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 North America editor

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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?"


Comments 5 of 412



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