As tensions escalate in the Gulf region, Chinese media are sending journalists to Iraq to cover a possible US-led military strike against Baghdad.
And the Foreign Ministry announced Monday it would pull out personnel from its Baghdad embassy who are not urgently needed.
"In view of the fact that the current situation in Iraq is getting more tense each day, China has decided to reduce the number of non-essential staff in its embassy in Iraq," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said in a short statement.
Many Chinese reporters and their employers are reportedly preparing to conduct interviews in the most dangerous spot in the world.
The number of Chinese reporters who will be stationed in Iraq and neighboring countries is expected to reach 100, greatly surpassing the number who covered the Gulf War in 1990.
The media's unprecedented coverage of the Iraq issue has won applause from readers and audiences.
"My salute to these brave reporters, and we hope to read more objective and just reports -- especially those about the life of common Iraqi people," said netizen Xiao Liu.
According to Chen Tong, vice-president and editor-in-chief of Sina.com, a famous gateway website in China, there are about 15-20 million people surfing his news webpages every day and 80 percent show concern about the situation in Iraq.
Chen said most of the Internet surfers expressed their sympathy for the Iraqi people and opposition towards war in the region.
The forum has also given rise to heated debates about the United States's role in the crisis, with some people believing the evidence provided by Washington to the United Nations Security Council does not prove Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction, he noted.
With the Spring festival holiday now drawing to a close and more people going back to work, 30 percent more people will surf the Web and many of them will closely follow the Iraq issue, Chen said.
Most Chinese international relation experts insist the stand-off should be resolved under the banner of the United Nations.
Wu Xinbo, a professor with the Shanghai-based Fudan University, said: "(The Iraq issue) should be resolved under the framework of the UN peacefully."
Shen Dingli, another researcher with Fudan University, echoed Wu's views, saying if the United States launched a war without strong proof of Iraq's guilt and without winning approval from the UN Security Council, its relations with Mideast nations would become tense.
Tao Wenzhao, a professor with the China Academy of Social Sciences, said the United States wants the UN Security Council to approve a new resolution that would authorize the use of force to disarm Baghdad of suspected weapons of mass destruction.
But most UN Security Council members would demand more time for arms inspections after receiving the reports from UN arms inspectors, Tao said. "That means it is difficult for the UN Security Council to approve a resolution to launch war in Iraq," Tao said.
As one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto powers, China has advocated a political solution to the Iraq crisis and last week called for further weapons inspections.
(China Daily February 11, 2003)