Chinese netizens target French products

TEH ENG KOON/AFP/Getty Images This year’s nationalism soup in China smacks of that served in 2005 but with some more eclectic ingredients. Then, it was anti-Japanese sentiment over WWII-era war crimes that stirred up popular unrest. The Chinese government stoked the public’s anger, leading to diplomatic facilities getting smashed up and calls for a boycott ...

595504_080311_french2.jpg
595504_080311_french2.jpg

TEH ENG KOON/AFP/Getty Images

This year's nationalism soup in China smacks of that served in 2005 but with some more eclectic ingredients. Then, it was anti-Japanese sentiment over WWII-era war crimes that stirred up popular unrest. The Chinese government stoked the public's anger, leading to diplomatic facilities getting smashed up and calls for a boycott of Japanese goods. Sensing that things had gotten out of control, the government eventually drew the line.

Now, it is global activism tied to the Beijing Olympics that is fueling national anger. Many Chinese feel that other countries are exploiting the games for political reasons. Howard French of the International Herald Tribune explains the anger is so deep because their government "sold them on the Olympics as a measure of their standing and stature in the world," and they feel the world isn't giving China its due.

TEH ENG KOON/AFP/Getty Images

This year’s nationalism soup in China smacks of that served in 2005 but with some more eclectic ingredients. Then, it was anti-Japanese sentiment over WWII-era war crimes that stirred up popular unrest. The Chinese government stoked the public’s anger, leading to diplomatic facilities getting smashed up and calls for a boycott of Japanese goods. Sensing that things had gotten out of control, the government eventually drew the line.

Now, it is global activism tied to the Beijing Olympics that is fueling national anger. Many Chinese feel that other countries are exploiting the games for political reasons. Howard French of the International Herald Tribune explains the anger is so deep because their government “sold them on the Olympics as a measure of their standing and stature in the world,” and they feel the world isn’t giving China its due.

The latest country to face Chinese wrath is France, which Chinese netizens singled out as the worst embarrassment in terms of the torch relay over the past week (frankly, things weren’t pretty in London or San Francisco either). Citing a human rights banner at Paris city hall and a protestor trying to wrench the torch from a Chinese girl in a wheelchair, grassroots sentiment is again spiraling out of control, though only in cyberspace for now. Calls for boycotts of French companies — including L’Oréal, Louis Vuitton and Givenchy — have appeared on Web sites and chatrooms.  Meanwhile, Xinhua ran a story today biting back at the French media entitled “Paris slaps its own face.”

The government will likely ride it out as long as is necessary for the people to vent. Then, as with Japan, they will call for a return to social harmony. Many people, including International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, believe the games will still be a success. But with so many potential provocations yet to unfold, it will be interesting to see how this PR mess gets cleaned up.

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