Foreigner-bashing rises amid China’s domestic woes

From TV rants to police crackdowns, nationalism rises

BEIJING — First, videos of rude foreigners went viral in Chinese cyberspace.

Then a Beijing police crackdown on visitors without valid visas drew fervent applause.

Finally, a state TV host urged his countrymen to toss out the “foreign trash.”

The latest anti-foreigner stirring in China has put the spotlight on outsiders at a time when its leaders would welcome any distraction from the slowing economy, a high-level political scandal and a blind activist’s daring flight into U.S. custody.

The government also has exchanged bellicose rhetoric with the Philippines in a standoff over remote islands, while state-run newspapers have attacked the American ambassador because of the U.S. involvement in the case of activist Chen Guangcheng.

China’s leaders and official media frequently blame foreigners for domestic woes, tapping into a nationalism fed by steady reminders of affronts at the hands of foreigners over the past two centuries.

As the country prepares for a once-a-decade leadership transition this year - already marred by the downfall of a top leader amid a murder investigation involving his wife - the government is more sensitive than ever about foreign interference.

“This is an unsettled time in China because of the political transition,” said James McGregor, a senior counselor for consulting firm Apco Worldwide.

“So, I think they genuinely worry about foreigners agitating because they always turn to ‘It must be the foreigners’ fault’ when things go wrong,” said Mr. McGregor, a former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.

Public outrage

Earlier this month, an amateur video on China’s Twitter-like sites showed an alleged sexual assault involving a British man and a Chinese woman near a Beijing mall and the man then being beaten by Chinese men.

State TV broadcast the video for several days, and police said the man was apprehended.

Later, Beijing authorities announced a three-month crackdown on foreigners without valid visas or work documents, illustrating its campaign with a graphic of a clenched fist.

Microbloggers called the move overdue and urged police to round up foreign drug dealers.

Into this waded TV personality Yang Rui, host of an English-language talk show on state-run CCTV, who ranted on a microblog that the police should arrest the “foreign hoodlums and protect innocent girls.”

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