China newspaper's "Dishonest Americans" series spurs backlash

The People's Daily
A screen still of The People's Daily, as seen online on June 3, 2013.
The People's Daily

(CBS News) In China, there's backlash over a new feature in a newspaper that slams Americans, but the insults are backfiring.

The complaints are familiar: a disgruntled flyer annoyed at an airline, or a New Jersey resident ripped-off by a locksmith. But the articles appeared in the online addition of "The People's Daily," a Chinese newspaper considered the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party. The column's title was called "The Dishonest American Series," originally, a sub-headline explained: "We want to unveil some incidents ... to provide a more objective picture of what the U.S. and Americans are really like."

Michael Anti, a blogger and freelance journalist in Beijing, told CBS News the column was started as "part of the propaganda job." He said, "Demoniz(ing) Americans is part of (the) job of propaganda."

At least four almost gossipy articles appeared between March and May. The locksmith rip-off story contained the caution: "Consumers ... will realize the fees they ... pay are much higher than shown on the advertisements," adding "incidents like this are commonly seen in America."

Rather than fueling anger among Chinese, the series has been ridiculed in social media. On Weibo, more than 330,000 -- mainly mocking -- results pop up, including: "It would be really popular if 'People's Daily' reports on dishonest local governments," or "If Americans are so immoral and untrustworthy, why do so many government officials still ... send their wives and kids to the States?"

CBS News asked the People's Daily to explain its column, but they would not issue a statement or grant an interview. The old headline no longer exists online, and has been replaced by a much more benign one -- "The Americans You Don't Know." Why the title change? There was no explanation.

Watch Seth Doane's full report in the video above.