Chinese unsurprised by Edward Snowden leaks

Protesters hold pictures of President Barack Obama, left, and Edward Snowden during a demonstration outside the Consulate General of the United States in Hong Kong 15 June 2013 Supporters of Edward Snowden protest in front of the US consulate in Hong Kong earlier in June

Edward Snowden has accused President Barack Obama of "political aggression", earning him the headline from NBC: "Snowden rants against Obama".

That may be how it looks in America, but it is not how this case will be seen in much of the rest of the world. I am just back from China, where I've been making a documentary on US-China relations (more on that nearer transmission).

The Chinese equivalent of Twitter, Weibo, was full of chatter about the case.

Jia Xiu Dong from the China Institute of Foreign Studies, the Chinese foreign ministry's think tank, showed me some of the comments after Mr Snowden was allowed to leave Hong Kong.

The general impression was that if this was a setback for relations with the US, then "so what?". Many think that the US, keen to lecture others, is getting a taste of its own medicine.

Of course most countries would show a degree of urgency in pursuing someone who is giving away their secrets, but the subject of Snowden's leak is important too. The US has long accused China of cyber-spying, and now it's clear the US is the world's leading cyber-snooper.

No-one I met in China was particularly surprised - "spies spy" was one comment - but there's a mood of wry amusement that America has been caught with its ear to the door.

Mr Obama has dutifully explained that what goes on is little more than identifying traffic: the example he used was tracking who Bin Laden rang on his mobile phone and then finding who they contacted.

The subtlety will be lost on many, but Mr Snowden's suggestion that Mr Obama represents old politics, business as usual, will find a cynical and receptive audience.

Mark Mardell Article written by Mark Mardell Mark Mardell Presenter, The World This Weekend

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  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    213 Talking Microphone The US justice system, even now, is much more open even than some other “Western” countries much less totalitarian ones. LMIBS

    252 Pan Albert RE 246 Not a Constitutional literalist, for sure.

    255 powermeerkat Our politicians [aiken, Mourdock, Santorum, Palin, Perry, Bachman, etc.] provide enough gas.

    260 shaun Free to speak =/= free to spy or steal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    139 Tinkersdamn Such may pay heavily for their efforts. IF they roll back state intrusion on citizen’s rights, maybe worth it. If their effort is tarnished by self interest or ideological blinders they will go down in history as kooks, traitors, etc.

    141 TJ The ultimate crime, armed insurrection against legitimate democratic/republican government.

    263 Demerara Like China & Russia?

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    119 Lee
    China IS bad. I served on several juries. Thanks to the jury system the US democracy, endangered, is still salvageable.
    120 sieuarlu “Mexican Standoff.” They kill us by calling in our debt, & cutting off our junk junkies.

    Americans know [FOX pseudonews] it is bad if Obama does it, but was good when GWB did it.
    134 Piggyback What did Hitler, Stalin, Churchill & Mao do?

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    73. RememberTS “He is a traitor...” He is a citizen of the US, who is entitled to an open trial and judgment by 12 citizens. While I don’t like what he is reputed to have done, neither do I like my government violating the rights of citizens of the US and allies. Nor do I like hype and prejudging instead of due process. PS treason id strictly defined in the Constitution. Agree FrTed 116

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    66. RememberTS
    I would like more cameras on the roads around Boston. Sociopaths should NOT be allowed to drive. However there are privacy rights that must be considered. Photo ID of culprits has helped arrest a growing number of criminals and take them off the streets, however there must be a close watch, but, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?"

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    "Europe never seems to learn from its mistakes."

    That's particularly rich coming from the US!

    Korea then Vietnam? Russia's experience in Afghanistan? not to mention the three Aghan Wars of the 1800s ... Kuwait then Iraq? Now about to repeat them in Syria?

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    "I didn't say that but now you mention it, if the shoe fits.."

    Does your comment also apply to the Jews being exterminated in the camps?

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    398We did waste a lot of human capital but we learned, things changed.That's the difference.Europe never seems to learn from its mistakes.It makes the same ones over and over again even if they are in different forms.That's why there's no hope for it.For example, it's clear the Euro has failed, economic integration didn't work for Europe.Their answer, more integration.See, same blunder again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    398 - "Europe wastes human capital"

    What an absolutely ridiculous statement

    You don't have to go back many generations in the US to find an awful lot of European human capital wasters then

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    399"Turning every person in Europe into a Nazi must be the most abhorrent statement.."

    I didn't say that but now you mention it, if the shoe fits...Book written by an American in the 1990s, can't remember the title and author, well researched, stirred up Germany.Contrary to popular myth most Germans knew all about the holocaust.Family working in concentration camps mailed pictures home.Proud!

  • Comment number 402.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    397It was revealed only a few years ago Ike ordered the US not to be the first to launch an orbiting satellite.His reason was there was no legal precedent for flying over other nations' territory in space. When the Russians did it first it established the legal precedent. Ike was looking ahead to spy satellites after the U2 spy plane fiasco.We had to know what the USSR was up to. spies-R-us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    " it's clear the US is the world's leading cyber-snooper"

    How do you know this? Do you know how other countries run their spy programs, or are you saying other countries don't spy on each other?

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    "Europe could do with him was create random havoc a few hundred miles away."

    While the USA's rockets just lit up the Fourth of July. Great advancement by Goddard.

    "The best Europe could do." The fact is "The best the Nazi's could do." Turning every person in Europe into a Nazi must be the most abhorrent statement that you have ever made, and beneath contempt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    395Europeans never admit they're wrong, even to themselves.That's why they have the first failed continent

    Werner Von Braun, top German rocket scientist learned much of what he knew from Goddard an American.The best Europe could do with him was create random havoc a few hundred miles away.In the US we enabled him to hit a bulls eye on the moon 1/4 million miles away.Europe wastes human capital

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    393 Sky

    "Try which German: Albert Einstein"

    And Wernher von Braun

    There was a joke going around after the shock of Sputnik in 1957 -- Eisenhower, then President of the United States called in his experts and asked `

    `What happened? How did the Russians get so far ahead of us in rocket technology?''

    His advisors answered:

    ``Their Germans were better than our Germans.''

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    390. sieuarlu

    "Better to attack and be wrong than risk not attacking at all."

    As in, better to execute an innocent man than let a guilty one go free?

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    "Which Germans led to development of the atomic and hydrogen bombs?"

    Now you have changed it to actually working on an atomic bomb. Not the act of a decent person, to change the definition, just because I found something that fits.

    You didn't mention point one before, which makes the whole atomic bomb argument invalid, as it's not post WWII.


  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    393No this shows your lack of knowledge. 1st of all MH's point was US technology developed because of theft of German patents and flight of Nazi scientists after the war. Einstein fled to the US before the war.2nd, Einstein never worked on the atom bomb, he was considered a security risk.His only involvement was to co-author a letter to Roosevelt alerting him to the possibility of inventing it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    293, "Which Germans led to development of the atomic and hydrogen bombs?"

    Try which German: Albert Einstein.

    This truly shows your lack of knowledge


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