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Chinese Social Web Defends US Vice President Biden

United States Vice President Joe Biden has faced a firestorm of criticism from Chinese international students after he referred to China as a nation that cannot “think different” or “breathe freely” during his commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania.

But mainland Chinese Web users have hit back, reproaching the students abroad for their behavior and defending Biden's speech as worthy of reflection.

During Biden's speech on May 13, 2013, the vice president made reference to China:

You cannot think different in a nation where you cannot breathe free; you cannot think different in a nation where you aren't able to challenge orthodoxy, because change only comes from challenging orthodoxy.

Many Chinese international students considered the remark insensitive. A few days later, Zhang Tianpu, a Chinese student at the University of Pennsylvania, and his peers drafted a letter to Biden demanding an apology.

Video of Biden's speech is available on YouTube:

The news soon went viral on Chinese social media. More than 30,000 people participated in an online poll by Tencent news on the question – to the question “should Biden apologize or not”, 70 percent of online users answered that he shouldn't apologize.

When former Google China head Kaifu Lee shared the news together with the video of the speech on Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo on May 24, it attracted more than 6,560 comments within a few hours. Most of Web users thought what Biden said was true, and others even criticized the international students.

Li Lifu, an editor for a publication house in Tianjin, explained [zh] part of the reason why the students are angry:

Video of Biden's speech was widely shared on Sina Weibo. (Image from Sina Weibo)

Video of Biden's speech was widely shared on Sina Weibo. (Image from Sina Weibo)

这些留学生的父辈中不乏现行体制的受益者,他们很爱这个体制,明白了吗

Some of the parents of these students have benifited from the current system, they love this system, understand?

“Yilitang Leyouyou” compared [zh] the lives of college students in China and the lives of those abroad:

人家拜登说的没错,这些留学生哪里知道国内人民生活的囧况,他们不用担心买房买车,自由的享受生活,我们这些穷二代大学生毕业后就要开始牛一样的挣钱生存,还要面临各种不公平的竞争。各种悲剧

Biden was right, how do these overseas students know about the hard lives Chinese people have, they do not worry about buying a car or a house, they just enjoy their free life. We, the poor “second-generation” college students, have to work hard to make money to survive right after graduation, but also have to face a variety of unfair competition and tragedies.

Weibo user “Pretending to be in New York” wrote [zh] sarcastically:

假如张同学在中国的时候不喜欢领导人的讲话而写信抗议,写完信后他还能自由呼吸吗?

If this Zhang student doesn't like the Chinese president's speech and writes letters in protest, can he still breathe freely after finishing the letter?

“Jinshi Qinghuan” echoed [zh] the sentiment:

你们能抗议美国副总统,这是多大的自由啊。来,回来,抗议个村长。

You can protest against the US vice president, how much freedom you've got there! Come back and try to protest the head of a village.

“Zhu Mengxiang” quoted [zh] a Chinese idiom:

忠言逆耳

Faithful words are unpleasant to hear [to the ear].

“Kaopu de Qishi 2011” posed [zh] a rhetorical question about freedom of speech in China:

 官场上混的人有几个敢说真话?报纸、电视宣传的有几个是真的?到底是谁该道歉?

How many government officials dare to speak the truth? How many newspapers and television report the truth? In the end, who should apologize?

Feng aili” [zh] thought that Biden's speech hit the mark:

中国的这种现状,,真的太需要我们深思

China's situation is really worthy of our reflection.

The Weibo account for a school newspaper from China's top Tsinghua University published[zh]:

拜登称中国是不能自由思考的国家,中国学生要求道歉。先别给是否应该道歉下论断,我们更应该反思为什么我们会被人称作不能自由呼吸的国度。我们不能总视己为弱者,带着敏感而又脆弱的爱国情怀去看待一切。道歉不能为我们带来自由的空气,脆弱的爱国也不会成为强国之本,唯有反思才能进步。

Biden says China is a country where one can't think freely, and Chinese students demand for an apology. Let's not make a judgement on whether Biden should apologize or not, we should reflect on why we are called a country where one can't breathe freely. We cannot always consider ourselves weak, looking at everything with sensitive and fragile patriotism. Apology cannot bring us free air, fragile patriotism can't empower our country, only through reflection can we make progress.

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