Saturday, November 12, 2011

What's in a Meme?

It’s probably a good thing that public opinion is not the deciding factor in foreign policy—otherwise, for example, the 2003 Freedom Fries debacle could have had much further-reaching implications for Franco-US relations. Still, seeing how the public manifests its ideas about foreign policy illustrates implicit impressions about other countries that decorum and common sense prevent foreign policy elites from discussing openly.

Chinese opinions on foreign policy are particularly opaque, due in no small part to the language barrier and scarcity of open forums for political discussion. And when it comes to voicing opinions, what’s more public than an Internet meme? Consider this security-themed Chinese meme and what it might tell us about Chinese public opinion*:

1. 美国想打就打谁-- America: They’ll strike whoever they want to strike.

2. 英国美国打我打谁-- England: They’ll strike whoever America wants to strike.

3. 谁骂我我打谁-- Russia: They’ll strike whoever scolds them.

4. 法国打我我打谁-- France: They’ll strike whoever strikes them.

5. 以色列心里想打我我就打谁--Israel: They’ll strike whoever desires to strike them.

6. 中国打我我骂谁-- China: They’ll scold whoever strikes them.

7. 谁让我心里不痛快我就打国-- North Korea: If made unhappy, they’ll strike South Korea.

8. 伊朗都不打就打美国-- Iran: They’ll only strike America.

The commentary on America and England isn’t particularly surprising. Russia’s could suggest a slight measure of empathy for being picked on. “Scold” could be interpreted in some ways more violent than others, but in general China’s statement is fairly consistent with the government’s line about its “peaceful” rise to power. The North Korea comment is more critical than the official allegiance would suggest. The final one openly acknowledges Iran's antagonistic relationship with the US. Any other thoughts? Keeping in mind that this is only one satirical viewpoint gleaned from the Internet, is it consistent with how you’d estimate Chinese public opinion on foreign policy?

*This information was posted and acquired in the USA; no netizens were harmed in the gathering of this meme. Not a professional translation.

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