He exhorted the authorities to: “Identify the foreign spies who look for Chinese women to live with and whose occupation is to collect intelligence and compile maps and GPS data for Japan, Korea and the West while pretending to be tourists.”
Many observers noted that while Beijing authorities have every right to crack down on the many foreigners living or working without proper documents, Mr. Yang’s comments smacked of racism and unnecessarily stoked anti-foreign sentiment online.
“It did sort of feel a little bit like throwing red meat to the angry [Internet users] and particularly felt so alarming because of the man’s job, which ostensibly is to encourage dialogue between China and the outside world,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, who runs a website that tracks the media and the Internet in China.
This “paranoid fear about spies and stealing our women - it does recall the vocabulary of racists everywhere,” Mr. Goldkorn said.
Foreign offenses stoke nationalism
China’s nationalism occasionally bubbles over into xenophobia. Scores of foreign missionaries were slaughtered in the 1900 anti-West Boxer Rebellion. Chinese youth beat up foreign diplomats during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution.
“This is a country that could be turned xenophobic very quickly, because people in school are still taught about the Opium Wars and all the unfairness that has happened in the past,” said Mr. McGregor, who called the rising nationalism “worrisome.”
Some foreign actions help fuel Chinese suspicions, such as the U.S. Embassy in Beijing providing shelter to Chen Guangcheng, the blind activist who fled abusive house arrest in his rural village.
“Morally correct or not, the U.S. was actually engaged in an incredibly provocative act,” said Bill Bishop, a Beijing-based Internet entrepreneur.
Many Chinese also resent what they consider lenient treatment for visitors when they misbehave.
Earlier this month, a Russian cellist with a Beijing symphony was caught on a widely circulated video hurling vulgarities at a Chinese woman on a train who complained about his feet being on her chair. A security official is seen telling passengers to let him be because “he’s a musician.”
“Many Chinese feel like foreigners have been given too much leeway in this kind of situation,” said Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing.
The cellist was later fired by the symphony, state media reported.View Entire Story
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