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Chinese React to Bin Laden’s Death

A few websites have already rushed to translate the reactions of Chinese internet users responses to the news of Bin Laden’s death (ChinaSmack’s coverage). As you know though, I am much more in favor of soliciting views of people who don’t know their comments will be made public. China’s net users often try to say the most inflammatory things simply for attention (like many net users around the world), and so their views aren’t really representative of most Chinese people (Wall Street Journals coverage of this story is more representative of thoughtful netizens, which was met with hundreds of more inflammatory comments).

So far my co-workers seem completely indifferent to the news, which isn’t surprising since it took nearly 20 hours for People’s Daily to update its headline (it was pictured before that, but really, this is worth updating your site for).

The question here now is, “How do you know he’s really dead?” Which coming from Grace, who talked with me last week about her distrust of her own government, isn’t surprising. There is an internet rumor here that the US has reported Bin Laden’s death many times, so it shouldn’t be believed now.

I the Chinese gov’t praised this event at least partially because of the recent unrest in their own Muslim minority areas in the far West. While it is unclear whether or not Al Qaeda has been active in China, it is clear that Uighurs (the ethnic group of Western China) have been active in Al Qaeda. Note: there have been attacks by Uighur separatists, but their affiliation is unclear.

I will be updating this post over these next few days as I collect more candid reactions. They will be posted below.

Evan Osnos from the New Yorker wrote a good piece that included a few reactions from the initial 9/11 attacks. Also an interesting joke/parable that is being passed around the Chinese web –

“Al Qaeda once sent 5 terrorists to China: One was sent to blow up a bus, but he couldn’t squeeze onto it; Another was sent to blow up a supermarket, but his bomb was stolen from his basket; A third was sent to blow up a train, but the tickets were sold out; Finally one succeeded in blowing up a coal mine, and hundreds of workers died. He returned to Al Qaeda’s HQ to await the headlines of his success, but it was never reported by the Chinese press.

Covers of Chinese newspapers reporting the death of Bin Laden. Interesting to see that there was no standardized Chines name for the world’s most wanted terrorist.


I talked with several of my co-workers today and found that most of them were aware of Bin Laden’s death, but they didn’t show much interest in talking about it. A few said they didn’t believe it at first when they heard the news, one sited the lack of a picture for her disbelief. Another said that at first he didn’t believe it because it was the American gov’t, but once CCTV reported it he knew it was real (most of the group laughed at how much he trusted CCTV).


6 Comments

  1. Chopstik says:

    I’d heard that there was a general feeling of “ho-hum” over Osama’s demise in China – discounting the not unusual amount of trolling on web forums. Talking with a few friends here, that seems to be the general case from my own very limited observations. I wonder how much of that will change as more information is made available in the coming days?

    • Tom says:

      I have an English class later today where I’ll be meeting with today of about 25 doctors, and tomorrow with 15 more. I’ll also be asking my wife to poll her college students.

  2. Chopstik says:

    Yeah, please update after you’ve had the chance to hear more. I’m rather interested…

  3. Pelo says:

    I was hoping you’d address the OBL thing in an upcoming blog.

    As for the question, “How do we know he’s really dead?” If the US government releases post-mortem photos and other info, hopefully there will be no doubt. It’s been reported that DNA matches were positive.

    It will be interesting to hear what average Chinese people on the street think. I wonder if they will be really interested given that Middle Eastern-bred terrorism hasn’t been much of a threat (if at all) to China as it has been for the West.

    • Chopstik says:

      Perhaps, perhaps not. But it has certainly not prevented the Chinese government from conflating its influence to curry favor with the US to suppress the separatists in Xinjiang (whom it associates with Al-Qaeda).

      As for confirming the death of bin Laden, the fact that no one in Al-Qaeda has disputed his death should be confirmation enough. Any other time a leader has been reported falsely killed, it has been immediately refuted by the terrorist group. Their relative silence on this issue is a screaming indicator that he truly is dead.

  4. Liu says:

    Many Hong Kong and Taiwanese people praised bin Laden as a hero, by the way. Anti-Americanism is spreading there, most do not know this…

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