ANTI-JAPAN PROTESTS ERUPT IN CHINA OVER THE SENKAKU-DIAOYU DISPUTE IN AUGUST, SEPTEMBER 2012

FIRST WAVE OF ANTI-JAPAN PROTESTS ERUPT IN CHINA OVER THE SENKAKU-DIAOYU DISPUTE, IN AUGUST 2012

Keith Bradsher, Martin Fackler, and Andrew Jacobs wrote in the New York Times: “Anti-Japanese protests spread across China over the landing of Japanese activists on a disputed island and the treatment of activists from Hong Kong, Macau and China who had landed on the same island. Protesters took to the streets in nearly a dozen Chinese cities in up and down China’s eastern provinces, according to Xinhua, the official news agency. [Source: Keith Bradsher, Martin Fackler, and Andrew Jacobs, New York Times, August 19, 2012]

The Chinese state news media portrayed the demonstrations as fairly small, each involving fewer than 200 people, and not extending to inland provinces. But photographs posted on Sina Weibo, the country’s most widely used microblogging service, suggested that the crowds had been far larger. In one photo said to be from the southwestern city of Chengdu, deep in China’s interior, the number of protesters appeared to be in the thousands “Defend the Diaoyu Islands to the death,” one banner said. Another said, “Even if China is covered with graves, we must kill all Japanese.” Another photograph showed a handwritten sign taped to the entrance of Suning, a popular electronics store, telling customers it was no longer selling Japanese products. [Ibid]

Some protests appear to have turned violent. According to several postings, demonstrators on Sunday attacked sushi restaurants or other businesses perceived to have a Japanese connection. Several photographs said to be from Shenzhen, across the border from Hong Kong, showed what appeared to be damaged or overturned cars---most of them Japanese models---as well as several police vehicles. [Ibid]

The demonstrations appeared to be sanctioned and chaperoned by the police, who generally prohibit public protests unless they suit the needs of the Communist Party. In the past, Beijing has allowed nationalist sentiment to bubble up into street demonstrations, but the authorities usually keep them contained out of concern they might spiral out of control or turn into popular antigovernment sentiment. While many postings on microblogs expressed rage against the Japanese, a significant number criticized the Chinese government for its timidity. Many such postings, however, were promptly deleted. Confrontations between Japan and China on or near the contested islands have the potential to become larger international incidents. [Ibid]

Altogether anti-Japan rallies were held in more than 25 Chinese cities on August 19 in response to Japan's arrest of Chinese activists who landed on one of the islands on August 15. [Ibid] AFP reported: “Protests broke out in at least six Chinese cities after Japanese nationalists landed on an island claimed by both countries. More than a hundred people gathered near the Japanese consulate in China's southern city of Guangzhou, chanting "Japan get out of the Diaoyu Islands," the official Xinhua news agency said. In nearby Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong, protesters gathered at an outdoor plaza, waving Chinese flags and shouting slogans, Xinhua said, but did not give the number of participants. [Source: AFP, August 19, 2012]

Zhang Pei, one participant, said protesters were marching towards the train station on the border with Hong Kong. "The demonstration is strung out for seven to eight kilometres. Many police are escorting us along the street," he told AFP. He could not give an estimate of the number of protesters, but said participants were swelling as the march continued. Xinhua said protests also took place in four other cities, including eastern Hangzhou and Qingdao, as well as the north-eastern cities of Shenyang and Harbin. [Ibid]

Anti-Japan protests have broken out in several cities in the past week, including the capital Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao, Binzhou and Shandong, state media and witnesses said. Hundreds gathered in the northern city of Xian to protest over the detention of 14 pro-China activists and journalists who had sailed from Hong Kong to land on the islands, Xinhua said in a separate report. [Ibid]

Car Carrying Japan Ambassador to China “Attacked

In early September 2012, A man attacked the car carrying the Japanese ambassador in Beijing on Monday and ripped off the Japanese flag flying on the vehicle, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported, amid escalating tensions that led to the biggest anti-Japan protests in years. Kyodo, quoting Japanese embassy officials in Beijing, gave no further details of the attack, but said the ambassador, Uichiro Niwa, was unhurt. The report said the embassy had "filed a strong protest with the Chinese Foreign Ministry". [Source: Reuters, September 6, 2012]

A Yomiuri Shimbun editorial read: :We hope the Chinese government will take appropriate actions to prevent the recurrence of an incident that insulted Japan. An official car carrying Japanese Ambassador to China Uichiro Niwa was attacked recently in Beijing, and the Japanese national flag on it was stolen. Chinese authorities have identified four suspects, including one woman, but the authorities have just been questioning them without detention. This incident seems to have been caused by rising anti-Japanese sentiment within China, which was ignited by Hong Kong activists illegally landing on the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands. Stealing the Japanese national flag is nothing but a blatant insult to this country. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, September 2, 2012)

An opinion survey conducted by a Chinese portal site on the Internet showed that 80 percent of respondents supported the attack on the Japanese ambassador's car. It is alarming for Japan that many people praised the attack, calling the suspects "heroes." There is a slogan in China that a patriotic act should not be considered a crime. However, it is certainly a problem that the destruction of Japanese cars and restaurants by anti-Japan demonstrators is virtually permitted in that nation. We must point out that the strong effects on young people of the patriotic education by Chinese authorities are behind the radicalization of the opinions they express on the Internet due to anti-Japanese sentiment. [Ibid]

Tensions After Japan Purchases the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands

The day after the purchase of the islands, Jiji Press reported: “The Japanese government's purchase of three of the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands sparked protests in China. Hundreds of protesters marched in Weihai in the eastern province of Shandong, holding a banner saying that the East China Sea islands are China's territory. Photographs of young Chinese carrying banners showing slogans such as "Boycott Japanese goods" and "Down with Japanese Imperialism" have been posted on the Internet. Other photos showed youths marching with China's national flag and cars festooned with flags. In Beijing, about 20 protesters gathered in front of the Japanese Embassy. [Ibid]

Meanwhile, China's National Defense Ministry hinted Tuesday at possible retaliation against Japan. China's government and military have a sternly and unwaveringly resolved to protect the territory and sovereignty of China, ministry spokesman Geng Yangsheng said in a statement. The next day six Chinese surveillance ships sailed into waters around the Diaoyu Islands to assert China’s territorial claims and for “law enforcement”, leaving after seven hours.

Katsufumi Mano wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “Japan Coast Guard patrol ships and Chinese surveillance ships continue squaring off against each other in waters off the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands. Chinese surveillance ships first appeared in the area on September 14, three days after Japan nationalized three of the islands. Six marine surveillance ships belonging to the Chinese State Oceanic Administration lingered in Japanese territorial waters for about seven hours, with a fisheries surveillance ship following suit. Altogether, the ships stayed in the waters for five days, and in the contiguous zone from Oct. 1 to Oct. 10. Taiwanese fishing boats and patrol vessels also encroached on this area. [Source: Katsufumi Mano, Yomiuri Shimbun, October 13, 2012]

To deal with the situation, the JCG sent reinforcements from its headquarters nationwide to support the 11th Regional Japan Coast Guard Headquarters in Naha, which is in charge of patrolling the area. The Naha headquarters is capable of deploying about 30 vessels at once when necessary, However, their 1,000-ton-class patrol vessels can only stay at sea for a maximum of one week. Though these ships have taken turns conducting patrols, the arrangements have started affecting other operations. The JCG is in the process of building nine 1,000-ton or larger patrol vessels, and has asked for funds to build four more next fiscal year. It also requested 150 more personnel, on top of its 12,600. However, its fleet will not see a large increase, as some of the new vessels will replace old ones. A senior JCG officer said, "It's time to consider ongoing reinforcements for our operations."

China is apparently trying to expand its maritime interests in other areas as well. It has marine surveillance ships in seas around the Scarborough Shoal, which is claimed by both China and the Philippines. China apparently is stepping up pressure against Japan in waters around the Senkaku-Diaoyus, as China Marine Surveillance (CMS) ships from its east fleet and its north fleet, which usually patrols areas including the Yellow Sea and the Bo Hai, have been spotted in the area. [Ibid]

Second Wave of Anti-Japan Protests Erupt in China Over the Senkaku-Diaoyu Dispute, in September 2012

On September 15, 2012, the biggest anti-Japanese protests since China and Japan normalised diplomatic relations in 1972 were held in cities across China. The Japanese embassy in Beijing was besieged by thousands of protesters throwing rocks, eggs and bottles. The next day anti-Japanese protests broke out in dozens of mainland cities for a second day. In some cities peaceful protests turned violent as protesters clash with policemen, attack Japanese made cars and smash up Japanese restaurants. China’s state-run news media has made repeated calls for the islands to be given to China, which claims that it controlled them before Japan’s colonial expansion in the late 19th century.

By one count anti-Japanese demonstrations were held in more than 50 cities on September 15 and over 100 cities on September 16 as protesters smashed Japanese cars, looted Japanese stores and attacked Japanese companies. Ian Johnson and Thom Shanker wrote in the New York Times, “Anti-Japanese demonstrators took to the streets again in cities across China, with the government offering mixed signals on whether it would continue to tolerate the sometimes violent outbursts. The protests were orderly in Beijing, with several hundred people circling in front of the Japanese Embassy demanding Chinese control over a small island group known as Senkaku in Japan and as Diaoyu in China. Protests were also reported in other cities, including Shanghai, Guangzhou and Qingdao. [Source: Ian Johnson and Thom Shanker, New York Times, September 16, 2012]

The day before “protests occurred in more than 50 cities, with some violence reported. A factory for the Panasonic Corporation was set on fire in Qingdao, and a Toyota dealership was looted, according to photographs posted on social media sites and local residents reached by telephone. Across China, calls have grown for boycotts of Japanese products. Many Japanese retailers and restaurants have been forced to place signs in their windows supporting China, and Japan’s prime minister asked China to protect Japanese and their property. [Ibid]

At the height of the violence, dozens of Japanese businesses were attacked, including 7-Eleven shops. Hundreds of Japanese model cars were overturned or burned. Dexter Roberts of Bloomberg wrote: The buzz of government helicopters circling over China’s capital disrupted already tangled traffic on September 15, with drivers stopping to look up at the rare sight as hundreds of riot police blocked streets around the Japanese Embassy in northeastern Beijing. Some 2,500 demonstrators marched, some carrying pictures of Mao, while others pelted the consulate with eggs and plastic water bottles and rushed at police barricades. Fires broke out in a Panasonic (PC) electronics parts plant and a Toyota Motor (TM) dealership in the coastal city of Qingdao after protests there, the companies said on 16. To date, there has been no confirmation as to who set the blaze. Both have shut operations temporarily. As a protective gesture, Japanese restaurants and offices have responded by prominently displaying the Chinese national flag outside their doors. [Source: Dexter Roberts, Bloomberg, September 17, 2012]

Given the curious timing of the latest explosion of anti-Japan feeling, some are wondering whether there is any connection to the ongoing once-in-a-decade leadership transition, with a key Communist Party Congress, A still-unexplained two-week-long disappearance by future President Xi Jinping sparked concern over his health and set off speculation. The top theory is that China’s leadership may be encouraging the nationalist outpouring to distract attention from continuing dissension at home, including debates over who will ultimately be named to China’s nine-member reigning body, the Politburo Standing Committee. Also key is how the leadership deals with the still unresolved case of popular “princeling” and former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai, whose wife was given a suspended death sentence for murdering a British businessmen. [Ibid]

Meanwhile, there are signs that Beijing is keen to ensure things don’t get out of control. State media has warned against violence and at least one city, Xian, in western China, has banned some “illegal” protests. “Violence cannot be tolerated simply because the protests are aimed at Japan,” the state-run Global Times newspaper wrote on Sept. 17. “Violence can only weaken the current campaign against Japan.” “When the sovereign territory of the Mother Country is subjected to provocation, our anger is irrepressible, and the enthusiasm of the youth of China must have release. These patriotic feelings are precious, and they must be cherished and protected,” wrote the People’s Daily in an editorial on Sept. 17. “But a civilized attitude abiding by rule of law should be the basic conduct of the citizenry. Doing damage to the legal property of one’s countrymen and venting one’s anger on the heads of Japanese citizens in China is extremely inappropriate.”

Japanese Press Reports Japanese Assaulted in Shanghai

Yasuharu Seki wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: The Japanese Consulate General in Shanghai has issued a warning regarding the spate of assaults on Japanese nationals by Chinese in the city--four of which have resulted in injury--since the government decided to nationalize the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands.On its website, the consulate general called for Japanese residents and tourists in Shanghai to take precautions.[Source: Yasuharu Seki, Yomiuri Shimbun, September 15, 2012]

The website and other sources cited one instance in which a Japanese national walking in downtown Shanghai was kicked in the legs several times by a Chinese resident, causing bruises. The incident occurred after the Chinese asked if the person was Japanese. In another case, a group of Japanese dining at midnight were hassled by some Chinese and assaulted. Additionally, a Japanese national riding in a taxi was followed by a motorcyclist, who demanded the taxi driver force the Japanese passenger from the car, the consulate general said. [Ibid]

The consulate general also cited another instance when several Japanese walking on a sidewalk were harassed by Chinese residents who called them "Japanese," and one threw noodles at a Japanese, resulting in injuries. Another broke and stole a Japanese national's glasses. [Ibid]

A few days later, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Japanese and Chinese employees working for a Japanese-affiliated firm in China were attacked by a group of Chinese and injured at a Japanese restaurant in Shanghai, it has been learned. According to the Japanese Consulate General in the city and other sources, the employees were having a meal at the restaurant. They were chatting at the table in Japanese when a group of four or five Chinese confronted them, purportedly because they were annoyed with the language. One of the Chinese threw a beer bottle at the diners, and the Chinese group began beating and kicking them. During the assault, a Chinese employee of the Japanese-affiliated firm suffered a hand wound when slashed with a knife, while some of the Japanese employees sustained minor injuries. None of them were hospitalized. The local police had detained some of the perpetrators as of Monday, after the consulate general reported the incident. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, October 17, 2012]

Anti-Japanese Rhetoric During the Anti-Japanese Protests in September 2012

Dexter Roberts of Bloomberg wrote: “Never forget the national humiliation,” and “Protect China’s inseparable territory,” read some. More disturbing: “Let’s kill all Japanese,” and “Nuclear extermination for wild Japanese dogs.” Those are some of the sentiments irate Chinese are displaying on protest banners across the country, as demonstrators in more than a dozen cities including Beijing, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Nanjing take to the streets, angry about Japanese control of the disputed Senkaku islands---known as Diaoyu in China---an uninhabited but possibly resource-rich atoll in the East China Sea. [Source: Dexter Roberts, Bloomberg, September 17, 2012]

Equally alarming has been the bellicose rhetoric in China’s state-controlled press. After China carried out combined land, air, and naval exercises involving jet fighters, ships, and amphibious tanks, Chinese media pointedly wrote that they should serve as a warning to Japan. “These kinds of assault and defense exercises give a clear warning message to Japan that China is prepared for and confident about protecting the Diaoyu Islands,” said Hu Siyuan, a Beijing-based strategy, according to government website China.org on Sept. 12. “China is not worried about a potential showdown over the disputed islands,” Hu continued, despite the fact that exercises on this scale must have been planned months in advance. [Ibid]

Ian Johnson and Thom Shanker wrote in the New York Times, “A signed editorial on the Web site of People’s Daily, the authoritative Communist Party newspaper, said the protests should be viewed sympathetically. While it did not defend the violence, the editorial said the protests were a symbol of the Chinese people’s patriotism. “No one would doubt the pulses of patriotic fervor when the motherland is bullied,” the editorial said. “No one would fail to understand the compatriots” hatred and fights when the country is provoked; because a people that has no guts and courage is doomed to be bullied, and a country that always hides low and bides its time will always come under attack.” Some articles in the Chinese news media, however, said the protests should be “rational” and peaceful. [Source: Ian Johnson and Thom Shanker, New York Times, September 16, 2012]

Dexter Roberts of Bloomberg wrote: Meanwhile, calls for a boycott of Japanese goods are rising across China. Sales of Japanese-branded cars fell last month in China, even as German, Korean, and American vehicle sales grew by more than 10 percent. Earlier efforts to sanction Japanese goods in China---particularly following similar anti-Japan protests in 2005 and 2010---have not proved long-lasting, however. [Roberts, Op. Cit]

“The intensifying tension between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands is not a farce being played out by Japanese right-wing politicians but a well-orchestrated plan of the Japanese government,” wrote Jin Baisong, a deputy director in the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, which is affiliated with China’s commerce ministry, in the China Daily on Sept. 17. “China should take strong countermeasures, especially economic sanctions, to respond to Japan’s provocations. Military consideration, however, should be the last choice.”

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that he was worried that territorial disputes in the Pacific could move from tension to conflict. “I am concerned that when these countries engage in provocations of one kind or another over these various islands, that it raises the possibility that a misjudgment on one side or the other could result in violence,” Mr. Panetta said. Mr. Panetta said the United States was not taking sides in any of the region’s territorial disagreements , but advocated diplomacy to peacefully resolve them. One option, he said, would be for the feuding nations to follow a code of conduct advocated by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. [Ibid]

Anti-Japanese Protests on Anniversary of Manchurian Incident

A few days after the second wave of anti-Japanese protests began, Associated Press reported: “Old wounds amplified outrage over a burning territorial dispute Tuesday as thousands of Chinese protested Tokyo’s purchase of islands claimed by Beijing and marked the 81st anniversary of a Japanese invasion that China has never forgotten. China marks every Sept. 18 by blowing sirens to remember a 1931 incident that Japan used as a pretext to invade Manchuria, setting off a brutal occupation of China that ended only at the close of World War II. [Source: Associated Press, September 18, 2012]

Outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, thousands of protesters shouted patriotic slogans and demanded boycotts of Japanese goods. Some burned Japanese flags and threw apples, water bottles and eggs at the embassy, which was heavily guarded by three layers of paramilitary police and metal barricades. “We believe we need to declare war on them because the Japanese devils are too evil. Down with little Japan!” said Wang Guoming, a retired soldier and seller of construction materials who said he came to the embassy from Linfen in Shanxi province, 600 kilometers (400 miles) away, to vent his frustration. [Ibid]

Protests also took place in Guangzhou, Wenzhou, Shanghai and other Chinese cities. Japan’s Kyodo News agency reported protests in at least 100 cities, and said people threw bricks and rocks at the Japanese Consulate in Shenyang in China’s northeast. However, Shenyang police said by telephone there was no unrest. The nationalist fervor spread to the Internet, where users of the popular search engine Baidu saw a huge Chinese flag planted on a cartoon image of the contested islands, which China calls the Diaoyus and Japan calls the Senkakus. [Ibid]

Jiji Press reported: “Anti-Japanese rallies erupted across China again on the 81st anniversary Tuesday of the Liutiaohu railway bombing incident that triggered the Manchurian Incident and led to Japan's military operation in China before World War II. Demonstrators took to the streets in more than 100 cities and regions across China, including Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang and Suzhou, in protest against Japan's purchase last week of three of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The islands are claimed by China. [Source: Jiji Press, September 19, 2012]

Chinese authorities tightened security as anti-Japanese rallies were expected to peak on the anniversary of the 1931 incident after protests turned violent over the weekend. The Chinese government issued an emergency notice instructing all civil servants not to join anti-Japanese demonstrations the next day, a government source said. Many Japanese in China refrained from going out, while a number of Japanese companies suspended operations. The city of Shanghai prohibited university students from going out in a bid to prevent them from joining demonstrations. [Ibid]

In front of the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, where anti-Japanese rallies were held for the eighth straight day, three people who appeared to be Chinese activists were detained by police after they tried to launch a demonstration in defiance of police instructions. The Chinese government deployed several thousand police officers, including armed ones, around the embassy. About 5,000 people joined a rally there and some threw plastic bottles at the embassy. [Ibid] Before Tuesday's rally began, six windows of the embassy building were found broken, apparently by demonstrators. The embassy asked the Chinese Foreign Ministry to tighten security. The Chinese side expressed regret over the incident. [Ibid]

About 5,000 people rallied in front of the Japanese Consulate General in Guangzhou, where a large number of armed police officers were deployed. Representatives from the Shenyang municipal government and the military took part in a ceremony held at a museum built to mark the 1931 incident. "Never forget the national shame," they said at the ceremony. Thousands of citizens gathered near the ceremony site to protest against Japan's purchase of the islands to bring them under state control. Many armed police officers were deployed. Some protesters carried signs, such as one saying, "Protect our land," and others shouted, "Beat Japan's militarism." "I burned a Japanese national flag," one participant said after the ceremony. [Ibid]

China Ties Senkaku-Diaoyus Row to Historical Conflicts

Reporting from Shenyang, Seima Oki wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “The administration of Chinese President Hu Jintao has linked the territorial row over the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands with historical issues by allowing anti-Japan protests to take place across China on a day marking a key event that led to Japan's military operations in that country before World War II. By emphasizing the link, the Chinese government aims to mount further pressure on Japan in the international arena in addition to demonstrating the legitimacy of its claim over the islands. [Source: Seima Oki, Yomiuri Shimbun, September 20, 2012]

At 9:16 a.m. Tuesday, a bell was rung 14 times at a ceremony in front of the 9/18 history museum in Shenyang, Liaoning Province, which was built to convey the history of the war against Japan. The bell, which has the phrase "Don't forget the national disgrace" carved into its surface, was rung 14 times, signifying the 14 years of anti-Japanese conflict that started in 1931. Xia Deren, deputy secretary of the Chinese Communist Party's Liaoning provincial committee, spoke at the ceremony. At the end of his speech, he said: "China's stance on the issue of the Diaoyu Islands is clear and consistent. Any Japanese actions are illegal and invalid, and we'll never concede an inch of land [to Japan]."

After the speech, a group of mainly young Chinese people began protesting outside the museum, shouting, "The Diaoyu Islands belong to China." They were soon joined by hundreds more who were shouting such slogans as "Defeat Japanese imperialism." Crowds cheered as one protester set fire to the Hinomaru flag. In the past, the Chinese government has tightly restricted anti-Japanese protests in cities where memories of the war are still vivid, such as Shenyang and Nanjing in Jiangsu Province, fearing that such protests could grow beyond the government's control by excessively stimulating Chinese nationalism. "I've never seen such a massive anti-Japanese demonstration here," a 51-year-old driver said in Shenyang. [Ibid]

The Hu administration has tried to place the territorial issue in the context of differences in versions of history and launched a bid to cast Japan's actions as an obstacle to international order. "[Japan's nationalization of the islets] overtly denies the outcome of the global anti-fascist war, and it is a challenge to the international order," the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that China will officially report to the United Nations that it will extend its continental shelf in the East China Sea, announcing charts that purportedly show the waters around the Senkakus are part of Chinese territory. Hong also said patrols of Chinese marine surveillance ships and fisheries vessels were part of these "countermeasures."

The Chinese government appears to be trying to muster together what it believes is de facto evidence of its sovereignty over the islets by taking advantage of a legal process stipulated in the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. At a United Nations General Assembly session in September 2012 the Chinese claimed Japan “stole” the Senkaku-Diaoyu islands and said the Japanese effort to buy the islands from a private owner “money laundering.”

Beijing Protesters Damage U.S. Ambassador's Car

A crowd mobbed a car carrying the US ambassador to China at the height of protests. AP reported: “A car carrying US ambassador Gary Locke was mildly damaged after becoming the target of boisterous anti-Japan demonstrators who were expressing outrage over a territorial dispute and marking the 81st anniversary of Japan's invasion of China. The State Department said in a statement that Ambassador Locke was unhurt in the incident, and that diplomats have expressed concerns to the Chinese Foreign Ministry. [Source: Didi Tang, Associated Press, September 19, 2012]

The statement said around 50 protesters surrounded Locke's car as he tried to enter the embassy and were eventually removed by Chinese security personnel.The incident comes amid heightened vigilance for American diplomats following violent attacks on US embassies in Libya, Yemen and Egypt. The statement said embassy officials have asked the Chinese government to do everything possible to protect American facilities and personnel. [Ibid]

People across China have engaged in days of furious protests over some East China Sea islands, claimed by Beijing and Tokyo, that Japan purchased last week from a private owner. The US, a close ally of Japan, has said it is staying out of the dispute, but it also been the target of Chinese anger. Thousands of protesters marched in front of the Japanese Embassy, with some burning Japanese flags and throwing apples, water bottles and eggs. The daylong demonstration periodically spilled over to the nearby US Embassy. [Ibid]

China Government's Hand Seen in Anti-Japan Protests

Ian Johnson and Thom Shanker wrote in the New York Times, “There was evidence that some Chinese government officials were involved in the protests. In the western city of Xian, activists on the Internet identified one of the officials as the police chief. Although local riots and protests are common in China, organized protests that are tolerated by the authorities are rare. The political analyst Li Weidong said the official tolerance fit a longstanding pattern of behavior in which the Chinese government uses mass protests to further its foreign policy goals. In a text message sent to friends and associates, Mr. Li compared the current protesters to the Boxers, a quasi-religious group that was used by the Qing dynasty to oppose foreign incursions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. “Beijing dares not to fight, but it’s unable to talk it over either,” Mr. Li wrote. “So it has to employ Boxers, using product boycott to press Japan.” [Source: Ian Johnson and Thom Shanker, New York Times, September 16, 2012]

Barbara Demick and Julie Makinen wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “The last week's anti-Japan demonstrations in China have been a spectacular display of just how easily the ruling Communist Party can harness the power of protest. In the aftermath of nationwide protests, in which mobs trashed Japanese-owned businesses and set fire to Japanese model cars, critics are questioning the degree to which the Chinese government fanned the flames as part of its dispute with Japan over an island chain both nations claim. "It is obvious that this was planned," said Ai Weiwei, the dissident artist, who videotaped some of the protests. The 1989 pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square were "the last time that the people themselves organized a real protest and then the government sent in tanks to crush them," he said. [Source: Barbara Demick and Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times, September 20, 2012]

Although there has been no evidence that police officers participated in the violence, in many cities they directed the public on where to protest and cleared streets to allow tens of thousands to mass. Many protesters interviewed said they had been given the day off by employers to demonstrate. Sept. 18 is a traditional day of protest, marking the anniversary of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. "I need to lead the crowd and guide them to march in an orderly fashion," wrote a police officer in Jiangxi province in a microblog posting that was later removed. [Ibid]

Han Deqiang, a prominent Maoist professor, wrote that he demonstrated in Beijing with 500 to 600 farmers who had come from Hebei province, which raised the possibility that buses had been organized for the demonstrations. ("The farmer brothers were holding Chairman Mao's portraits and they kept on chanting, 'Down with the Japanese Imperialists!'" he wrote.) "It is obviously there was a government hand in organizing this. How else could 500 farmers come from the provinces?" said Wen Yunchao, a prominent blogger from Guangzhou. [Ibid]

James Reilly, a scholar who has written a book about Chinese public opinion toward Japan, said negative and positive stories planted in the state media are used to tell the public how to behave. "The government is really good at sending signals about when it is OK to protest and when it is not," Reilly said. Anti-Japanese sentiment is no doubt genuine enough among Chinese, still angry about Japan's brutal occupation before and during World War II. But political analysts believe the public venting of anger, in a country where protest is illegal, was unleashed to send a message to Japan. In Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told reporters Thursday that the Japanese government will ask China to pay for damages to diplomatic missions caused by protesters, but it did not specify an amount. [Ibid]

Anti-Japan Protests Dissipate

In China people are free to take to the streets to protest against Japan but such protests can be quickly suppressed if they show signs of turning against the Communist Party. The protests over the Senkaku-Diaoyu dispute scaled down after the September 18 rallies. Barbara Demick and Julie Makinen wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “In Beijing, the subway station near the Japanese Embassy was closed Wednesday and buses were refused permission to stop on the main street nearby. Transportation was up and running again Thursday, but the area was deadly quiet, with police and paramilitary officers posted at every intersection. Security forces were so pervasive that even a hot dog vendor outside the subway stop wore a red armband showing he was a member of the volunteer patrol.The official New China News Agency removed a slide show it had posted of the top 10 "anti-Japanese film" and ran editorials urging restraint. "Irrational, violent anti-Japanese protests should be avoided," editorialized the Global Times, a newspaper closely tied to the Communist Party.[Source: Barbara Demick and Julie Makinen, Los Angeles Times, September 20, 2012]

Eventually Chinese officials appeared to have become unnerved by the extent of the violence, coming in the midst of an already chaotic political transition. Many protesters carried portraits of Mao Tse-tung and some chanted in support of Bo Xilai, the purged Communist Party chairman of Chongqing, whose wife was recently convicted of murder. Bo was considered a rival of Vice President Xi Jinping, who is to be named China's next leader at a coming Communist Party congress. "Diaoyu island belongs to China; Bo Xilai belongs to the people," read one banner protesters were carrying in Chengdu. [Ibid]

In Beijing, a small scuffle broke out between protesters when Han, the left-wing professor, slapped an older man who witnesses said had disparaged the Mao slogans. "There are a lot of political risks to the government in allowing these kinds of anti-Japan protests. Not only were there pro-democracy demands, you had extreme leftists out demonstrating and those people are even more dangerous to the current government," said Wen, the blogger. [Ibid]

With the Chinese government clamping down, Japanese businesses have started to reopen. At a popular Japanese restaurant in Beijing, which flew a Chinese flag outside to show it was not Japanese-owned, the head sushi chef said business was about one-third of normal. "I'm still nervous. I have friends calling telling me I'm a traitor to be working here," said the chef, Bruce Yan. Yan, a Chinese citizen who trained in Japan, said he politely disagreed with his friends. "I love my country too, but rationally."

After protesters in Beijing numbered in the thousands and nearly breached a metal retaining wall it seemed the Chinese government had decided enough was enough. Louise Watt of Associated Press wrote: “State media appealed for people to be "rational" on Sunday, in contrast to their more combative language last week. "The expression of patriotic feelings should not come at the cost of disrupting domestic social order," Xinhua wrote in a commentary. Censors also stepped up their policing of social media to prevent news of protests from spreading. Users of China's popular Twitter-like Sina Weibo site couldn't search for the term "anti-Japan protests" on Sunday and videos of protests once posted quickly disappeared. [Source: Louise Watt, Associated Press, September 17, 2012]

Finally, Yasushi Kouchi wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun, “The Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau instructed city residents to stop anti-Japanese protests via short text messages that stated the "protests have settled down." The text messages indicate the Chinese government, which had not imposed measures restricting protests...has changed its policy and decided to ban such protests in the capital for the moment. The messages were sent to Beijing residents' cell phones and stated: "Traffic in the embassy district has returned to normal. Do not go to that area for any more protests." Automobile regulations for the road in front of the Japanese Embassy in Beijing were also lifted. As of noon, no protests had been held in front of the embassy. Despite calls for demonstrations in other areas of the city no protests had been reported on the day. [Source: Yasushi Kouchi, Yomiuri Shimbun, September 19, 2012]

Meanwhile, “The number of Chinese surveillance ships sailing in and around the contiguous zone near the Senkaku Islands in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture, increased to 14 on Wednesday, sources said. A Japan Coast Guard patrol boat found that two new Chinese fishery surveillance ships entered the 22-kilometer strip beyond Japan's territorial waters. Twelve other ships--10 marine surveillance ships and two fishery surveillance ships--that had entered the zone Tuesday were also seen sailing in areas near the contiguous zone on Wednesday. The JCG has dispatched patrol boats to the zone. Exercising caution, the boats ran parallel to the Chinese ships. [Ibid]

Bad Feelings by Japanese Towards Chinese After the Island Dispute

A record 80.6 per cent people "do not feel close to China," according to a 2012 public opinion survey conducted by the Cabinet Office. The figure, which is up by 9.2 percentage points from the 2011 survey, is the highest since the Cabinet Office started taking opinion polls on diplomacy in 1975. A Foreign Ministry official said, "Confrontations between Japan and these countries over the Senkaku Islands, Okinawa Prefecture, and the Takeshima islands, Shimane Prefecture, led to the deterioration of public sentiment." [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 26, 2012]

The survey was conducted between Sept. 27 and Oct. 7 and covered 3,000 adults nationwide. Of them, 1,838 people, or 61.3 per cent, gave valid responses. Regarding Japan-China relations, a record 92.8 per cent of the respondents said they are "not good," up 16.5 percentage points. Public sentiment about relations with China likely was influenced by the anti-Japan demonstrations that erupted in the country after Japan nationalised some of the Senkaku Islands in September. Only 4.8 per cent of the respondents said Japan-China relations "are good," down 14 points. [Ibid]

Image Sources: 1) Visualizing Culture, MIT Education 2) 3) History Wiz 4) 5) 6) 7) University of Texas maps, 8) Getty Images

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

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