Chinese state media and social media are brimming with admiration for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. She died on April 8, 2013 at the age of 87 after a stroke.
Thatcher, who took office in 1979, was Britain's first female leader and the first woman to lead a major western power. During her 11 years as prime minister, the conservative politician ordered dramatic deregulation of Britain's stagnant economy, weakened the power of labor unions, and oversaw British victory over Argentina in Falklands War.
Her legacy is divisive, however. While supporters credit her with reestablishing Britain as a world power and taming inflation, critics point to high unemployment during her tenure and accuse her free market reforms of widening the gap between rich and poor.
While her death has instigating divided feelings in most of the world, China's state media dedicated time and space exclusively to sing Thatcher's praises.
Beijing News called [zh] Thatcher the “uncompromising Iron Lady.” Southern Metropolis Daily quoted zh] Thatcher: “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Global Times pointed out her significant role in the handover of Hong Kong in 1984:
Thatcher managed to understand that China is not Argentina and Hong Kong is not the Falklands. She signed the joint declaration, which set the foundation for Hong Kong's return….We have reasons to show respect to this woman that signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
On China's most popular microblogging Sina Weibo, Thatcher's death [zh] became the second-most talked about topic on April 9 with more than 449,155 discussions. The overwhelmingly positive comments show that most web users’ knowledge about Thatcher doesn't go beyond the British semi-biographical film based on her life The Iron Lady and her role on HK's return to China.
Zhang Xin, CEO of Chinese Internet Company SOHO, wrote [zh] on Weibo:
Just heard the news about former prime minister Ms Thatcher's death. When I studied in college in England, my favorite TV show was Thatcher's debate at the parliament. [She's] a real iron lady.
Famous poet Chen Zhaohua praised [zh] Thatcher's dedication to the free market approach that has transformed the economy in England:
Nicknamed “Iron Lady,” she came to power in 1979 and launched large-scale market-oriented reforms on privatization and deregulation, through which the United Kingdom rose from being “a sick man” in Europe after World War II to the most dynamic country in Europe after Germany.
Writer Lian Peng's comment [zh] seemed neutral:
有人说，里根、撒切尔们埋葬了战后资本主义反思，埋下了苦果。也有人夸她强硬务实，为国家利益敢 担当。评价两极很正常，立场角度不同。古人说：“一将功成万骨枯。”优秀政治家荣耀的背后，也有着无数的恶。不能因其恶抹掉其功，也不能因其功而掩盖其 恶。关键是能反思什么，学到什么。
Some people think that [Ronald] Reagan and Thatcher buried the reflection of post-war capitalism and planted a bitter seed. Some admire her tough and pragmatic approach in pursuing the best interest for her country. It is very normal to have different opinions about her from different angles and standpoints. As the ancient saying goes: “What millions died that Caesar might be great.” Behind the success of an outstanding politician, there are a mix of evil deeds. Don't erase their success because of the evil deeds, and their success can not cover up their evil deeds, either. The key is to reflect on what we can learn from it.
Web user “Yingzi” echoed:
Very philosophical. She has been one of the women I admire, few woman can reach her level. She refused to present flowers to the Monument to the People's Heroes, which shows her toughness as the Iron Lady. However, on the issue of the handover of Hong Kong to China, she bowed her proud head.
However, some web users thought Thatcher's popularity in China comes from nothing more but her handover of Hong Kong to China. Chairman of China's financial Museum Wang Wei wrote [zh]:
I talked with some foreigners from the Netherlands and France about Thatcher's death, they seemed indifferent. They asked why there's such a big reaction among Chinese. I think it is because she handed over Hong Kong to China.
The chief editor of the Wall Street Journal's China edition, Yuan Li, concluded [zh]:
Margaret Thatcher died. The end of an era. With so many governments not being deregulated, she certainly was heartbroken.