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China Grapples with Anti-Foreign Sentiment Following Attacks on Foreigners

Recent attacks on American and Japanese citizens in Jilin and Suzhou have sparked heated discussions on Chinese social media platforms. The Suzhou incident, which resulted in the death of a Chinese national, led to a surge in anti-Japanese sentiment.

Chinese social media platforms have begun intervening to curb nationalist rhetoric. Some commentators believe the Suzhou incident could have far-reaching effects on China’s economy and foreign investment.

The attack in Suzhou, where a Japanese mother and child were assaulted, resulted in the death of a Chinese bus attendant who tried to prevent the attack. Online discussions following the incident ranged from praising the attacker as a national hero to questioning the loyalty of the deceased attendant.

Former Chinese media professional Zhao Lanjian noted a proliferation of anti-Japanese videos online, many created by young people openly expressing radical views. He suggested these groups might be organized and tacitly approved by authorities.

In response to the controversy, major Chinese social media platforms like Tencent, Douyin, NetEase, and Baidu have taken steps to moderate extreme content and suspend accounts promoting xenophobia.

Political scholar Wu Zuolai observed that nationalism has long been used by Chinese authorities to garner public support and divert attention from social issues. He noted that the recent escalation in anti-Japanese sentiment could have serious economic consequences, potentially affecting foreign investment and job opportunities in China.

The Chinese government has expressed regret over the Suzhou incident and pledged to protect foreigners in China, but some Japanese media outlets have criticized the response as inadequate.

Source: Voice of America, July 2, 2024