China has urged its citizens to rein in their “patriotic fervour” in a sign control-conscious Beijing may be growing uncomfortable with Olympic fever and an outburst of nationalism over Tibet.
A dispatch issued late on Thursday by state-controlled Xinhua news agency railed against “despicable” Western media coverage of recent unrest in Tibet and said resulting Chinese indignation should be “cherished”.
But it also said nationalist energies should be expressed in a “rational” way and focused on building the nation.
“Patriotic fervour should be channelled into a rational track and must be transformed into real action toward doing our work well,” said the report, published only in Chinese, suggesting it was aimed at a domestic audience.
The statement appeared to fit a pattern in which the government — which swiftly quashes any expressions of public opinion it does not like — has given free rein to attacks on foreign targets when it serves Beijing’s political interests, only to reel them in when they threaten to spiral out of control.
After US forces mistakenly bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade in 1999, greatly embarrassing Beijing, large anti-US protests were allowed before authorities later reined them in.