Wang Qianyuan and the Internet Lynch Mob
The debate over the Internet lynch mob’s attack of Wang Qianyuan continues. Roland at ESWN brings us this exchange between one of Grace Wang’s supporters at Duke and members of the Chinese community. Grace Wang’s self-stated goal was to help the two sides “communicate”, but the final results show that hasn’t happened.
Unfortunately, many in the West continue to conflate the Internet mob’s behavior with Chinese nationalism at large. The truth is, the two are not directly related. As a proud Chinese nationalist who “defended” the Olympic Torch, I too am absolutely appalled by the Chinese Internet mob.
As far as Wang Qianyuan’s rough treatment being used to criticize those of us who love China… enough is enough. If the verbal attack on Wang Qianyuan suggests something is wrong with Chinese nationalism, then what does the physical attack on Jin Jing in Paris suggest? That something is fundamentally wrong with French liberalism?
The Chinese internet lynch mob doesn’t represent China supporters worldwide, any more than anarchists destroying Starbucks in Seattle represents progressives looking to fight international poverty.
The Chinese internet lynch mob consists largely of emotional, illogical, irrational youths who use the Internet to vent their bile in all directions.
Just this past week, we have the story of the same Internet lynch mob turning on a different victim, although one less attractive and less likely to make it onto the editorial pages of the Washington Post. A young woman (柳的妞) in Shenzhen who organized a campaign of bringing bottled water to traffic police sweating in the heat on May 1st (Labor Day), has been targeted for sharing water with the chengguan (城管) (a government bureau with the thankless job of keeping unlicensed peddlers from selling their wares on Chinese streets). She’s been harassed at work, online, and reportedly her boyfriend has left her. Instead of being rewarded for her benevolent act, she’s been targeted as an enemy. Regardless of how I feel about the chengguan, I personally disagree strongly with those who harassed 柳的妞 directly.
It is the 21st century, and it’s time to eliminate the concept of collective guilt. The tiny minority of Chinese who are part of the Internet lynch mob who virtually assaulted Wang Qianyuan, as well as 柳的妞, are responsible for their own actions. Those of us who support the Beijing Olympics, and those of us who support China, and those of us who happen to be part of the Chinese community at Duke absolutely do not share their guilt by association alone.
I watched the YouTube video of the initial encounter at Duke, by which Wang Qianyuan gained her fame. I saw a passionate, but earnest attempt to discuss the issues. I refuse to uniformly condemn the Chinese who marched on the Duke campus; I applaud their passion and heart. And even Grace Wang herself pointed out that her attackers represent only a minority of those who feel strongly about these issues.
What a lot of people don’t know is that there were many on the Chinese side who supported me and were saying, “Let her talk.” But they were drowned out by the loud minority who had really lost their cool.
I dislike Wang Qianyuan’s methods (especially in the weeks following the original conflict), and I disagree with some of her conclusions. But nonetheless, I support her “one China” beliefs. Since the Western media appears to believe she’s a convenient foil for making statements about Chinese nationalism at large, I prefer to emphasize the aspects of her message that I do support.
For example, an interview from Radio Free Asia:
王 千源：我觉得西藏绝对是中国的一部分，正因为它是中国不可分割的一部分，所以对待它就要像是对待自己的同胞兄弟，要用的方式和对待外人是不一样的。对待外 人，你可以不予理睬、你用比较强硬的手段也好，都可以。但对同胞兄弟的话，是自己的亲人，就要更加理性，要注意情感上的交流。跟藏族讲话更多的是要考虑， 这不是简单地这几年或几十年或奥运会几十天的事情。我们跟他们是几百年、几千年的渊源，并且会不断地继续下去。
Reporter: Do you believe that Tibet is part of China? Do you, or do you not support Tibetan independence?
Wang Qianyuan: I absolutely believe Tibet is part of China. And precisely because it is a part of China that can never be separated, we have to treat Tibet the same way we treat all of our brothers and compatriots. We must treat Tibet differently from how we treat outsiders. When dealing with outsiders, you can ignore them, or even use firmer methods, everything goes. But when dealing with our compatriots, they’re really our relatives, and we have to communicate with them in a more logical, emotional way. We have to think deeper while speaking with the Tibetans; this isn’t a simple issue lasting just these recent years. We have a shared origin stretching back hundreds, even thousands of years, and this will continue into the future without interruption.
Another example, from her original email to the Chinese students at Duke:
Tibet is already part of our country’s territory, how can we abandon her to others?
Frankly, no one else speaking this perspective on Tibet has been given any time in the Western editorial pages.
If she remembers to use the platform that she’s been handed to advocate for the Chinese interests that she claims to support, then perhaps some good will come from this. And in doing so, she would have dealt a valuable lesson to the Internet mob that has hounded her in this way. If she instead sings only the tune that her new “supporters” like to hear, then she will have only proven that her critics had been right all along.
In the mean time, I will continue to love, support, and wish the best for my country, warts and all.
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