In Brief: Most Chinese Net Users Sad Bin Laden is Dead

The “China’s reaction to Bin Laden” story has been covered from a million angles already. But none of them (that I have seen) have included any statistics which is why this poll is so interesting.

Obligatory disclaimer: Yes, this is an informal internet poll with inherent biases and probably with security lax enough for hackers to compromise the system and influence the outcome, if they wanted to do that, so any analysis of it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. I’ve also rounded all the numbers because they’ll have changed by the time this post goes up anyway.

Translation

What is your opinion of the American military killing Osama Bin Laden?

  • Happy, the terrorist leader has finally been killed. 18%, 87,700 votes.
  • Sad, an anti-American warrior has fallen. 60%, 287,600 votes.
  • Sigh, after ten long years America has finally gotten revenge. 12%, 58,600 votes.
  • No opinion, it doesn’t really matter to me whether he’s dead or not. 10%, 46,100 votes.

What’s your appraisal of Osama Bin Laden?

  • He was the number one terrorist and a threat to world peace. 18%, 89,300 votes.
  • He was an anti-American warrior, but his killing of innocent people is unacceptable. 58%, 276,700 votes.
  • He was a crazy religious fundamentalist whose break with the traditional islamic world has made him a legend. 15% 73,300 votes.
  • Not sure. 8%, 40,000 votes.

Do you think Bin Laden’s death will have a positive effect in combating terrorism?

  • Yes, this is a victory in the war against terror, and it will help restrain future terrorist activities. 17%, 80,000 votes.
  • Yes, the forces of Islamic extremism will decline and the age of terrorism will pass. 2%, 11,000 votes.
  • No, Bin Laden was no longer an important player, and his death will not influence terrorism one way or the other. 25%, 118,000 votes.
  • No, more extremist forces will undertake terrorist actions [because of his death] and terrorism will get worse and worse. 48%, 229,000 votes.
  • Not sure. 8%, 40,000 votes.

Comments

It’s interesting that a majority of those who responded to this poll are upset that Bin Laden is dead, but at the same time, a majority also felt that his tactics were unacceptable despite his apparently-favorable anti-American attitude. This link came to me via Zhang Wen’s blog, where Zhang Wen mentions that this may be one of the reasons it took the Chinese government so long to comment on the news of Bin Laden’s death. Obviously, the government itself has no love for bin Laden or terrorism in general, but apparently they need to tread lightly around a populace that is surprisingly — I feel, anyway — supportive of bin Laden.

Then again, it may just be the latest wind of anti-Americanism. Just last week in my day job trolling the wastelands of Sina’s trending topics, I noticed that there were plenty of Chinese netizens gloating about the deadly tornadoes that killed over 200 in the American south. The general sentiment seemed to be that Americans deserved it for their support of the wars that were killing innocent people in other countries. Interesting, indeed.

UPDATE: Sina Weibo is currently hosting an expert Q&A on Bin Laden’s death. Someone asked the current expert in the hot seat, Ma Xiaolin, his thoughts on the ifeng.com poll and the fact that 60% of respondents were sad about Bin Laden’s death. His answer:

“Netizens only represent a part of overall public opinion. [This issue] has become very emotional, so [the poll] doesn’t necessarily represent people’s conclusions after rational consideration [of the issue].”

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0 thoughts on “In Brief: Most Chinese Net Users Sad Bin Laden is Dead”

  1. “@ lolz: tone down the personal attacks or get banned.”

    😦 Fine I understand. Honestly though, Custer you are a gamer right? Don’t you enjoy the trash talking when playing against someone else over the internet?

    Also, I think this is an example why you can’t generalize internet users based off their postings especially in a censored environment. The nasty stuff gets banned and people seem a lot more than civil than they actually are. If your impression of the China-blogs is based off the comments section, you would certainly develop a different opinion of this whole community if you were to only visit Chinasmack (a lot less comment moderation) or this one.

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  2. PEW Global Attitudes survey asks something like 3,000 Chinese what they think of Americans each year. Last year (2010) some 58% of Chinese held favorable opinion of the US while 61% of the Chinese held favorable opinion of American people. On the other hand, some 49% Americans held favorable opinion of China. (I originally posted the links to these surveys but the post got moderated. 2+ links in your comment = auto moderation bin, methinks.).

    Anyhow, if anti-Americanism is so pervasive in China wouldn’t more Chinese hold unfavorable views of Americans than say, Mexicans? If anything, today Chinese people view Americans more favorably than ever before. This contradicts the alarmist cries of “50 cent”, “ultra-nationalist” movement by the usual suspects. If you look at the related charts, the fact is that far more Chinese also hold a favorable view of Europe than vise versa, although China has never colonized European nations like how the European nations colonized China. Those who are complaining about Chinese being big time haters should really look at the facts and do some soul searching as to what made them think this way.

    On Uighurs, I think it would be interesting to survey people on what they thought about the US government releasing the four Uighurs from Gitmo as mentioned by Custer. These four Uighurs were arrested in an Afghanistan Al Qaeda training camp. The reason for their eventually release was that they were training ways of jihad against China, and not the US. I am pretty certain that most of the anti-China folks on the China related websites are in favor of these Uighurs release (though I would be happy to be proven wrong).

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  3. A closet bigot is someone who have clearly expressed such prejudiced views but refuse to acknowledge his/her own prejudices.
    I think I’ve apparently been called a closet bigot on May 6, 2011 at 05:27. But then, that doesn’t mean a thing. Acknowledgment – stuff such as “you need to acknowledge” is foreign to me. Otherwise, I’d have become a police officer.

    When it comes to culture, perception is based off what people want to see.
    That’s a very generalizing statement, and most probably wrong.

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  4. MAC,

    Good point in that dumb yahoo post. There’s plenty of schadenfreude out there, including in China and US. Many people out there seem to type whatever they want before they they really thought what they want to post. I figure that the posters were not using their real name anyways so it won’t come back to haunt them.

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  5. @Pugster –

    “Oh gasp! I don’t have proof, so my opinions don’t count!”

    Spot on. Glad to see you’re getting the hang of this.

    @Kai – I realised afterwards that I was carrying on a bit like you didn’t already understand/know what I was writing about before hand. Hence the follow-on comment.

    To put things more simply and a bit less pompously, my point was that Chinese news websites have politically mandated censorship of comments. However, this does not often result in the removal of racist or hateful comments, but in their encouragement. It therefore appears that the attitude reflected in this poll is a result of policy.

    Of course there is the question of what exactly the difference between censorship and moderation is. I don’t think there really is one. But if you were to ask me to try to come up with one, I would say that the difference is that moderation is designed to remove those comments which, taken in the whole, don’t act to inform the reader. Of course this is probably just sophistry.

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  6. @ lolz: I occasionally enjoy trash-talking in gaming (although most of the time I don’t because it comes from the mouths of prepubescent boys who have no idea how to do it creatively so they just scream “fag” and various racial slurs). I also used to be into the battle-rap scene pretty heavily, so I have nothing against insults and and of themselves.

    But it’s not really the same; no one’s trying to learn anything from the discussion that happens in video games (or battle raps). Mostly, people are just there to blow off steam, and even if someone starts talking shit, you don’t mind because the next time you kill them you can do the same thing. There’s also nothing real behind the words, at best, people are mocking your ability to manipulate a controller.

    While the comments on this website are progressively convincing me that that productive discussion is hopeless and all people are doomed, I haven’t totally given up hope, and allowing insults and personal attacks pretty much just ensures that rational discussion is impossible. It’s hard enough to make people consider other viewpoints, but once you’ve called them some nasty names, it’s totally impossible.

    (Of course, despite this I have said nasty things about others on here from time to time, which is why I don’t typically ban people for their first offenses…)

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  7. “While the comments on this website are progressively convincing me that that productive discussion is hopeless and all people are doomed,”

    I totally fucking agree.

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  8. justrecently, yes, that’s good.

    Custer, yes, we’re doomed, but we should still go down swinging. I’m not commenting about comparing the significance of 20% vs. 60% of people who are sad about bin Laden, just misguided fallacious extrapolations and penis-size comparisons over which nationality is “better” or “worse”.

    I know it is difficult to avoid and have said as such, but that’s what the calls for rising above it are for. The main thing is to be aware of and acknowledge the limitations and dangers when indulging ourselves in these comparisons so we don’t end up making fools of ourselves. I tried to highlight this by drawing the FOX News vs. fenqing categorizations, alluding to how many people tend to overweight fenqing sentiment as representative of the Chinese but are quick to dismiss the “FOX News” crowd amongst their own. This is uselessness compounded upon uselessness, unless the goal is really just self-serving.

    BTW, did you get a comment with a link to The Last Psychiatrist in your spam or moderation filters? Or did I not submit it?

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  9. Exhausting read.

    The above reads more like the last great offensive of various threatened species. WW1 trench warfare.

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  10. @ FOARP on May 7, 2011 at 06:00

    When hearing censorship, I’m thinking of an authority, in charge of a territory, which has certain comments removed by more or less clearly defined standards, and for political reasons.

    When hearing moderation, I’m thinking of something a commercially-run / privately-owned media platform will do in its own right, and by its own standards.

    Not sure how a Encyclopedia Britannica definition would put it.

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  11. “It’s hard enough to make people consider other viewpoints, but once you’ve called them some nasty names, it’s totally impossible.”

    Maybe it’s just me, but on this board King Tubby and me have gotten into flame wars and I still consider his view points. If I don’t consider other people’s points I wouldn’t bother to bash them directly. Even in the pugster/chasl (did he get banned?) vs anti-china group threads, I think many points are touched by both sides despite the typical one way name calling. The problem is that both sides wanted to get that last word in and the discussions deviated further and further way from the actual topic. I don’t think it has to do with the insults though as much as people want to get that “i win” feeling. The thing is, even if people don’t insult each other those who are less open minded will not consider other people’s view points regardless.

    That said, I think posters should be banned when there are threats on a personal level, such as posting personal info of someone else, etc. But hey, Custer this is your board so you can do whatever you want 🙂

    “While the comments on this website are progressively convincing me that that productive discussion is hopeless and all people are doomed”

    People are doomed, which IMO is a good thing. But honestly I think productiveness of the discussions really depend on the topic itself. On the more controversial topics such as this one you would get a lot more participation which of course means more flame wars. Maybe productive posts as a percentage would decline but not the total volume. I like the more controversial postings though, and I am sure that’s what many people came here for.

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  12. The term moderation is a euphemism for the word censorship.

    I mean, if you look at the two phrases:

    “lolz on May 7, 2011 at 22:35
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    “lolz on May 7, 2011 at 22:35
    Your comment is awaiting censors”

    One sounds a lot better because the cold war mentality associated the word “censorship” (only brutal dictatorships censor) and thus it has negative connotations. The word “moderation” is more neutral sounding, but they both function the same: to remove information which are against certain policies.

    “The above reads more like the last great offensive of various threatened species. WW1 trench warfare.”

    Sadly, the battle appears to be winding down as we are slowly becoming more “agreeable”.

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  13. FOARP

    To put things more simply and a bit less pompously, my point was that Chinese news websites have politically mandated censorship of comments. However, this does not often result in the removal of racist or hateful comments, but in their encouragement. It therefore appears that the attitude reflected in this poll is a result of policy.

    Talking about proof, Do you have any proof that the Chinese government actually encourage these ‘hateful’ comments? If you don’t what you said is false.

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  14. Justrecently,

    People’s post are going to be deleted in many websites out there that are censored whether it is a Chinese or American website. My contention is that is the Chinese government are pushing the buttons or these ‘moderators’ are practicing self censorship and I am thinking of the later.

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  15. You mean, it is merely or mostly self-censorship by commerical / privately-owned platforms or publications in China, pug_ster, rather than censorship mandated by the authorities?

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  16. @lolz. My above comment was directed at all sides on this thread.
    (And if you recall, I supported your Cuba post and a couple of others in the past.)

    Sites which solely concentrate on China-US are doomed to extinction and prediction. Would be nice to see other topics thrown into the mix eg. http:kingtubbysblog.blogspot.com

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  17. @Pugster –

    1) The 5 Mao crew is well substantiated government-established organisation, not least by the recent letter sent by party elders asking for its disbandment, and rampant nationalism is a hall-mark of their commentary.

    2) Protest of all forms except nationalist ones is banned.

    3) Ultra nationalism is prominent in government-owned media such as the Global Times.

    You see, I gave an opinion, and then said what it was based on. I didn’t just assert that something was true because I felt it was, accuse newspapers of being biased for not including it in their coverage, and then discover that it was not actually supported by any credible source.

    The least you could do is just acknowledge that having no proof for something means you can’t accuse people of being biased for not mentioning it.

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  18. FOARP,

    You mean, it is merely or mostly self-censorship by commerical / privately-owned platforms or publications in China, pug_ster, rather than censorship mandated by the authorities?

    Merely, unless you can tell me that when some government agency ordered privately owned platforms to be taken down.

    FOARP
    You see, I gave an opinion, and then said what it was based on. I didn’t just assert that something was true because I felt it was, accuse newspapers of being biased for not including it in their coverage, and then discover that it was not actually supported by any credible source.

    I’m confused, when I give my opinion and gave the reason why I thought it is true, it doesn’t count. Yet in your weird logic of how you can assert that it is true, it is true. I guess you can’t debate with someone who can’t be reasoned with, like my wife. (Sorry if there are any Ladies in this forum.)

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  19. @Pugster – You didn’t give a reason why you thought it was true, still less a reason as to why anyone else should believe it, and least of all did you give a reason as to why not mentioning it shows bias.

    No, instead you gave an argument as to why you felt free to assert that it was true without evidence.

    “I guess you can’t debate with someone who can’t be reasoned with”

    Luckily such people are given to making damn fools of themselves by asserting ridiculous, delusional arguments like “I don’t care whether I can prove it or not, anyone who omits to mention this is biased”, as you have.

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  20. ifeng != internet opinion
    Internet != public opinion

    The only people who associate what they read online with sentiments in real life are the nationalistic shut-ins lurking all over those boards. Not sure why Custer would make this same mistake. What I gather from relatives and real life friends is that most Chinese either think bin Laden’s death will have little effect on terrorism, or just plain don’t care.

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  21. Looks like I totally didn’t see the second page of comments before responding last time…and hence didn’t respond to a few people…

    FOARP, definitely acknowledge and agree that Chinese websites have politically mandated censorship of comments but I don’t think those legal requirements require them to censor racist or hateful comments. I also understand your point that a by-product of politicized censorship could be the encouragement of racism and hate. However, I kinda see this as being similar to people developing a false sense of greater tolerance and less racism/hate amongst their own as a by-product of moderation/censorship policies against racism and hateful comments. Know what I mean?

    I’m not entirely sure I want to immediately agree with you that the results of this poll are directly attributable to attitudes fostered by politically mandated censorship. It’s a bit too many steps removed, not very clear-cut, unlike saying “the results of this poll suggest Chinese people have grievances against America”. But insofar as your point in general is that the government uses methods including propaganda and censorship to influence people’s opinions and this poll represents some people’s opinions, sure, I’d of course accept that as evident. I’m just cautious about where that broadening of the issue might take the discussion.

    I think there’s a definite difference between moderation and censorship and justrecently offers a good starting point. Censorship I associate with government whereas moderation I associate with private parties. For example, censorship would apply to the US government violating the First Amendment post-Gitlow, whereas moderation would apply to Facebook deleting (or not deleting) user groups or user comments.

    Briefly on censorship in China, the government both explicitly mandates censorship as well as relies on private parties to self-censor. This is the main reason why both censorship and moderation is not exactly uniform and consistent on the Chinese internet. It isn’t one or the other, but both. I also want to say that protests aren’t all banned except nationalist ones (as even nationalist protests have been banned and curbed before by the government). I’d agree that the general trend is that nationalistic sentiments may get less scrutiny by censors and moderators than, say, “pro-democracy” (that’s a fuzzy term actually) sentiments but I’d be wary of making definite statements. I think its more accurate to say the government doesn’t draw lines between anti-them and nationalism but rather what they see as “destabilizing” and there have been many instances of nationalism becoming destabilizing to the government resulting in them clamping down on it. Fact is, the government uses it as a tool really, and doesn’t entirely support, tolerate, or foster it. It’s a dangerous tool, and they know it.

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  22. As for the way the questions were asked in that online poll, I can imagine that crackpots may feel more motivated than other readers to reply to them. If so, the poll’s Question 1, Answer 2 is an obvious getter.

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  23. @ shuaige: People who use the internet are, it turns out, real people. And while I agree internet public opinion doesn’t equal regular public opinion — that’s why I included that big disclaimer paragraph you obviously didn’t read — there’s some value to looking at internet public opinion for three reasons:

    (1) Diversity. If you ask the people around you (friends/family) their thoughts on a certain issue, you’re likely only polling a pretty small subset of the population. Most of my Chinese friends and family, for example, are middle class, college educated, and live in Beijing. They might all say Bin Laden’s death is a good thing, but that doesn’t mean that’s what nationwide public opinion actually is.

    (2) Sample size. Regardless of how many friends you have or neighbors you chat with, your sample size is always going to be preposterously small. This poll had 500,000 respondents. How many friends and neighbors did you ask about this issue.

    (3) Honesty. Even to people they’re close with, friends aren’t always honest, especially when it comes to political opinions that they think you might disagree with. Certainly for me as an American, I can’t expect to get a lot of honest answers from people because most people other than those very close to me are going to temper their opinions to some extent based on the audience. Just like I wouldn’t probably give my real opinion about the CCP if someone I don’t know very well asks me, most Chinese probably would be hesitant to share their anti-American sympathies with American friends. And it’s not just an ethnic thing; Americans lie to other Americans all the time about who they voted for. The beauty (and the curse) of internet public opinion is that it can be more honest because people feel they can express themselves more freely when they’re anonymous.

    @ lolz; Yeah, Charles Liu and another commenter got banned because their argument descended into actual physical threats and an invitation to meet up with each other in person and fight.

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  24. I don’t know about that Custer. What you see on these forums are mostly young men in their 20s, that’s hardly diverse. The point is most people would never act or say the things they do on the internet in real life, even if it’s only out of courtesy/social norms. And isn’t that what counts, real life? I don’t believe the internet fuckwad theory needs to be given a platform.

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  25. “This poll had 500,000 respondents.”

    Well, around 440k people voted Rain the Korean Pop Singer to be Time Magazine’s most influential person in the world in 2010. If you are going to seriously believe Chinese online polls you might as well believe that people really think Rain is the most influential person in the world.

    “Just as a side note, 500,000 is about the same number as all the people of foreign nationality living in China today.”

    Of all people I didn’t think FORAP would consider citizens of Taiwan to be citizens of China, since there are over 700k Taiwanese living in Shanghai alone.

    It’s interesting that even those who are taking the survey seriously would ignore the overwhelming disapproval of OBL in the second question and instead focus only on the first question. If you look at the numbers from question 2, some 92% of the people clearly are very negative towards OBL. 58% of them clearly against the idea of terrorism via murder of civilians, while 18% more see OBL as “threat to world peace”. The answers which were given for question 2 makes little sense when reviewed with the answers from question 1. If so many people are against OBL as stated in question 2, why would they be sad OBL is gone in question 1?

    Ultimately, even if a good number of Chinese are anti-America then so what? According to the PEW survey there are more people in the US who are anti-China than there are anti-US Chinese. OBL is a murderer of thousands, but the US in retaliation had killed far more than few thousand innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. If many (if not most) Americans and the Western citizens feel that killing of innocent civilians is justified in the name of security, why are people shocked that Chinese would view what OBL did as a justified response to the failed US foreign policy in ME? Just as Han Chinese were upset at the Uighurs in the Xinjiang riot, many Americans saw the uprising as justified. If you ask Americans whether they think its okay to kill people in the riot, they are likely to say no just as the Chinese responded in the second question. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t think the riot itself is a bad thing in principle, just as many Chinese may not think anti-Americanism (what OBL represents) is bad in principle.

    Like

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