David Cohen writes:
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.