Contrary to India’s nationalistic fomenting, Chinese public largely calm over border tension

By Xu Ming Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/31 18:48:39

Only some Indian politicians may benefit from a fight with China: expert


Young Chinese are paying close attention to the updates on the Doklam standoff between Chinese and Indian troops. Most Chinese people hold a sensible and calm attitude toward the border issue, confident that the Chinese government can handle it well. Experts say the standoff could be solved through diplomatic negotiation.

Workers hang Chinese and Indian national flags during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, May 12, 2015. Photo: CFP



 

Chinese netizens reacted strongly to a report in India that said Chinese youth don't really care about the Doklam border standoff.

A report published by The Times of India said that Chinese youth have little interest in the Doklam border face-off, quoting topic statistics from Sina Weibo and saying the Doklam issue "did not figure among the top 50 trending topics on Saturday (July 22)."

The report published on July 23 says "China's youth are largely nonchalant about calls by a hawkish section of the official media to 'teach India a lesson' over the Doklam stand-off. Most of them are even ignorant of such a border problem."

When the news came to the attention of Chinese netizens, it became a target of rebuke and even a laughing stock for young Chinese people who feel the conclusion is not accurate and is ridiculous.

Many young people born in the 1990s responded by saying that they have been paying close attention to the updates. "India only knows about Sina Weibo in China," a netizen named WuweiYeYe poked fun at the report. "We didn't pay as much attention as you expected because you are not worth it," one netizen retorted. 

As a matter of fact, since the Doklam standoff started a month ago, the discussion about the issue have never ceased on all kinds of social networks, including tianya.cn, one of the most popular social networking sites in China, WeChat, and others.

Meanwhile, compared to past tensions between China and Japan, when there were boycotts or even smashing of Japanese products, this time most young Chinese people have adopted a calm attitude toward the standoff.

Logical analysis and serious concern, instead of meaningless verbal outbursts, dominate the social networks in China. Besides, up to now, there is no extreme reaction from the Chinese people directly related to the standoff targeting India.

"They [India] are misunderstanding young Chinese if they think that young Chinese have little interest in the issue or don't love their country. It is just that the government and people are sensible about it. Chinese people believe the Party and the government could handle it well," noted Sun Shihai, honorary director of the Institute of Indian Studies at the China (Kunming) Institute of South and Southeast Asian Studies.

Fierce but controlled discussion

Even though many netizens retorted to the Times of India report by saying, half jokingly, "We don't talk about the issue because you are not qualified to arouse our concern," in fact the topic has dominated online and offline discussions since a month ago, when Indian troops crossed the border to stop a road construction by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Doklam.

For example, on tianya.cn, which has more than 1 billion users, every day there are numerous posts analyzing the standoff on the Doklam border and the possibility of exchange of fire between China and India, each read thousands of times and followed by comments. Articles like "How will the Doklam standoff develop?" "Will China and India fight again?" and so on have been widely read and commented.

Instead of irrational and emotional verbal attack or complaints, the majority of the articles talk about the possibility of war or negotiation rather rationally, with analyses of the global political and geological situation and comparison of military strengths.

Similar discussions are taking place on WeChat and zhihu.com, the Chinese equivalent of Quora, with people arguing for or against opening fire. In answering the question "How China could properly handle the border standoff?" on zhihu.com, many authors suggested China should avoid military conflicts and be patient and calm, but meanwhile some are hoping the Chinese PLA could take the chance to teach India a lesson. 

"I'm disappointed with our country. The Indian army crossed our border and invaded our territory, and we are only protesting," complained a netizen named LüxiuAnnie.

The pro-war voice is getting stronger actually, particularly strong after the military parade on Sunday, which celebrated the 90th birthday of the PLA. In the parade inspected by President Xi Jinping, the PLA demonstrated its muscles in a simulated battlefield and boosted the confidence of the Chinese people.

In comments about the parade, numerous people naturally related the grand parade to the current standoff in Doklam. "The parade and the crack troops are really inspiring, but what we should do to those Indian soldiers crossing our border? It is much expected…" a lawyer named Xia Weiqiang asked bluntly on Sina Weibo.

"Are you watching the parade, Indian prime minister and defense minister? Are you considering retreat to your own land?" a netizen named Yuenanyueshuo wrote, "China's parade must bring great pressure on India and subdue the enemy without fighting."

Generally speaking, the discussion is sensible, showing that even though Chinese people have their own expectations on the issue, they are confident enough to leave it in the hands of the government and are not anxious to push for a result.

"I'm in my 70s now, and I could feel how young people are concerned about the issue. My students and young people around are taking every chance to ask me questions about the standoff," Ma Jiali, a senior researcher on China-India relations at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, told the Global Times.

He added that recently many universities and institutes have been inviting him to deliver lectures, because students and research fellows are eager to know more about the historical background of the issue and what it will lead to.





Rational patriotism

People still remember that Japan's decision to "nationalize" the Diaoyu Islands in 2012 angered the Chinese people so much that anti-Japan demonstrations and activities took place in many places in China, during which many Japanese cars and restaurants were smashed. Last year, South Korea's agreement to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system also aroused a wave of boycott of South Korean products.

But this time, even in fierce discussions, a lot of Chinese netizens are able to handle their emotion with humor. The comments are seldom full of hate or severely derisive toward ordinary Indian people.

What's more, ordinary Chinese people have not yet resorted to extreme behavior targeting India and its people. While some Indians already started to boycott Chinese products in India, the reaction of Chinese people has been relatively calm. Occasionally, there are voices online calling for a boycott of Indian films and actors, but such voices are criticized by other rational netizens.

"Chinese people have been sensible overall. The Chinese society is progressing," noted Sun.

As Sun observes, it may be partly because the previous outbursts of patriotism were criticized, which prompted people to introspect. But more importantly, "China does not have a historical grudge toward India as it does with Japan."

"Japan has invaded China and has committed unforgivable crimes in China. Naturally, Chinese people can easily get infuriated by Japan. But it is not the case with India. China and India, though once fought a war, are not enemies and have a lot of mutual interest," Sun analyzed.

Another fact not to be ignored is that the trade ties between China and India are not as robust as that between China and Japan or South Korea. Many netizens joked that they could find nothing produced by India that they could boycott if they really wanted to.

"Even curry, if you want to boycott it, you need to find out whether it is actually produced in India," a netizen said.

But most importantly, as experts point out, the sensibility and calmness of Chinese people amid the border standoff comes from their faith in their government and army.

"[The Doklam standoff] does not appear on the most searched topic list on [Sina], just because Chinese people are sensible … and they have faith in the capability of their country and army in defending our sovereignty," wrote a netizen named Huagebuzaixian.

Many interviewed say they don't think the standoff will eventually affect their life.

"We are very concerned about what's happening on our border and discuss it a lot. But meanwhile we don't really think it is a big deal. We have confidence in our country and government to handle the matter properly, whether through opening fire or diplomatic negotiation, so we don't need to worry," said Lu Lu (pseudonym), a 32-year-old man living in Kunming, Yunnan Province.

Looking to the future

According to Sun, in this standoff, both the government policy and public opinion have been guiding Chinese people to be sensible in showing love for their country.

"The mutual interests between China and India are far more than their divisions. China has been investing in India in recent years, which is beneficial for both countries. And once there is a fight, it is the two countries and their people who will be hurt," said Sun.

"Some countries might be hoping the world's two biggest developing countries to fight each other, so they can profit from it, but we should not get swindled," he added.

While some Indians are busy boycotting Chinese products right now, Sun called on young Chinese people to remain sensible and not follow suit. "They are in a minority. Some politicians and merchants use nationalism to achieve personal goals. But the bilateral investment and trade is continuing to grow."

Sun pointed out that some people in China don't really know much about India and thus belittle it.

"India is not as weak as some think. It leads the world in various aspects and its military strength has been growing. We should see the strong points of our neighbors and learn from them," he said.


Newspaper headline: Rational patriotism


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