East Asian rivalry
Protesting too much
Anti-Japanese demonstrations run the risk of going off-script
Sep 22nd 2012 | BEIJING | from the print edition
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CHINESE authorities have plenty of experience stage-managing nationalistic displays and then suddenly shutting them down. But the latest dispute with Japan—and the ensuing protests in China—has raised tensions to their highest level in years. Japan’s agreement to buy some rocky islands, claimed by both countries, from their private Japanese owner prompted sometimes violent demonstrations in dozens of Chinese cities. On September 14th six unarmed Chinese patrol boats navigated briefly into Japanese-administered waters around the disputed rocks, which Japan calls the Senkaku islands and China calls the Diaoyus.
Into this melodrama stepped the American defence secretary, Leon Panetta. He stopped in both countries, urged both sides to get along better and affirmed America’s pledge of mutual defence with Japan—though an unnamed senior American military official stage-whispered to the Washington Post that America wouldn’t go to war “over a rock”.
China, however, has chosen to take the matter of the islands rather more seriously. Xinhua, an official news service, reported that Xi Jinping, China’s vice-president and heir apparent, in his meeting with Mr Panetta on September 19th, called Japan’s planned purchase of the islands a “farce”, urging that Japan “rein in its behaviour”. This kind of rhetoric has become worryingly familiar. China’s actions call to mind similar claims to islands in the South China Sea. (America is officially neutral on claims to all the disputed territory.)
If so, they got their desire. The protests across China climaxed on September 18th, the anniversary of the 1931 “Mukden Incident” that became a pretext for the Japanese invasion of China. Many Japanese factories and businesses shut for the day, and Japanese nationals were advised to keep a low profile. In Beijing hundreds of Chinese protesters hurled plastic bottles and officially approved abuse at the Japanese embassy. About 50 Chinese protesters inflicted minor damage on the car of America’s ambassador, Gary Locke.
Keeping the lid on
Then the protests were reined in. While some Chinese boats continued sailing near the islands, Chinese cities returned to normal on September 19th, as suddenly as they had in the largest previous round of anti-Japanese protests in 2005. But holding the Chinese public to a single script is proving more difficult than ever, especially now that citizens (and foreigners—see next page) can write an alternative storyline on Twitter-like microblogs. Some posted their feelings of embarrassment at the thuggish behaviour by some of their countrymen (Japanese cars were a popular target for destruction, and on September 15th a Toyota dealership and Panasonic plant in Qingdao, a port city once occupied by Japan, were reported damaged by fire). Others described efforts by authorities to co-ordinate the demonstrations. A journalist for Caixin, a financial magazine, reported a policeman’s invitation to her to join in a demonstration. When she asked if she could shout anti-corruption slogans as well, he told her to stick to the approved anti-Japanese ones.
Anger at Japan is real and enduring in China. Years of Chinese propaganda and patriotic education have deepened the wounds of Japanese wartime depredations. But Chinese citizens also have many other domestic complaints—corruption, pollution, land grabs by officials—that lead to scattered protests around the country every day. Hence, in the short run, stoking anti-Japanese anger can seem a tempting choice for the authorities. Wenfang Tang and Benjamin Darr, two American scholars, concluded in a paper published this month and based on surveys conducted in the past decade, that “nationalism serves as a powerful instrument in impeding public demand for democratic change”. The study also found that China had the highest level of nationalism of 36 countries and regions surveyed. America and Japan were not far behind.
Published on Sep 25, 2012. 中国の外務省は25日午後の会見で、台湾漁船の行動について一定
其 次，北京人民教育出版社與上海教育出版社發行的最新中學一年級用地理教科書，有著「釣魚島是我國領土台灣省的一部分」的記述，中學二年級的地理教科書則有 「台灣是祖國神聖不可分的領土，早期統一是人民共同願望」，小學四年級社會科的「品德與社會」教科書則記述：「台灣是中國的一省…包含釣魚島」。
曾 在外交部承辦釣魚台「業務」，也參與過台日漁業談判的前台灣駐日代表處副代表郭汀洲也認為，「中國的真正目的是在吞併台灣而不是釣魚台」，台灣必須將保釣 重點放在和日本的漁業談判，而不能跟在中國後面吶喊。中國早就把釣魚台納入「台灣省」的一部分，台灣如果從日本的手上拿回釣魚台，螳螂捕蟬，麻雀在後，最 後「揀去配」的還是中國。
郭汀洲說，一九七○年代在美國「保釣」的馬英九，現在變成「跑掉」，到彭佳嶼喊一喊徒增國際笑話。中國如此狠槓日 本，中國漁船還被允許在釣魚台十二海里到二十四海里之間海域活動，台灣漁船只能開到台日中間線（約八十五公里處），也就是說台灣漁船的待遇還不如中國漁 船，最大的理由是「台灣不是國家」。
郭汀洲強調，「馬英九不應只照顧中國，而置台灣漁民於不顧」，在釣魚台問題上必須和中國完全切割，不應 充當中國的「保鑣」，也不要和日本比拳頭，應該為台灣漁民的利益趕快和日本談判。很多日本人都承認，「台灣是日本在亞洲唯一的真正朋友」。在釣魚台衝突 中，日中兩大國槓上之際，台灣不跟著起鬨，靜候在旁等著撿好處，可能是較聰明的做法。