racists." These 
iberals, Wang said, point to the Cultural Revolution as 
proof that Chinese  people were inherently mean and 
wallowed in a self-  loathing view of China's inferiority
compared to the West. Far from secretly supporting the book,
Wang  asserted, China's government had a "hostile 
reaction" to Unhappy China, and the CCP Propaganda 
Department had ordered official media to criticize 
it. The book, he added, was also "very unpopular at 
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs." Despite the 
hostility of the central government, Wang claimed, 
the book was selling well, especially among military 
officers, local government cadres, and young people. 

COMMENT 
------- 

13. (C) The high sales of Unhappy China show that 
there is a reservoir of nationalistic sentiment in 
China, even though it may not be as large as Wang 
Xiaodong describes. Some of this can be attributed 
to China's education system, which continues to 
stress the "bullying" and "humiliation" China 
endured at the hands of Western powers in centuries 
past. That the CCP's Propaganda Department 
encouraged negative press coverage of the book 
indicates the Party remains wary of nationalism 
getting out of hand. Nationalists, as Wang argued, 
do not necessarily support the Party. However, most 
of our contacts believe that Chinese society has, 
thanks to increasing contact with the outside world, 
undergone change over the last decade that is 
causing nationalism to give way to a more positive 
sense of national pride. According to these 
contacts, the Chinese who warmly welcomed U.S. 
women's volleyball coach Lang Ping at the 2008 
Olympics (despite the fact that she previously 
played and coached for China -- see ref C) now 
greatly outnumber "unhappy" nationalists. 
WEINSTEIN