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Chinese vent anti-Western fury online

Bloggers are now calling for boycotts and stoking death threats over perceived insults from Westerners who have criticized China's human rights record ahead of this summer's Olympic Games.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / April 17, 2008

Boycott? A woman checked out Wednesday at a Carrefour supermarket in Nanjing, China. Bloggers are hoping to launch a boycott of the popular French chain.

Sean Yong

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Beijing

A violent storm of nationalist indignation is roiling the Chinese internet, as bloggers vent their anger at perceived Western insults in the wake of the Tibetan uprising last month.

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Simmering resentment at the way the Olympic torch relay was treated by pro-Tibet demonstrators in London and Paris has boiled over this week into invective against a CNN commentator, a French supermarket chain, and Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the US House of Representatives.

The government, which keeps a close eye on Internet debate through censors who delete unapproved comment, has given the campaign free rein. Indeed it has added its voice to the angry chorus, which some observers say echoes ancient resentments.

"This has deep historical resonance," says Kenneth Lieberthal, a political science professor at the University of Michigan. Now that China has regained the international stature it ceded 150 years ago to Western powers, he says, the country's leaders harbor suspicions that "the West is trying to humiliate them again."

CNN apologized Wednesday to Chinese citizens who felt that commentator Jack Cafferty had called them a "bunch of goons and thugs" during an edition of "The Situation Room" last week. Mr. Cafferty had previously explained that he had been referring to the Chinese government, not to the Chinese people.

The clarification and apology came too late, however, to stem a tide of outraged posts across the Chinese blogosphere, where a Chinese translation of Cafferty's derogatory comments had been widely disseminated.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu took up their cause Tuesday, saying Beijing was "shocked to hear the malicious attacks … against the Chinese people." She demanded an apology.

The wave of anti-Western sentiment – unmatched since US planes bombed China's embassy in Belgrade in 1999 –has been fueled by bloggers complaining about biased Western media coverage of the Tibet issue and posting examples.

Demonstrations in Europe that disrupted the international Olympic torch relay fanned the flames: The torch is seen here as a symbol of the summer Olympic Games, which are a source of intense national pride.

The Chinese government has also instilled a sense of pride in the country's achievements over the past three decades. "They have pulled themselves up and they are beginning to command global respect," says Mr. Lieberthal. "They have economic achievements to show, and they have advanced without wars, and without upsetting the international apple cart."

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