As human rights protesters dogged the Beijing Olympics’ torch relay around the world, as supporters of Tibet condemned the violent crackdown in Lhasa, and as Darfur activists demanded change in China’s Sudan policy, Chinese young people worked themselves into a different form of righteous anger. In online forums and chat rooms, they blasted Beijing’s leaders for not being tougher in Tibet. They agitated for boycotts against Western businesses based in nations that object to Beijing’s policies, and they directed venomous fury against anyone critical of China.
The anger has even spread to American college campuses. In April, Chinese students at USC blasted a visiting Tibetan monk with angry questions about Tibet’s alleged history of slavery and other controversial topics. When the monk tried to respond, the students chanted, “Stop lying! Stop lying!”
…In the long run, this explosive nationalism calls into question what kind of democracy China could be. Many Chinese academics, for example, believe that, at least in the early going, a freer China might become a more dangerous China.