People’s Daily: Don’t let the South China Sea problems interfere with the general situation of cooperationPosted: August 25, 2011
The People’s Daily’s Special Commentator “Zhong Sheng” has swung between moderate and hardline rhetoric regarding the South China Sea of late.
On July 20, as China signed up to a new agreement to implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, the Special Commentator announced that the era of resolving territorial disputes by non-peaceful means was over, but less than two weeks later “he” was on the front page warning the Philippines that it would pay a high price for “strategic miscalculations” like advancing its claims over parts of the South China Sea.
Now the People’s Daily seems to have changed its mind again, with a strikingly conciliatory Page 3 Zhong Sheng commentary published on August 20 applauding the “restraint” of China’s main South China Sea adversaries, Vietnam and the Philippines:
Bloomberg reported on the 18th that Philippines President Aquino, in an obvious lowering of his tone, had said “the Philippines cannot overcome China by meeting force with force”. On the same day the Vietnamese government indicated it would put a stop to the anti-Chinese demonstrations that have taken place almost every Sunday for the past 11 weeks. We welcome the Philippine and Vietnamese government’s restraint, and remain willing to deal with the South China Sea dispute calmly. Heading in the same direction remains the key to creating a favourable regional atmosphere.
Most interestingly, the the importance of properly controlling public opinion is singled out for special praise:
Territorial disputes are extremely complex, involving the people’s emotions and sometimes becoming bound up with domestic disputes. Unless extra restraint is taken, emotions could get out of control, which would doubtless result in unintended consequences.
[. . .]
Looking at the big picture, restraining impulsive sentiments, and positively guiding public opinion is always the road to finding a constructive solution to the South China Sea issue.
This message may well be aimed squarely at those within China who would seek to stir up “nationalist” sentiment on the South China Sea as a means of advancing their standing within the Chinese Community Party.
The story didn’t capture the attention of a great many internet users, with discussions involving 11,000 at iFeng and 13,000 at NetEase. Here is a selection of responses:
“Popular comments” on NetEase, from 694 comments/13,024 participants:
桜木様 Ying Mu Yang (Luoyang, Henan): I’ve fanned your face, but still haven’t given you any dates to eat, and you’re this happy…. [2400 recommends]
5人0 (Lanzhou, Gansu): They’ve talked through how it’s going to be done, the oil is flowing, and the Philippines has recently occupied islands! 
百聞不如一見 [Seeing once is better than hearing 100 times] (Minhang District, Shanghai): The result of restraint will be no oil left…and editor, if you delete my comment again I’ll f**k your whole family. 
Anonymous (Dalian, Liaoning): I now have my doubts about whether some of these sands really are China’s – what if they’re not? 
Anonymous (Zhangjiakou, Hebei): China is really f**king . . . dead cheap 
Anonymous (Weifang, Shandong): The People’s Daily has taken the bait. 
The comment highlighted in bold appears to have escaped the censors’ attention.
Popular comments on Phoenix Online, from 301 comments/11,607 participants:
minjiang138: China gains absolutely nothing yet still thinks it’s had a great victory. [3424 recommends]
为国惩奸 [Punish the traitors on behalf of the country]: The South China Sea – with the Chinese government there, you will be peaceful and harmonious 
般若齐天 [Wonderous knowledge equal to heaven]: The Philippines and Vietnam should be as restrained as China, look how restrained the Chinese people are! 
zzc_china: It only has to be beneficial to staying in power domestically, giving in to outside countries is no big deal