Irrational perception of anti-Chinese sentiment

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Irrational perception of anti-Chinese sentiment

The author is a Beijing correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

 The Beijing Winter Olympics is over now. I thought things would be different once the games began, but enthusiasm was still lacking. People disconnected from the athletes stuck in the closed loop had to be content with watching games on television and mobile phones. The Olympics watched in Beijing was not different from the Olympics watched in Seoul. It was a video Olympics.

Nevertheless, there are enough controversies. For Koreans, the Beijing Games will be remembered by controversies over biased decisions. The controversial decision against short track speed skater Hwang Dae-heon fueled the anti-Chinese sentiment. What was impressive is that China surprisingly was “startled” by the anti-Chinese sentiment in Korea.

On Feb. 11, Chinese state-run Global Times posted an article titled “China, S. Korea call for more exchanges to cool down sentiments in ice rink” at the top of the online page from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is unusual that the Korea-China exchange issue is placed as the top article all day amid all the news about the Olympics in China. That wouldn’t have been possible without the direction from the authorities.

Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief of the Global Times who represents the trend of the Chinese government, helped out by saying, “Korea is China’s closest neighbor.” In the newspaper’s first editorial, the Global Times mediated the two countries. It is welcoming that the mouthpiece of China that had been at the forefront in condemning Korea over the Thaad issue is actively trying to change the atmosphere, suggesting the good will of the Chinese authorities to resolve the problem.

But if you look into the issue, I found many uncomfortable aspects. The paper stressed that experts pointed to the need to promote exchanges between the two countries to stop the irrational anti-Chinese sentiment over the short track decision. It is a common method to bring in an expert when the Chinese authorities want to send a message. But using the expression “irrational” suggests it is not China’s fault. Are they claiming that Koreans feel wrongfully antagonistic without knowing the facts?

On the short track decision dispute, the newspaper claimed, “The referees were fair,” “the results were confirmed by high-speed cameras for slow motion analysis” and “the decision was made in accordance with the changed rules.” The paper also attributed the dispute to “political exploitation” by the Korean media. While it advocates the “reinforcement of Korea-China exchange to reduce anti-Chinese sentiment,” the line sounds like a warning against wrongfully picking on China.

Thirty years have passed since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and China. But anti-Chinese sentiment grows stronger. That’s not desirable for either. If China responds without understanding the fundamental cause of the antagonism, the situation can worsen.

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