China Censors Anti-U.S. Reaction

By John Pomfret
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, September 15, 2001; Page A19

BEIJING, Sept. 14 -- China's censors have moved to stem anti-American statements and expressions of support for terrorism against the United States that have been posted on government-monitored Internet sites here since Tuesday's attacks in New York and Washington, Chinese sources said today.

The Propaganda Ministry issued an "urgent notice" late Wednesday ordering the media, including Internet portals, not to publish anything that gloated about the attack or seemed to insult the United States, the sources said.

The move seemed designed to demonstrate official support for the United States and its declared war against terrorism after a series of official reactions to the Washington and New York attacks that were interpreted by diplomats as tentative.

"It is not clear whether the Chinese really understood the enormity of what happened in the beginning," said a Western diplomat. "They also have their own domestic constraints about being perceived as too pro-American. But things are improving now."

Chinese scholars who had expressed dismay at what they termed the callous reaction of some Chinese to the tragedy unfolding in the United States said some of the most offensive statements had been removed from the Internet. "It's improved a lot," said Shi Yinhong, head of the international relations department at People's University. "The debate on those sites has become pretty civilized again."

A government official, meanwhile, contested reports that China this week signed a memorandum of understanding on economic and technical cooperation with the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan. The official said he had contacted the Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation Ministry and a central state-owned mining firm and had been told that neither organization had signed any such agreement.

A Pakistani newspaper, the Frontier Post, and a state-run newspaper in Afghanistan reported Tuesday that an agreement had been signed between China and the Taliban minister of mines. Diplomats and analysts said the agreement was significant because it underscored attempts by China to strengthen ties to the Taliban.

2001 The Washington Post Company