China fuels anger over Seoul's missile move
- 13 March 2017
The deployment in South Korea of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) missile defence system has been slammed by Beijing. Now the Chinese Communist Party is calling on its people to embrace their ill will towards their neighbours.
It's incredible the speed with which China's leaders can just switch on anti-South Korea sentiment here.
The Communist Party has complete control of the Chinese media. So the instructions go out and a way of thinking is simply poured into the community from above.
The giant Costa Serena cruise ship docked at South Korea's spectacular island of Jeju at the weekend. Eighty charter buses stood by with their guides. They were ready to take Chinese tourists around the sights of this old fishing community with its ancient volcanoes and pristine beaches.
With its visa-free travel for Chinese citizens, Jeju has been a popular destination for tourists from the Middle Kingdom.
Not this time. After the cruise ship docked, some 3,400 Chinese passengers reportedly refused to disembark. It was said to be a protest at the deployment of Thaad in South Korea.
In China's state-controlled media coverage, it is not as if you get a range of views.
Here is a view you will not hear expressed on, say, a Chinese Central Television panel show: "Look everyone, I know we're all a bit angry about this but we should try and see it from a South Korean perspective. They're worried about those North Korean missiles which we are regularly seeing being tested raining down on Seoul from just across the border."
No, you will not hear that view. Basically the only perspective that gets an airing is that the Thaad battery allows the Americans to see deep into China, that this is a threat to our homeland and that the South Korean company Lotte Group provided the land for it on a golf course.
Not surprisingly, Lotte supermarkets in China have found themselves in breach of fire regulations and the like, and are being forced to shut their doors.
This may, however, turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the company because patriotic citizens have already started taking matters into their own hands. One woman went into a Lotte outlet and filmed herself for social media opening packets of instant noodles and drinks before putting them back.
Outside Lotte supermarkets, small-ish protests are being being allowed to go ahead and the momentum is building.
Two men in Shandong filmed themselves on the footpath outside an electrical appliance store with the Chinese national anthem blaring out. Next to them was a large cardboard box.
After revealing its contents, with the stirring "qi lai, qi lai" (rise up, rise up) echoing around the buildings, they then proceeded to use a sledge hammer to smash an LG-brand washing machine to pieces.
Next victim (from the same South Korean brand): a large flat-screen TV. The red banner next to them read: "We would rather destroy these than sell them."
The small crowd of passers by watching the ceremony made sure that it spread across social media.
Elsewhere, a large group of students were filmed at the Shijixing Primary School.
The camera panned across them in their hundreds as they chanted slogans in scenes reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution: "Boycott South Korea! Drive Lotte out of China! This all starts from us! Resist Thaad! Love your country!"
Then there's the song. Somebody has re-recorded the well-known pop song The Dedication of Love with new lyrics. It, too, is travelling around social media like wildfire.
"It's a call from the heart. // It's a show of love.
Danger is approaching us. // So all Chinese people should wake up.
In South Korea the US deploys Thaad. // Which can monitor more than half of China.
Lotte makes a lot of money in China. // Yet still offers a place to the US.
Chinese people should stand up. // Only if our country is safe can we exist."
'They provoked us'
At the weekend I was monitoring social media and had the following conversation with a woman in Beijing.
Woman: I'm watching the news about the North Korea situation.
Stephen: Oh well that's a very important issue.
Woman: I'm thinking of exactly how I can destroy their country [South Korea].
Stephen: You want to destroy their country?
Woman: If I had the opportunity. That's right, I would destroy it.
Stephen: Why do you have such a dark view of this?
Woman: They provoked us first.
Stephen: I think you should possibly take a calmer view of this situation.
Woman: No, no, no. They don't understand the fury in our country.
Stephen: They say they're worried about North Korean missiles.
Woman: Other countries all think we're always submissive and accommodating because we're afraid but they don't understand our anger against a common enemy.
Stephen: Isn't it reasonable for South Korea to be afraid of North Korean missiles? If you were South Korean might you not you also be worried about the situation with the North?
Woman: According to my understanding, our blood is boiling. We're waiting for the order from our leaders and we won't turn back. We're not afraid to die.
Stephen: According to South Korea's way of thinking, they might see Thaad as not having anything to do with China.
Woman: If this Korean supermarket is only losing Chinese customers that's too easy for them. If we are going to fight we need to cut the grass from the roots. Either we die or they die. Our leaders are opposed to Thaad so we need to support them and our country. Whatever North Korea does is not our concern. We only care about our country.
Stephen: I really think you should look at this situation a little more calmly.
Woman: Until our country gives the order we will do nothing too extreme. We can only stop buying Korean products online. I can't really hurt South Korea by myself. My power is not enough.
Stephen: Isn't peace the most important thing?
Woman: Our country has a saying: "Anyone who offends our country, no matter how far away it is, we will go and strike them." Chairman Mao said: "If somebody doesn't hurt me I won't hurt them back but anyone who harms me I will definitely harm them back."
Stephen: Your country says? Don't you have a mind of your own?
Woman: A brain is for making money. State affairs do not require a brain. We simply follow commands.
Stephen: You are sounding a little like a robot.
The Chinese Communist Party is definitely playing with fire by stirring up such emotions in order to achieve a political result.
In the past, when the party unleashed this type of sentiment against Japan or the Philippines it had to rein its people in before the situation got out of hand.
But you get the feeling that this dispute's flames still have quite a bit of fanning to come.