20.7 National Shame Day?

On the morning of July 20, 2011 it was announced that ASEAN and China had reaffirmed their commitment to abide by the 2002 code of conduct.

The official news release from Xinhua, reposted immediately by Phoenix Online that afternoon, was titled China and ASEAN agree on implementing the ‘Declaration on the conduct of parties in the South China Sea’. Predictably it was airy and light on detail, and the response to the story on Phoenix online was an overwhelming demand for more specific information:

“Hottest comments” from 33,884 participants/227 comments as at July 26, 2011, 12.20 p.m. BJ:

aloros (Huanggang, Hebei): I strongly demand the main content of the ‘Declaration’ be made public. The Chinese people have a right to information. [8881 recommends]

曹新华 Cao Xinhua* (Dalian, Liaoning): I strongly demand to see the content of the declaration. [3384 recommends]

wangyi3695555 (Guangdong): What are the specific contents of the declaration? [2467 recommends]

预备123123 (Luzhou, Sichuan): The contents should be made public. [1941 recommends]

as636789 (Wuxi, Jiangsu): Does the South China Sea belong to China? If so, why are we discussing it with others? [1853 recommends]

weizhaochuan (Shunde, Foshan, Guangdong): “We only need not attack for now. China is getting strong. When America falls into its next crisis, China will actually control the South China Sea.” People who think like this are just unloved dreamers!!!!! If you say something does that make it come true? You’ll fall into crisis before they do! [825 recommends]

* Possible pun as it sounds like “fuck Xinhua”, but also a relatively common surname and first name.

However, if July 20 was looking like a day of decreased South Sea tensions, five Filipino MPs and the Global Times had other ideas. Just over an hour after Xinhua’s announcement of the breakthrough agreement with ASEAN came the following:

Zhong Weidong (Global Times Online): A few days ago, five Filipino MPs shrilly claimed that they would “visit” Zhongye Island in the South China Sea. On July 20 local time, they carried out their plan to set foot on the island. They claimed Zhongye Island was “Filipino territory” and raised a new Philippines flag, and encouraged local residents to start calling the surrounding waters the “West Philippine Sea”.

“Hottest comments” on Phoenix online from 41,373 participants/877 comments as at 26/7/11 1.30pm BJ:

South Sea Summer 南海之夏 (Hangzhou, Zhejiang): Countless negotiations, countless protests, countless stern [statments], and no-one has ever paid heed. This time we get it: no negotiation, no protest and no sternness. Then we won’t be a joke to everyone. [4284 recommends]

oldsoldier2000 (Shenyang, Liaoning): Enraged! China’s government and military, why aren’t you doing anything? [2673 recommends]

Tuolikushui 脱离苦水 (Xuancheng, Anhui): A bunch of old men leaning on their walking sticks have squandered the property of the ancestors. These days we don’t even dare fart. What face do we have left on this earth? [2048 recommends]

wzm73123 (Zhangzhou, Fujian): I don’t know what the Chinese government has done about the South China Sea besides protest!!! Get a dose of reality!!! The Spratly Islands are being lost one after another, when can we end this state of affairs? [1767 recommends]

efang_michael (Beijing): Quoting background information from the bottom of the news story, ” Zhongye Island. . . second largest island in the Spratlys . . . named after a ship that received sovereignty over the Spratly Islands on behalf of the KMT government in 1946 . . . occupied by the Philippines since 1971, it now has a garrison, airport, shops, power plant etc, and forms the command centre for the Philippines’ rule of the Spratlys.” Reading this, seeing the Filipino servants’ [菲佣] military planes hovering over the motherland’s territory, the rage in my heart will burn for ages, what oh what oh what is wrong with our motherland???? [1684 recommends]

IFXDD (Chengdu, Sichuan): A day of national humiliation. I will remember 2011-7-20. [1612]

x090909 (Shenyang, Liaoning): China cannot sit and ignore this! The people of China are watching! The world’s Chinese people are watching! The whole world is watching! [1394]

haiying222 (Hangzhou, Zhejiang): If it doesn’t affect the basic interests of interest groups, the country’s weaponry is just playthings, whatever, just let them keep screwing. [1202]

sxxwli525 (Heze, Shandong): China’s military is a bunch of soft eggs. [1191]

. . .

万里青山 (Tianjin): There’s nothing that can be done. The common people are worried, the elites in the capital are not. [736]

The message could not be clearer: for many Chinese people this is nothing less than a national humiliation, a collective loss of national face. Meanwhile the old men of the corrupt government rest on their walking sticks. The comment that the military are “soft eggs” appears to imply that they should be disobeying the weak civilian leadership and taking matters into their own hands. The Chinese government often cops international criticism for claiming that this or that country has “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people”, but these comments illustrate the high degree to which many Chinese people are emotionally invested in the state’s continuing upward fortunes on the “international stage”.

 

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5 Comments on “20.7 National Shame Day?”

  1. […] strategy, seeing it as all talk and no action. The most-supported comment on iFeng in the wake of China’s agreement with ASEAN and the subsequent news story about the five Filipino MPs’ … expressed the view that in the absence of genuine actions aimed at recovering the […]

  2. […] of a nationalist backlash? Maybe, but there didn’t seem to be much fear of such a backlash in July last year, when they signed a new agreement with ASEAN on implementing the 2002 Declaration on the Code of […]

  3. […] last year when China agreed to the Guidelines for the Implementation of the South China Sea DOC, causing nationalist outrage […]

  4. […] on a foreign policy issue. That list has been growing since mid-2011, when early posts on here kept encountering the site’s overwhelmingly Maoist comment threads on the South China Sea issue. Since then it […]

  5. […] the South China Sea issue yet seen in China — bigger than Scarborough Shoal in 2012, or the peak of tensions in 2011, though still probably smaller and less intense than the demonstrations that […]


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