Beijing’s nice year-end freak-out

This was supposed to be a week of hibernation around here, but a little mayhem intrudes in the form of Ursula Gauthier.

In a classic case of reputational self-harm (background and links here), the Chinese authorities manage to focus the world’s attention on three (for starters) of their less-charming characteristics.

1. Their mendacity in attempting to portray anti-Han activity in Xinjiang as a variant of ISIS/Al-Qaeda-style Islamist terrorism, when it is in reality a backlash against heavy-handed cultural and economic domination and subjugation.

2.Their near-psychotic brutishness in attempting to smear someone who humiliates them with the truth.

3. Their (unsurprising-yet-unfathomable) inability to handle a free press, free speech, independent thought, or ideas in general.

Meanwhile a hitherto modestly/little-known French journalist becomes an accidental heroine and gets an undoubtedly well-earned promotion up the career ladder.

Many commentators like to say that Beijing doesn’t care about its image overseas – only its ability to control at home absolutely. As this case shows, there’s no clear separation between the two. When the narrative offshore deviates sufficiently from their own delusional fiction, they freak out.

It is hard to say how much (if, in theory, at all) China’s economy will be in a mess in 2016, because the data on growth, inflation, unemployment, bad debts and everything else are pretty much falsified. But the growing prickliness, intolerance, clampdowns and general frantic tell-tale signs of underlying panic all suggest that it is going to be a Bad Soft-Power Year.

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10 Responses to Beijing’s nice year-end freak-out

  1. Nimby says:

    Syria has grounds to complain to China about Xinjiang crackdown fueling discontent, though it’s Turkey’s mad man taking advantage of it.

  2. Cassowary says:

    Back when I was a mere student, our professor of Chinese politics instructed us to compare the official English language government websites for Tibet and Xinjiang. Tibet’s was slick, obviously designed to present an attractive face to a Western audience. Xinjiang’s looked like a mid-1990s HTML wall of text. Xinjiang now has a slick tourism board website. Its official government website doesn’t even load.

  3. PD says:

    “So hateful of anyone who is happy or free”.

    The problem is that the Chinese methods, which, I’m afraid, grow out of the culture, are effective in the medium term. Few journalists, whether on the mainland or in HK, stand up for long to the smears, attacks and general brutishness (and look at what happens to those that do). And as for the academics…

    They’re running rings round the Americans in the Philippine Sea, as they do as each president, having smiled a great deal at the beginning of office, tries to draw a line in the sand, or in this case, slurry.

    The Celestials have still got overwhelming support from the working class, even here. They’re a long way from down and out, since they can always whip up nationalistic mobs again if ever they feel threatened in their core interests.

  4. MS says:

    Another example is forcing data providers to stop issuing unofficial economic gauges:

  5. nulle says:

    at the current rate China is provoking the entire Asia. there eventually be a world war against China someday where major cities of China will either by leveled or onset of nuclear winter. US have been generous in working with you where the US can just bomb/blockade you.

    remember one hit to the three gorges dam and famine will set in China.

  6. Cassowary says:

    @PD: So true. It’s governing through whack-a-mole. Hit them hard enough and the cheeky buggers’ll stay down for a while, which is all they care about.

  7. PD says:


    I’m glad to learn that the US can just bomb/blockade “us”.

    However, I’m not convinced that they would launch a nuclear attack over a few (formerly) barren reefs.

  8. BUSYBODY says:

    @nuttle: When ALL Chinese Cities are being levelled (as you obviously/”benignly” desire!) — where do you plan on being, I wonder? Not in HK surely…?

  9. BUSYBODY says:

    @nut-lle: When ALL Chinese Cities are being nuked (as you obviously/fervently wish!) — where do you plan on being, I wonder? Not in HK surely…?

  10. Chinese Netizen says:

    Most Chinese cities are basically in the middle of a nuclear winter now, anyway, no?

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