March 23, 2011 / 6:01 AM / 8 years ago

China seizes on Libya for propaganda war against West

 * China media denounce Western motives in Libya
 * Propaganda campaign to counter calls for protests
 * Campaign shows Party's jitters - analyst
 By Chris Buckley	
 BEIJING, March 23 (Reuters) - A plot to seize Libya's oil. A
warning to the world that the West will cling to dominance. A
flagrant display of hypocrisy over human rights.	
 China's ruling Communist Party has countered the West's air
strikes against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi with a torrent of such
criticisms in state-run newspapers and television, mounting a
propaganda campaign to deter the public from any temptation to
copy Arab insurrections against authoritarian rulers.	
 The media drive shows how nervous China's leaders are about
any challenges to their firm hold on power, and especially about
online comments that Western action in Libya shows the supremacy
of international human rights standards, said Li Datong, a
former editor at a Chinese party newspaper.	
 "The Chinese Communist Party sees a big threat in the idea
that human rights and democratic demands can outweigh state
sovereignty. They want to counter all that," said Li, who was
forced out of his job for denouncing censorship.	
 Even before fighting in Libya broke out, Chinese security
forces vehemently attacked online calls for "Jasmine Revolution"
gatherings to demand democratic change inspired the popular
uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Those calls were stifled by
censorship and a sweeping security crackdown.	
 Since the air strikes in Libya began, China's government has
pushed propaganda into high pitch to tell the public that the
Libyan shows the West cannot be trusted and will put
self-interest ahead of principles.	
 "In recent days, some well-known domestic (Chinese) websites
have proposed the weird argument that human rights are more
important than sovereignty," said an editorial in the Global
Times, a popular Chinese tabloid, on Wednesday.	
  The Libya air campaign is meant to send "the international
political signal that in this world it's the West that calls the
shots," said the paper.	
 "Iraq was attacked because of oil, and Libya is also being
attacked for its oil," said the overseas edition of the People's
Daily, the main mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party.	
 Beijing's opposition to the Western attacks in Libya
reflects its longstanding opposition to intervening in other
countries' internal conflicts, especially in the name of human
rights. But the Chinese media condemnation is also driven by
domestic political currents, said Li, the former editor.	
 Those political needs could give China's response to Libya
and further unrest in the Middle East a harder ideological edge.	
 "They're using the state media for a propaganda
counter-offensive using Libya," said Li.	
 "The Jasmine Revolution calls were never more than an online
prank, but all this shows how sensitive they are to any
challenges to their power."	
 Chinese newspapers, television stations and other media all
come under state control, although there is also fierce
commercial competition among them for audiences and advertising.
The Party's Propaganda Department can demand that they censor
information or opinions, or that they push a certain line.	
 "Behind the air strikes on Libya is self-interest," said the
headline in the Military Weekly, published by China's People's
Liberation Army.	
 "The air attacks are an announcement that the West wants to
dominate the world," the Global Times said on Tuesday. "The West
still believes down to its very bones that it's the leader of
the world."	
 This is not a new script for China.	
 In 1999, China denounced NATO's Kosovo campaign as reckless
meddling, its outrage reaching fever pitch after U.S. bombs hit
the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing three people inside.	
 Likewise, Chinese state media have criticised the U.S.-led
wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as demonstrations of Western
hypocrisy and self-interest.	
 Nowadays, Chinese officials confront a domestic Internet
which, despite extensive censorship, is even bigger and often
livelier than during those wars, said Zhan Jiang, a professor of
media studies at Beijing Foreign Studies University.	
 Chinese President Hu Jintao is worried about controlling the
country's 453 million Internet users. In a speech last month, he
urged "establishing mechanisms to guide online public opinion."
 "This is a bit like the Kosovo War in 1999, except now I
think the Internet is a much bigger force and there's more
support online for ideas about democracy," said Zhan.	
 (Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)	
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