Just two weeks after China and Russia vetoed the UN resolution condemning the bloody crackdown on protesters in Syria, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affair is now saying on its website that China supports the Arab League’s plan for ending the violence in Syria. Many netizens are saying that we are witnessing the same drama that happened during the Libya revolution, at that time China started with backing Qaddafi but quickly reversed the course when the opposition gained momentum. But it seems to me that Mr.Xi’s visit to the US played an important role in this change of position, and our next president Mr. Xi’s approach to foreign affairs seems to be more pragmatic than ideological.
Replay of the Libya drama?
When the Libya revolution just broke out, the official media in China, from CCTV to Global Times, underplayed the libya people’s discontent, praised Qaddafi’s achievement in building a prosperous Libya, and condemned western interference. The grassroot nationalists cheered the government’s courage to stand up for “Libya” and against Western imperialists. But later when Qaddafi’s demise seemed inevitable, Chinese government mended relationship with the opposition, and official media started to praise libya people’s courage. The grassroot nationalists was caught by surprise, they found themselves in a difficult dilemma between criticizing the government for the inconsistency and acknowledging their own misunderstanding of the people of Libya. This time these nationalists anticipated the ambiguity of the government’s position, and many of them talked about protecting China’s economic interest in Syria, which basically means being ready to work with the opposition if they win.
“General Zhang’s Curse”
Zhang Zhaozhong, a general from People’s Liberation Army and one of CCTV’s favorite commentators, said at the beginning of the Libya revolution that Qaddafi was an old friend of China, and the “people’s army” of Libya would not be defeated by Western imperialists. General Zhang also called North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong-il “an old friend of China” in another interview. So after the death of Qaddafi and Kim Jong-il, pro-democracy netizens invented the sarcastic phrase “General Zhang’s curse”, which means that if someone is praised by General Zhang, his life will be in severe danger. General Zhang appeared on TV again one week ago and voiced his support for the al-Assad government: “The well trained people’s army of Syria will not be defeated by Western imperialists”. So many netizens are joking “Assad, watch out! General Zhang said good things about you!”
CCTV vs Microblog
On Feb 18, Lao Rong (老榕), one of the most famous bloggers in China, posted on Sina Weibo that in Syria about 20,000 people were going to the street in big snow to join a memorial for the protesters who were slaughtered during the bloody crackdown by the Assad regime. CCTV also reported the same event, but its correspondent in Syria told the audience that only 200 people joined the memorial. Some people commented on Lao Rong’s post and accused him of spreading rumor. But soon there were so much video footage of the event on the Internet that CCTV’s version was easily discredited. Western Media Correspondents in the Middle East are CIA agents? I just read an outrageous post on Sina Weibo by a well-known nationalist named “lazy 1980″, which says that Marie Colvin, the American journalist who was just killed in Syria, is definitely a CIA agent.