China is never a boring country in terms of news. But I have the feeling that right now a lot more things are happening concurrently than ever before during the past 12+ years that I have lived here. It’s a bit scary to observe this trend, especially because some of it may also affect me and my family.
Maybe this trend is due to social media, so that a lot more news comes out that the government could still keep under cover a few years ago. For example, most of the recent food scandals would have never reached the general public in pre-Internet times. Things have gotten so bad that we hardly buy any Chinese food products anymore, and we now even started making our own yoghurt…
Politically times are very turbulent as well, not only internally (with the arrest of Bo Xilai and the party trying to keep the army loyal) but also externally (tensions between China and The Philippines). And last week, for the first time in 13 years, a foreign journalist was kicked out of China.
On top of that the anti-foreigner sentiment is on the rise once again. Over the years I have seen a few instances in which it was safer to avoid certain places for foreigners (the Hainan spy plane incident, anti-French tensions, the attacks on Japanese people and property (twice!)). But what’s happening now seems to target a much broader range of foreigners. Likely the government is just using it to direct attention away from the internal political problems and to make people more patriotic, but it’s scary to see what’s happening and how quickly social media can spread the moods of people.
Even big Chinese Internet companies like Baidu and Sina joined the party to crack down on ‘misbehaving foreigners’, according to an article in yesterday’s People’s Daily. And a well-known English speaking CCTV anchor put a tirade against foreigners on his Weibo, stirring up things even further.
A New York Times blog post gives a good overview of how the xenophobia started and about everything that happened over the past 10 days, give it a read if you want to understand what’s going on: http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/18/sentiment-against-foreigners-flares-in-china/ Personally I am not too worried yet, but it’s important to keep an eye on what’s happening.