China's Angry Youth

Balkan bombing sets off storm of anti-U.S. protests

Revolutionary Worker #1007, May 23, 1999

"If the U.S. monopoly capitalist groups persist in pushing their policies of aggression and war, the day is bound to come when they will be hanged by the people of the whole world. The same fate awaits the accomplices of the United States."

Mao Tsetung

On May 7, the U.S./NATO bombing against Yugoslavia destroyed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. Three Chinese citizens were killed and many others injured when three missiles slammed into the building. The reverberations from the embassy bombing quickly traveled to the other side of the globe--touching off a storm of anti-U.S. protests throughout China. Such intense and widespread manifestations of anti-imperialism have not been seen in China for more than two decades--since the time when China was a genuine socialist country led by the great revolutionary Mao Tsetung.

Demonstrations against U.S. diplomatic missions and U.S.-owned businesses were reported in over 20 cities across China. In the southwestern city of Chengdu, the U.S. consulate building was burned down. The U.S. consulate in the northeastern city of Shenyang was also damaged. Large protests hit the U.S. consulates in Shanghai and Guangzhou, major cities on the coast. In Nanjing, workers at McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken walked out in protest of the bombing.

In the capital city of Beijing, the U.S. embassy came under siege as tens of thousands of protesters surrounded the compound for several days straight. Protesters also attacked the British embassy, targeting the U.S.'s closest NATO ally. Many of the protesters were university students--but business people, teachers, workers and other Beijing residents were also out on the streets to denounce the U.S. and NATO.

For three days, the U.S. ambassador and his staff huddled inside the embassy building, afraid to go out into the streets where large gatherings of angry youth shouted slogans like "Down with U.S. imperialism!" and "Hang Bill Clinton!" At one point, the ambassador ordered the destruction of secret documents and spy equipment--was he having flashbacks of the Iranian student takeover of the U.S. embassy in Teheran?

A large wall of Chinese police prevented the protesters from actually storming the embassy building--although groups of youth formed human wedges several times and tried to force their way through the police. People picked up rocks, bottles and pieces of concrete pavement and threw them at the embassy. Almost all the windows of the embassy were broken, cars belonging to the staff were damaged, and the official embassy marker had to be removed when it was splattered with paint. Many U.S. flags were burned.

There was another kind of protest, when computer hackers hit three U.S. government Web sites to plant messages condemning the embassy bombing. The pictures of the three Chinese who died in the bombing were posted on the Interior Department Web page, and one site was forced to close for a whole day.

On the university campuses, anti-U.S. and anti-NATO sentiments have been in full force. At Beijing University, students posted a transcript of a NATO news conference where officials tried to explain the bombing of the Chinese embassy. It was quickly covered with comments like "pure lies." One poster on the campus triangle read, "Give up the poison of American-style fast food and cultural opium--Coca-Cola, Pepsi, McDonald's, K.F.C." A Baskin-Robbins store near the campus was closed, its doors covered with sign that read, "Down with Imperialism."

In the 1989 Tiananmen protests against the corruption and repression of Chinese government, many students expressed a favorable view of the U.S. For example, students from the Central Academy of Arts built a large statue they called the "Goddess of Liberty," modeled after the Statue of Liberty. But ten years later, in the protests against the embassy bombing, students from the same academy brought various works attacking the U.S. One group of students made a giant cardboard version of the Statue of Liberty--the figure had the face of Bill Clinton and held a bloody bomb instead of a torch.

U.S. officials complained that the Chinese government gave official approval to the street protests--in order to use the embassy bombing controversy as a bargaining chip in negotiations with the U.S. over trade and other matters. But clearly, the passion of the recent protests reflects a deep and broad well-spring of anti-imperialism among the masses of Chinese people.

The present-day rulers of China may have contradictions with the U.S. imperialists--but they are certainly not anti-imperialists. The current rulers of China have their own aspirations to join the "big power club" of international exploiters and oppressors. This is a bourgeois class which came to power through a coup shortly after Mao's death in 1976. During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and '70s, Mao warned that if these "capitalist roaders" defeated the proletarian revolutionaries and seized state power, China would once again come under the domination of imperialism. He mobilized the people in their millions in an unprecedented "revolution within a revolution" against Deng Xiaoping and other capitalist roaders. But socialist rule was overthrown in the 1976 coup, and events since then have proven the truth of Mao's warning.

The present government of China has mainly acted as accomplices of the U.S. and other imperialist powers--who see China as a huge and profitable source of cheap labor and a market for capitalist goods. The dismantling of the socialist economy has led to wealth for a few but great misery among the masses of people. Millions of unemployed cram the cities, and peasant revolts are on the rise. Oppression of women has made a vicious comeback. This April, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji came to the U.S. and pledged to open China even more widely to penetration by imperialist capital--in return for China's entry into the U.S.-led World Trade Organization.

The contradictions between the Chinese government and the U. S. government are reflected in disputes over such issues as trade agreements, status of Taiwan and accusations of spying. Now, the Chinese government is maneuvering to pressure the U.S. over the embassy bombing--while trying to keep the anti-U.S. protests in Beijing and other cities from getting out of control. But this is a tactic that could end up blowing up in the faces of these capitalist rulers.

Among the protesters at the U.S. embassy in Beijing, there has been a definite trend of people upholding Mao--and comparing him with the government leaders today. The New York Times described the scene on May 9 when a large portrait of Mao appeared among the protesters. There were loud cheers and shouts of "Long Live Mao" among students as well as older workers.

A 30-year-old teacher explained, "When Chairman Mao was the leader, he would have stood up to America and taken stronger measures. But now our leaders have been too soft, they're happy to accept an apology from NATO and leave it at that. Chairman Mao was willing to stand alone to defend China's dignity." A student from People's University said, "Mao was the only Chinese leader who really dared to stand up to anyone. He was afraid of no one. I'm just saying that Mao was great. He was very anti-American."

Mao led the people's war to defeat the powerful and brutal armed forces of the Japanese imperialists--and then he led the civil war to defeat the U.S.-backed Kuomintang army and establish revolutionary state power in 1949. When the U.S. imperialists threatened China with atomic weapons and military moves, Mao was defiant. In a 1957 speech, he declared, "I have said that all the reputedly powerful reactionaries are merely paper tigers. The reason is that they are divorced from the people. Look! Was not Hitler a paper tiger? Was Hitler not overthrown? I also said that the tsar of Russia, the emperor of China and Japanese imperialism were all paper tigers. As we know, they were all overthrown. U.S. imperialism has not yet been overthrown and it has the atom bomb. I believe it also will be overthrown. It, too, is a paper tiger."

Mao's strategic confidence in the people and revolutionary courage stand in sharp contrast with the current rulers of China--who may talk tough at times but in reality are cravenly selling out the Chinese people to the imperialists.

The U.S. imperialists are looking nervously at the upsurge of anti-imperialist feelings in China. A New York Times article warned that the anti-U.S. sentiment "could lead in directions that are dangerous and unpredictable" for the current Chinese government. And instability in China could cause many problems for U.S. imperialist interests in Asia and worldwide.

Meanwhile in the Balkans, the U.S. and other powers have been trying to forge a reactionary agreement to impose on Yugoslavia after the war--even as the U.S./NATO bombs continue to fall and cause more death and destruction. But now, the ripple effects of the embassy bombing in Belgrade have greatly complicated the efforts of the U.S./NATO efforts to gather international support from major world governments for an imperialist resolution to the war.

Maoist revolutionaries welcome these problems and difficulties of the imperialists and reactionaries. And the righteous anti-imperialist protests in China--home to a quarter of humanity--give great heart to proletarians and oppressed people around the world.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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