The young Chinese have a taste for French cafes and croissants. But this weekend, while China’s first European film festival opened with the screening of a French film in Beijing, Chinese netizens were calling for a boycott of French products.
The backlash against France was triggered after French President Nicolas Sarkozy met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama, on Saturday in Poland.
On Sunday, Beijing’s State-run media slammed the meeting as an ‘unwise move that hurts the feelings of the Chinese and undermines Sino-French ties’.
An anti-France nationalistic wave had also swept China in April-May, after activists disrupted the Olympic torch relay in Paris. Many Chinese consumers had then boycotted the French supermarket chain Carrefour, which has over 120 stores across the fast-modernising mainland.
This time, Beijing protested by postponing a China-European Union summit scheduled in France. Beijing says it is against foreign leaders making contact with the Dalai Lama, and labels him a ‘splittist’ seeking independence for the Chinese-ruled Himalayan region of Tibet.
China’s young online community believes the government’s propaganda. “The Tibet issue touches China’s core interests. Anyone crossing that line will have to pay for it,” said netizen Qiu Jianming on news.cn.
The Dalai Lama, who fled from Tibet to India in 1959 after a failed anti-China uprising, says he wants meaningful autonomy and religious, cultural freedom for the region’s Tibetan Buddhists.
“One must approach this calmly,’’ agencies reported Sarkozy saying. “The world needs an open China that participates in global governance. China needs a powerful Europe that gives work to Chinese
China, too, doesn’t want politics to affect trade during the economic slowdown. Foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao has said that the government hopes the Chinese will treat China-France relations in a ‘calm and rational manner’.