How China's media is covering Washington's chaos, with lots of schadenfreude and 'this is karma'

Welcome to today's The India China Newsletter.

Today I’m looking mainly at how the Chinese media has been covering last night's developments in Washington.

A common theme in China’s media was comparing the storming of Capitol with the storming of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong back in 2019. The somewhat gleeful message being: what the U.S. cheered in Hong Kong it's now confronting on its own soil.

This wasn’t just the media. Hua Chunying, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson had this to say:

Many Chinese netizens are wondering why some politicians and media in the US reacted so differently to a similar situation… What words did they use about Hong Kong? What words are they using now?" the spokesperson asked. "The mainstream media in the US are condemning the incident, calling it 'violence,' 'thugs,' 'extremists,' and 'disgrace.' What words did they use to describe Hong Kong? 'Beautiful sight,' or 'fighters of democracy'.

Hua also tweeted this video. The message was fairly clear.

A round-up of some of the online reactions in the Global Times:

Words like "Karma," "retribution" and "deserving" were frequently mentioned in Chinese netizens' comments when they saw the latest episode of the US' real version of House of Cards - which saw Trump supporters storming the Capitol, messing up House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, clashing with police officers and looting items. The pictures went viral in US, Chinese and international news outlets after the riots began Thursday morning.

Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of the Global Times chimed in (of course he would have):

Some may say that the US is not Ukraine and it is capable of rapidly reestablishing all citizens' constitutional loyalty. They overestimate the power of the US political system. There is no doubt that the US system is degrading and showing signs of worsening as cancer.

Seeing such scenarios, many Chinese will naturally recall that Nancy Pelosi once praised the violence of Hong Kong protesters as "a beautiful sight to behold." People should ask her not to be dumb, and let her describe how beautiful the chaos on Capitol Hill is. I will spare readers a summary of her stances.

Lu Xiang, a research fellow at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, said:

This proves that the US political system is unable to contain the US leader or politicians with influence to incite ordinary people to challenge the system and the result of their 'democracy.' The world is witnessing the 'the beacon of democracy' become gloomy.

An opinion piece on English-language State broadcaster CGTN:

A country too focused on waging wars and poking its head into other people's affairs easily overlooks all these brewing tensions.

Why This Matters

The timing, for China, couldn't have been better, coming as it did not even 24 hours after a sweeping crackdown in, yes, Hong Kong. The New York Times reports today how yesterday's crackdown has made clear that Beijing is calling the shots.

For all that the Trump administration has done to take on China on trade and technology, which has been welcomed in India, sometimes ignored is how much of a propaganda gift that he has been for the CPC domestically, leaving aside the many hits the Party has had to take on the trade front. The past four years of Trump have, in the Party’s eyes, been a great argument for China’s political system. After all, a domestically divided America makes very easy narrative for the Party media. We saw that last year with the Black Lives Matter protests, when the media in China were widely highlighting how the same senators who were backing Hong Kong's protesters and democracy overseas were calling in for the army to be sent in at home. No country is perfect, but one legacy that Trump leaves behind is a weaker U.S. ability to take China on when it comes to such issues (not that Trump has been particularly interested in them, at one point saying he backed what China was doing in Xinjiang even if his State Department has been very vocal on this front). Now, as Trump leaves office, he's left another parting gift for the CPC, and one more obstacle for his successor to tackle in repairing America’s image.

With 120 new COVID-19 cases reported in Hebei province, this is possibly the biggest outbreak yet in China since it brought the spread under control last summer. This is going to mean even tighter restrictions in Beijing, which is now requiring 21 days quarantine (including 7 days at home) and even less likelihood of the restrictions being eased on overseas travel. Hebei also happens to be one of the places where many Indian students are waiting to return, to some of the medical colleges there. It’s been an extremely difficult time for them, and unfortunately it looks like that wait is set to continue.

And finally...

The South China Morning Post has details on new guidelines for the Communist Party’s United Front work, which has been in the news of late for its “influence” activities overseas including on college campuses. The new regulations are only likely to further fuel that debate:

“[We must] strengthen guidance of thought and promote the love for the motherland, the Communist Party and socialism with Chinese characteristics among overseas Chinese citizens and overseas students,” one of the regulations released on Tuesday said. The document said work must be done to contain “Taiwan-independence forces” and better safeguard China’s core interests among Chinese citizens overseas.