Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

James Millward, "China's story: putting the PR in the PRC," openDemocracy, April 17, 2008.


"While the west has focused on the chaotic and even amusing aspects (French police on roller-blades, Chinese torch-guards in dark shades on a cloudy day), in China the iconic image is of the young female paralympic fencer Jin Jing struggling to hold the torch from her wheelchair while a grimacing free-Tibet protestor attempts to wrest it from her grasp. As with the Tibetan protests generally, people in the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the world at large see the events of the torch tour in radically different ways.

"A similar disconnect characterises recent Chinese announcements of foiled terrorist plots by Uighurs, the Turkic Muslims from China's Xinjiang region. Several official reports - regarding a raid on an alleged terror cell in Urumqi in January 2008, an attempt by a young Uighur woman and a man to bring down an airliner in March, and Uighur plans to attack tourist hotels and kidnap foreign journalists in April - have all met with scepticism by foreign media and analysts, infuriating Chinese authorities.

"Despite unprecedented information interchange, despite more than two decades of Chinese openness to and deep economic integration with the world, and despite the promise of the Olympic moment, there is now a situation in which world public opinion, and that in China, are diametrically opposed.

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James A Millward is professor of history at Georgetown University. Among his books is Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang (C Hurst, 2007).Recommend this Post

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