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“Student Zhang, Please Return to China; Use the U.S. Style and Breathe Freely”

People’s Daily published a commentary supporting the Chinese student who criticized Joe Biden, Vice President of the United State, for the comments he made about China.

On Monday, May 13, 2013, Biden spoke at the commencement ceremony of the University of Pennsylvania. About China, Biden said, “You CANNOT think different in a nation where you cannot breathe free. You CANNOT think different in a nation where you aren’t able to challenge orthodoxy, because change only comes from challenging orthodoxy.” Zhang Tianpu, a Mainland Chinese student and graduating senior at the ceremony, felt insulted and wrote a letter to Biden demanding an apology. As of May 22, the letter had collected over 300 signatures.

State media published reports about Zhang. For example, a People’s Daily commentary stated that Biden’s self-righteousness is typical of American pride and prejudice. “The young Chinese are, in general, full of confidence in China’s situation and development. … China is walking its own path and that represents the confidence of young Chinese. This confidence is particularly valuable for the future of China and should be highly commended.”

Some Chinese newspapers and netizens thought differently. Nanfang Daily commented, “The Chinese student asked for an apology, ‘challenged orthodoxy,’ and ‘breathed freely,’ and moreover, he loved his motherland in an orthodox manner, but it reminds us of the classic joke about the former Soviet Union.” There was a popular joke in the former Soviet Union. A visiting U.S. Secretary of State told Brezhnev that people in the U.S. can criticize the U.S. President in front of the White House. Brezhnev replied, “So what? The people in the Soviet Union can also criticize the U.S. President in front of the Kremlin."

On weibo (Chinese version of twitter), some netizens urged Zhang to bring the U.S. style criticism back to China  and “breathe freely.” Others complained about Internet control in which the authorities delete their posted comments on these topics.

Huanqiu, May 23, 2013
People’s Daily, May 24, 2013
Nanfang Daily, May 23, 2013
Weibo, May 24, 2013