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China Criticizes U.S. Amid George Floyd Protests


So how did the protests in the United States look in China? NPR's Emily Feng is in Beijing. Hi, Emily.


INSKEEP: How big a story is this for the state-controlled media where you are?

FENG: It's very prominent. It's all over television. And usually, it's only the most violent or destructive aspects of the U.S. protests that are being shown because to China, these protests illustrate the hypocrisy and decline of not just the United States but of liberal democracies in general.

Today a Chinese friend actually sent me this popular meme on a messaging app that's going around, and it superimposes two pictures, one of the Hong Kong protests, which are captioned as pro-Democratic, and the Floyd protests in the U.S., which are captioned as violent riots. And the cartoon asks, what's the difference? - the idea being that the U.S. condemns China's control over Hong Kong and excessive policing there, but it can't tolerate protests within its own borders.

And sociologically, it's been really interesting to see Chinese officials take a very strong stance on race in the U.S. given how China has very complicated tensions itself over ethnicity and race that have flared up this year.

INSKEEP: Oh, wait a minute. You're saying that Chinese authorities are mocking the U.S. for hypocrisy, but maybe there's a double standard here as well on the Chinese side. What are some of the ethnic tensions or racial tensions in China, which seems like a much more homogenous country from the outside?

FENG: It is. And Chinese people often say, we're not racist; we just have different cultures from different people. There's actually no direct translation of race in Chinese, and most Chinese people belong to one ethnic group called the Han. But China does have extreme ethnic tensions towards people who are not Han. For example, it's detained at least hundreds of thousands of Muslim Uighurs and other ethnic minorities because China thinks they're all predisposed towards violence and terrorism, and the protests right now in the U.S. have given Beijing this kind of moral cover to distract from that fact.

Foreigners in China are seen with some respect, but they're also seen with suspicion and increasingly hostility, especially people of African heritage. For example, this year, because of COVID, China forcibly tested and actually evicted thousands of Africans living in the south of China because it thought they were all vectors for the virus. And this year, a policy proposal that might have loosened green cards for foreigners encountered a lot of resistance because people thought Africans would come to China, and they were opposed to that.

INSKEEP: Emily, thanks for the update and the insights. Really appreciate them.

FENG: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Emily Feng in Beijing. We also heard from NPR's Frank Langfitt in London and NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emily Feng is NPR's Beijing correspondent.