Susan Shirk on Chinese Government's Attack on U.S. Diplomats
Dirty Air and Succession Jitters Are Clouding Beijing's Judgment
Susan Shirk and Steven Oliver, Asia Society
Last week the Chinese government accused the U.S. Embassy and consulates of illegally interfering in China’s domestic affairs by publishing online hourly air-quality information collected from their own monitoring equipment. (While the critiques didn’t name the U.S., the U.S. Embassy is the only foreign embassy reporting air quality information.)
Going public with an anti-foreign attack about local air pollution is just asking for ridicule from the increasingly skeptical Chinese public. Netizens responded accordingly. “Why does reading the domestic news feel like reading a bunch of jokes?” asked one commentator. “Do you think people are blind? How many blue-sky days has Beijing had lately? Do you think ordinary people will only believe your own statements?” grumbled another.
This self-defeating action is symptomatic of a panicky leadership with a severe credibility problem. China’s leaders are floundering in their efforts to prevent any more unscripted events like the Bo Xilai or Chen Guangcheng affairs from interfering with the leadership succession scheduled for the fall of 2012.
Susan Shirk is the chair of the 21st Century China Program and Ho Miu Lam Professor of China and Pacific Relations at the School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IR/PS) at UC San Diego. She also is director emeritus of the University of California system-wide Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) and chair of the IGCC International Advisory Board.
In 1993, she founded, and continues to lead, the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD), an unofficial “track-two” forum for discussions of security issues among defense and foreign ministry officials and academics from the United States, Japan, China, Russia, and the Koreas.
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