Reading the People’s Daily is a bit like recess in elementary school. Someone always gets their feelings hurt. And more often than not, that someone is the “Chinese people.” For reasons that have defied analysis, Chinese state press wordsmiths and government spokespeople love to say that acts by other countries or world leaders which Beijing disagrees with “hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.” (In the past year Tim Johnson of McClatchy Newspapers and James Fallows of the Atlantic have both pondered the frequent use of this phrase.)
The playground of international affairs can be a pretty rough place, but some bullies are worse than others. A Chinese reader recently examined 60 years of the People’s Daily and counted more than a 100 cases of hurt feelings, then posted the results on a bulletin board. The survey was “incomplete,” the unnamed author wrote, but one country was far in the lead. Japan hurt China’s feelings 47 times. The U.S. was a distant second with 23 mentions. NATO was next with 7.
But you don’t have to be a economic or military giant to malign the Middle Kingdom. The Vatican, Guatemala, Albania, Iceland, Jordan, Nicaragua and the Nobel Committee all got their kicks in, too. Jerks.
Interestingly, there was only one case of “hurt feelings” from before 1978. Getting your feelings hurt, the author concludes, is an inevitable cost of China’s 30-year-old policy of “opening up.” Clearly the ultimate blame lies with Deng Xiaoping.