CHINESE CITIZENS BACK ANTI-IRAQ COALITION

When told he could not join the United States Army in the war against Saddam Hussein, a young bank clerk from Shanghai was undaunted. The would-be combatant sent the commandant of the Marines Corps and the US ambassador to China traditional swords adorned with bronze filigree and long red tassels.

The swords are the most colorful tokens of widespread public support in China for the US-led campaign against Iraqi troops in Kuwait.

When China's leaders denounced the fighting in the Gulf and called for peace, scores of Chinese wrote and telephoned the US Embassy in Beijing to express a view toward Desert Storm that was decidedly gung-ho.

The missives reveal more than just loathing for Iraq's dictator. By encouraging allied forces to pummel Saddam's military, Chinese are delivering a glancing blow to China's leadership.

``A lot of people feel China, of all countries, should not remain neutral in the conflict, because it has suffered so much this century from foreign invaders,'' a local teacher told the Monitor, on condition of anonymity.

Typical of the more than 50 letters expressing support for the US-led coalition was one addressed to the US Embassy. ``I encourage you and your business of justice that is supported by ordinary Chinese throughout the nation, although you have not gained any support from the autocrats of China,'' the letter reads.

Many writers have backed up their enthusiasm for Desert Storm with cash. They have sent more than $310 in Chinese Yuan and foreign currencies, which the embassy has deposited in a bank account in Washington for war use.

Only two of the letters sent to the embassy expressed opposition to the coalition offensive against Iraq.

One, addressed to the ambassador and signed by a ``Citizen for Peaceful Resolution,'' declares in bold English letters, ``Down with you, savage killer America.''

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