Media newlight on 26 Mar 2008 08:18 pm
Among many commentaries about what happened in Tibet and what would happen at Beijing Olympics, some groups advocate either boycotting Beijing Olympics altogether or at least the opening ceremony, or encouraging athletics openly demonstrate during the Games, wearing a Free Tibet t-shirt while competing for example. To see what kind of reaction their proposed action may get, one can do worse than checking the response from the eighty thousand or so Chinese students in the UK. Although most of them won’t hesitate to criticise Chinese government’s handling of events, such as a blind ban of the foreign media, many believe the western media are equally biased and untrustworthy. On the overseas Chinese discussion boards, there have been heated debate, mainly among overseas Chinese students themselves, about whether Tibetan are treated well enough, and how strained the relationship between Tibetan and Han-Chinese is, however most of the participants see Tibet as an integral part of China, many also accuse western media as being one-sided or even fabricating in reporting the violence in Tibet. A seven minute video posted onto YouTube (has been viewed near two million times) reflects the feeling shared by many Chinese students.
A new website, anti-cnn.com, has been set up to expose the western media outlets like CNN, German N-TV, as well as BBC and The Times of “manipulation of evidence” and “biased reporting”. It looks many quite a few western news organisations, in the immediate aftermath of Lhasa riot, used the pictures of Indian and Nepalese police taking away demonstrators in their reports as the evidence of “Chinese army used brutal force to crack down protest”. One screenshot of BBC News website shows a picture of Chinese soldiers wearing medic arm band standing behind an ambulance with the caption of “a heavy military presence in Lhasa”. A YouTube video then shows a slideshow compilation of the materials.
In the UK, an open letter to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been circulated among Chinese students in which the author points out the biased reporting by western media and asks Gordon Brown “not to meet Dalai Lama” when he comes to the UK in May. After the disruption of Olympic flame-lighting ceremony and torch relay in Greece, there are also calls on the message boards to “support the Olympic torch” when it tours through the UK.
Those are highly-educated, well-informed, worldly young generation of Chinese. If even they are suspicious of west’s fairness and motivation, one can imagine the reaction from Chinese public if the west try to boycott or demonstrate publicly during Beijing Olympic to “send a message”. For many Chinese, those actions will be seen as unjust and unfair, a bullying tactics. Moreover, it underlines the mistrust and snobbery towards China among some members of the western activists who see Olympics as a reward given to China for the good behavior, which can be taken away at any time, solely on westerns’ judgment. The freedom and fairness of western media used to be what Chinese people look up to, however, in the recent years, in particularly among the younger generations, west’s sometimes automatic self-entitlement to the moral high ground when dealing with affairs related to China has been seriously questioned.
For many years in the last century, China lived in a sometimes forced, sometimes self-imposed ideological and economical isolation. Now with the rapid growth of economical power, China starts to feel the need to be loved and respected by the international community. What the west can do is to find an effective way to show China how to behave responsibly to order to gain respect and influence. If the western media and pressure groups fall into the old habit of bashing China with the morality stick (while the economy stick is no longer available) every time, it won’t help to convince the Chinese authority to leave their old habit of the siege mentality behind and learn to live under the international spotlight. The problem China has to resolve in Tibet, is a common issue faced by many countries, that is how to deal with the grievance of ethnic minorities and their fear of lose of cultural identity. The west can certainly share some lessons with China, but if they simply want to teach China a lesson, I’m afraid the message won’t be well received.