I was about to translate this post when I discovered that Global Voices beat me to the punch. I guess some people are still paying attention to Han Han, even if the domestic media isn’t allowed to mention him anymore.
Hit the link above for Han Han’s take on Libya, but here’s the money quote (from the Global Voices translation):
My view is very simple: dictators have no internal affairs, and slaughterers ought to be invaded and eliminated. Yesterday just happened to be the brightest moon in 19 years. It doesn’t matter who, it doesn’t matter why; in the name of the moon, annihilate him.
The moon bit is just a joke; “In the name of the moon, I’ll annihilate you!” is a quote that’s been bouncing around the net for a couple years. But the rest of it seems to be genuine, and it’s interesting because there is a lot of debate happening on the Chinese net right now about Libya.
It’s not hard to guess where the Chinese government — which abstained on the vote to enforce a no fly zone — falls on this issue. I’m just waiting for Li Hongmei to write one of her classic columns on it.
More than a few Chinese netizens have a similar take. Comparisons to the Iraq war and condemnations of “the West” are already flying around Chinese social networking sites and microblogs like Sina, where “Iraq” has been a trending topic for the past couple days mostly because of that comparison.
As I understand it — and I haven’t had time to follow it too closely — there are a couple issues at play here. First, people are concerned about “the West’s” incursion being a violation of Libyan sovereignty. In China, of course, any incursion into another country’s “domestic affairs” is always a hot topic and a point of pride for the Chinese government, an opportunity to take the moral high ground because China doesn’t interfere in other countries’ affairs
unless those countries are Taiwan, Japan, India, any African country with useful resources, etc….
With regards to that argument, I’m with Han Han. And in an age of instant international communication, I’m not sure what the value of national sovereignty is when (1) the “domestic issues” of any given country inevitably affect things in other countries ((Just look at the wave of protests that continues to sweep through the middle east; somehow, Tunisian internal affairs managed to affect Egypt…)) and (2) there are civilian lives hanging in the balance. As a government, I think you probably forfeit your sovereignty right about the time you start using fighter jets to bomb peaceful protesters. And from the perspective of a Libyan protester, I suspect I’d prefer the French violating our national airspace to being killed by my own military ((even though it would mean I could die happy in the knowledge that Libyan sovereignty was secure!)).
The second issue is that the UN forces have allegedly also killed civilians, although for the moment, those claims appear to be a your-word-versus-mine situation, with Gaddafi and supporters claiming several dozen citizens killed, and allied military leaders denying any civilian casualties ((Obviously, both of those groups have reasons to potentially “massage” the truth)). Personally, even if the UN has killed 40-something civilians ((I believe that was the number Gaddafi was claiming yesterday; I haven’t seen more recent figures)), I suspect that’s preferable to what would have happened without UN intervention (to wit: more civilian deaths, and not accidental ones).
What’s interesting — if predictable — is that in the discussions I’ve seen on Weibo and other Chinese sites thusfar, tend to focus on the former issue rather than the latter. Even to regular Chinese people, it seems, Libya’s sovereignty is a more pressing issue than whether or not its citizens are being killed.
And, of course, most of the discussion isn’t really about Libya at all, it’s the same China-versus-the-West narrative of Western arrogance and imperialism that we hear every day. Libya is a bit player, and the eventual outcome there probably doesn’t matter much to the people discussing its fate.
That said, I haven’t had enough time to properly follow all the news on Libya or to research this post — as many of you probably noticed, things have been busy lately. So I’ll leave it at that for now, the comments thread wide open below, waiting excitedly for you to condemn me.