How China Sees English Riots
Image Credit: Stuart Bannocks

How China Sees English Riots


It's been a good couple of weeks for China’s conservative press and a bad one for the image of liberal governments, as democracies battle crises ranging from the US budget standoff to Britain’s ongoing riots. Chinese commentators have taken the opportunity to take a few shots at the nations that have long lectured them on political reform, most notably a fierce Xinhua editorial that criticized Washington’s handling of the debt issue Sunday. These crises will certainly not be forgotten by defenders of one-party rule eager to find evidence of democratic countries’ failings.  

But Chinese media have followed the English riots with particularly intense interest, making it a lead story for days – and casting it as a reflection of fundamental problems in English and European society.  An editorial in Guangming Daily (Chinese link), a party newspaper, argues: ‘In reality, the disturbances in London are a reflection of Europe’s sickness: years of high welfare payments, excessive personal liberties, and an increase in foreign immigration have rendered it impossible for the lowest rungs of society to enjoy material well-being.’ (The full article is translated below). Adherents to such views have found ample confirmation in the British media – a China Daily translation of a Daily Mail column has become popular on the Chinese networking site Renren. It argues that British youth are ‘wild beasts…they respond only to instinctive animal impulses — to eat and drink, have sex, seize or destroy the accessible property of others.’

Conservative papers especially have picked up on illiberal comments like British Prime Minister David Cameron’s suggestion that social networking websites should be blocked to maintain order.  The Global Times, a conservative, but relatively independent, newspaper owned by the People's Daily has had Cameron's proposal to block access to Facebook and Twitter as a lead story in its special coverage (Chinese link) of the riots all day. As James Fallows writes at the Atlantic, he will undoubtedly be quoted for years whenever China comes under fire for limiting access to controversial information.

The riots have also given Chinese media a chance to put Western netizens under a microscope – in a feature that will be familiar to readers of the popular ChinaSmack, Chinese media outlets have gathered and translated outrageous comments from Western news stories: ‘Just send the army in to take care of it. Bring in martial law already jeez’ or ‘Muslims suck. Assimilateor [sic] get the hell out of the West. We don’t want your inferior culture being imposed on us.’ Comments like these will only reinforce the standard Xinhua editorial argument that Western liberalism is a facade, an easy prescription for other countries, but quickly dropped when push comes to shove.

Pictures of burning buildings in London, like Standard and Poor’s downgrade of US debt last week, will have a long shelf life in the repertoires of apologists for authoritarian rule. As a friend of mine asked me this week – with the United States paralyzed, the European economy in tatters, and England in chaos, whose model is looking good now?

Translation of ‘The root causes of the London riots,’ from ‘Guangming Daily

In Europe, August is usually a relaxing time, free of cares: national leaders leave for vacations one by one, and many factories and companies give their staff a time to rest.  This year, however, things are different: as the multinational debt crisis strikes fear into their hearts, Europeans have been unable to relax as in former times.  And this is saying nothing of the disturbances that continue to appear in Britain.

The riots in London began unexpectedly — to the extent that many political leaders, including Prime Minister David Cameron, took several days to return from vacation and handle the emergency.  In addition to the surprise, what is notable about these riots is the suddenness with which they began. The police shooting of a man led to a brief peaceful demonstration, which quickly became a riot, almost completely without political demands or slogans. Many young people poured onto the streets fighting, smashing, and looting. So, in the account of the British media, public opinion almost unanimously condemned the violence, and some called on the prime minister to allow the police to use water cannons and rubber bullets, rarely used by British police.

How did the situation spiral out of control so quickly?  Apart from the immediate fuse, we can identify many deep-seated reasons. The most important: a period of economic hardship, widespread dissatisfaction among the people, a high unemployment rate and cuts in public benefits; a long-term gap between rich and poor, especially the hardship of life among disadvantaged groups; tensions between local people and police, who have conceded the streets to violence for the past ten years; the criminal desires of opportunists; as well as the popularity of violent video games. However, nothing else is nearly as important as economic and social inequality: the root causes London riots are essentially the same as those that have struck other parts of Europe in recent years.

In truth, if we look at the deep causes, the London riots are a reflection of Europe’s sickness: years of high welfare payments, excessive personal liberties, and an increase in foreign immigration have rendered it impossible for the lowest rungs of society to enjoy material well-being. In good times, the flaws in this social model are concealed.  But when prosperity fails, the problems emerge: xenophobia, extremism, and such — if they aren’t handled well, sudden violence can break out. To take these riots as an example, the British media have reported that people are angry with the European Union, dissatisfied that irresponsible consumption in southern Europe has created a financial crisis, unhappy with cutbacks in public expenditure, worried about the inefficiency of the police and the crime rate — this is what the riots reflect. Of course, most people are appalled by the developing situation, and believe that they are a criminal disgrace that should be punished severely.

So to some extent, the London riots, the violence of recent years across Europe and especially in France, the expulsion of the gypsies, discrimination against conservative Muslims, and last month’s shooting incident in Norway, are all symptoms of different aspects of Europe's development. While pluralism, equality, and individual freedom are all of very great worth, achieving them in practice clearly comes at a very great price.

Xiao Qian (media figure)

August 22, 2011 at 06:17

Many people who come as visitors to the Arab world have to respect the rules that exist in every country so why should the Western countries be more benevolent? In Canada, for example, we think of ourselves as being tolerant of multiculturalismbut it’s becoming more and more clear that a certain kind of assimilation is inevitable in today’s world.

August 16, 2011 at 12:20

Every country/government has/creates it’s own problems; China is no different.

Oro Invictus
August 15, 2011 at 18:46


You mock other cultures through the use of straw-man arguments in tandem with deliberate obfuscation of various aspects of said cultures; if you looked closely you’ll note you’ve painted an “Us vs Them” scenario when comparing the PRC to the rest of the world. Admittedly, your comments are not marred by the blatant xenophobia exhibited by those such as John Chan (though xenophobic aspects are still apparent), yet you still suffer from the same superior, chiding tone towards other groups (i.e. “He who laughs…”).

I appreciate that you seem willing to at least entertain criticism (while the cynic in me would argue that your request for self-critique was but to serve as a self-congratulatory “Sword of Damocles” against opposing views, I prefer to take the optimistic approach and assume your noble intentions in good faith) and, in retrospect, I regret relating you to those others, given your views (while I strongly disagree with them) do not appear to be based solely on basal biases; still, I am deeply troubled by many here, including yourself, who treat oft-corrupt government officials as quasi-deities and treat human prosperity as something specific to individual cultures rather then something to be shared as a whole.

August 15, 2011 at 17:28

@Oro Invictus You said of me : …if such persons did not find these amusing while mocking the issues of the other cultures…

In case , I might suffer from memory lapses, would you care to point out where do I meant to mock cultures of others , other than giving observations ?

Regardless, I do agree with you , if that’s the message you’re trying to convey in your comment, that one should not bask in the misfortunes of others.

August 15, 2011 at 16:46

Where were you when Hillary Clinton, Americans, the UK, and all those other Western countries decided they could do this to China first without being treated the same? Why don’t you comment on how Korea is surpressing information regarding their corvette being sunk, or how Western police unleash attack dogs on protesters in their own contries?

August 15, 2011 at 15:39

How about taking your own advice?

Oro Invictus
August 15, 2011 at 12:56

Indeed, what could be funnier than the desperate plight of your fellow man? I know I always chuckle at the misfortune of others, giddy at how I am clearly making the world a better place by acting smug and superior. That’s why, when I always need a good laugh, I consider the tens of thousands of major riots in the PRC every year; I end up in hysterics when I consider the government’s response is to violently suppress them rather then even attempt to deal with the root of the public’s anxieties, which is in no way monstrous or hypocritical (considering they are, of course, a government of “the people”). As someone who believes in and actually knows the principles of socialism and democracy, the PRC’s claims that it is a government of the people fills me with as much un-offended joy as this entire post is with sarcasm.

However, why should I hoard all these sources of humour? Please feel free to take a look at the following links and join the ranks of such munificent individuals as T E Low in their raucous laughter:

I hope all of you who agree with the statements of those philanthropists like John Chan and ozivan enjoy these; I mean, if such persons did not find these amusing while mocking the issues of the other cultures… Well, that would be hypocritical, wouldn’t it?

August 15, 2011 at 07:03

@Jaques. Yes, China with 1.3 billion do have more protests on a monthly basis, but to say that China has FAR MORE VIOLENT protest on a monthly basis , is utter rubbish. You’re just blinded by anything that’s Chinese. Don’t brush aside European’s mistakes as trivial , while exaggerating Chinese mistakes at the slightest turn.

No wonder , it’s good to have bloggers like John Chan & Frank to guard China’s interest from being smeared unfairly. BTW, I live in Australia and follow China’s news on TV and newsline regularly, and I give testimony that any event that are reported on Australian news about China are also reported in Chinese news.

August 15, 2011 at 05:48

Hmm, is this just what everyone does , each nation points its finger to another and chants ” Well, look over their, they have so many problems”

How about China focus on its own drama , stop imprisoning political activist, censoring your media( if the same crap was happening in China no Chinese news organization could report it ) and banning books .

August 15, 2011 at 04:26

The trouble being with Chinaese Media’s exploitation of the riots, is that China has far more, much more violent riots on a monthly basis. I don’t think we should spend too much time worrying about what Chinese media are doing. I know very few remaining people here in Beijing who actually believe Chinese papers to be useful.

August 14, 2011 at 13:18

“excessive personal liberties”

If you google that term with quotations, you know how many search results you get? You get 4 results, and 3 of them are from this article.

I don’t think that’s a term that Westerners are capable of wrapping their minds around. It’s evidently not in their vocabulary.

August 14, 2011 at 10:45

Correction : the last line should be…

These are my hopes for China, and my views that democracy will soon become.

August 14, 2011 at 08:46

Democracy’s Failings !!

The causes behind the English riots , matter of fact mainly caused by non-white and/or muslim immigration , even though this fact is not supposed to be admitted for fear of being branded racialist (the nice polite word is supposed to be multi-culturalism) , are one of the many reasons that the Democracy we will see in the next 20 to 30 years , might be one where :


1. Immigration : Using democratic rules and human rights , the black and muslim migrant population will drive Europe asunder within the next 20 to 30 years.

One may explain with many reasons the cause of the dissension eg unemployment, poverty, helplessness, lack of opportunities, costs of living pressures, etc etc..but come it will, sooner or later, often without genuine reasons.

2. And soon to come , the business model in democracies destroys democracies as well.

It is a model , where the primary and sole aim of the giants of businesses in banking, manufacturing , military industrial complex , etc etc are force driven to produce billions of super corporate Profits and Turnover year on year for their shareholders ; that it will be another reason for causing disasters to democracies at some point in time , since it is not sustainable.

GREED in the following forms will increasingly be paramount :

2.1. CEOs driven by their wish to keep their jobs and also the incentives in the form of huge performance bonuses , will increasingly find ways to cheat , devise devious , deceitful ways and guile means to bring in the profits demanded by shareholders.

2.2 CEOs of military industrial complex working with Pentagon & CIA will clandestinely prod for wars or lay seeds of potential wars, or create fears of threats (like the China threat) to keep the businesses coming in.

3. Highly desirable GAINS from INNOVATIONS, will not be able to keep pace with the demands for yearly increases in corporate Profits and Turnover.

The whole economy of banking , real estate, financial, manufacturing , retail , wholesale markets , etc etc are caught in this web.

4. Parasitic countries : Sovereign countries with no strong manufacturing or renewal income bases , will scheme to find ways to hook on to rich groups like the European Union to tap on to their economic and banking systems , knowing that once they’re in the EU , they will not be allowed to fail without the rest of EU being affected , plus the credibility factor for the Western democracies (known as the ” Losing Face ” factor in Asian politics).

We have ample examples in AIG, Fannie & Freddie Maes , Lehman Brothers , Exxon , Citibanks , GM , etc.etc. Greece, Portugal , Ireland , Iceland.

5. Europe will gradually turn extreme FAR RIGHT to save her European heritage from multi-culturalism.

In the coming years, we will see more of the likes of Geert Wilders , Anders Behring Breivik , 2008 French riots and now the 2011 English riots , etc. It is not unforeseenable that Europe is waiting for extreme white far right believers to massacre the blacks and muslims , instead of their own white kind.

6. Stalemates : Hung parliaments will be order of the day in democracies. The 2 party system is failing, and is often beset with election outcomes where no one party has a clear, overwhelming majority to push through good , long term sustainable policies.

Britain and Australia barely got to form a Government by their narrow margins. Belgium hasn’t got a government for 2 years on now. In the US, Congress and the Senates are ruled by different parties often causing delays, and good long term policies from being passed or passed on time, without the policies being watered down. Japan is also in the political mess caused by the weakness of democratic elections.

See for ourselves in US !! The US budget ceilings debates, healthcare, medicare, employment programmes that are checkmated by politicians time and time again. US politicians got more publicity, fame and media attention from disrupting good policies rather than co-operate for the good of America.

7. Continuity : Democracies with a 2 party or multi-party systems, are now suffering from continuity problem. We get to witness a party coming to power, pushing for some bills of reforms or good , long term policies for the good of its people , then got put aside or junked when the next party comes to power.

8. Campaign Promises & Upstaging: Frequently, the party seeking power will increasingly make more promises to upstage the incumbent power, often even get into discrediting the good policies of the existing ruling party, etc. etc.

When they got into power, they had to keep their election promises by junking the previous administration’s policies, however good they may be.

9. Using democracy , Quebec will at some point in time, depending on economic or new political issues of the day reassert independence. Scottish nationalists will tinker more seriously of going independent.

Using hispanic demographics and democratic elections , the State of California will elect a Hispanic as Governor with independence leanings at some stage, since it will soon form 60% of the electorate. The appalling and repeated overspending habits of white Governors wil help it along. Hispanics in the best of US army , navy and air force will easily overnight be conscripted to form the 1st very powerful military of the independent state of CALIFORNIA. With a GDP currently bigger than France.

Or next Texas ?

In the next 20-30 years, China’s scenario ?

1. Potentially; China will be characterised as a nation with a strong Socialist type, One party State… based strongly on Meritocracy at its federal and state level leadership/politics

2. GREAT MEASURES of personal FREEDOMS , will be given to its citizens under a one party system.

Note : The British colonialists never gave free elections to its colonies , only gave great measures of freedoms , and it worked.

3. Elections will become prevalent to prevent excesses , but it will happen only within the CCP at all levels, except the top Politburo members -including the President & Prime Ministerial posts , who will be handpicked.

4. Leaders, as is currently, will not be allowed to serve for life (like Mao Tse Tung), but serve for only 2 terms.

5. Continuity and implementation of policies are not a problem , unlike Western democracies.

6. China being socialist will continue to place priority on jobs , with the Government well funding education , medical systems , public amenities and homes for the masses.

7. Corporate profits and turnover will be secondary for its State owned enterprises within China. However, its overseas corporations will seek and compete for huge corporate profits and turnover, in the likes of the West.

8. A good legal system quite akin to the western model will be the order of the day.

9. The Yuan will take on as the next international foreign reserve, second only to US dollars, especially for countries in Africa, Latin American and many Middle-Easterns. It is due to not only because of the US debts problems, but also to circumvent US inclination to use the US dollars to punish America’s non-compliant countries for human rights , etc.

10. Millions of Chinese will emigrate overseas, which is a form of ” Colonialisation In Reverse ” and China will not discourage it , as it will not only ease population pressures but also provide jobs, outside of China, for its people.

11. Hopefully, China becomes a responsible and respected stakeholder of world peace and stability by then…politically, economically and militarily…together with the US.

These are my hopes and views. Please challenge each and everyone of them, so that I may improve them.

August 14, 2011 at 04:39

All this upheaval is preferable to any totalitarian state.

August 14, 2011 at 01:12

The riots would not have happened in one-party China……………..because everyone would have been shot to death.

August 13, 2011 at 16:26

It’s a classic case of ” He who laughs at others , laughs his last ”

Anyway, thank you Mr David Cohen and Diplomat for the article. We are getting a fair share of fair reporting lately.

T E Low
August 13, 2011 at 11:47





As Premnier Wen Jiabao told the beacom of democracy, Great (declining) Britain, they are decreasing in importance to the Chinese, heck, no, to the world!

Soon, they will have to sell off Buckingham Palace and the Crown Jewels to the Chinese in order to repay the debts. Or maybe the English can feed their population opium to continue maintaining their freedom, LOL….

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