28 September 2012, 17:56

What is behind the anti-Japanese protests in China?

What is behind the anti-Japanese protests in China?

The new sign of the escalation of the dispute between China and Japan is the disappearance from the Chinese bookstores of the books by Japanese authors. Haruki Murakami's latest book "1Q84", which has become a bestseller in China is also gone. The bookstores apparently are afraid of he fate of the Japanese supermarkets and restaurants, which were destroyed by the participants of the mass protests.

The majority of the observers are not surprised by the anti-Japanese moods although it does not prevent the Japanese music and literature from being popular in China. The specific cause of the escalation of the anti-Japanese sentiment was the Japanese government's purchase from a private owner of what in China is known as the Diaoyutai Islands. Now that the first wave of emotions is over, some Chinese bloggers point out that from practical point of view there is no logic in the protesters' activity: the smash cars that belong to Chinese people in order to annoy the Japanese. Why do the Chinese owners of a fast food store who took loans to build their business and now lost everything have to pay for the actions of the Japanese government?

There is no foreign policy logic in the current events either. The vandalism of some protesters did not only fail to strengthen China’s diplomatic position in its dispute with Japan, which was what the Chinese authorities counted on, but to the contrary seriously damaged the country’s image. It looks like the Chinese authorities either condone violence, or cannot control the situation.

It is clear that the escalation of the tensions caused by the anti-Japanese protests will not help in resolving the dispute. Because in response to the appeals of some nationalistic Chinese to “throw the Japanese dogs out of China”, in Japan there is a rise of the far right forces. They also hold loud protests. Recently, unknown individuals sent to the Chinese embassy in Tokyo an envelope with a rifle bullet in it. Unfortunately in either country nobody openly stated that territorial disputes could not be resolved in the street. Any hysterical appeals to “kill”, “throw out”, “use nuclear weapons”, “and erase Tokyo from the surface of the Earth” only drive the situation into the dead-end. Nevertheless, there was some logic in the anti-Japanese protests in China. An expert and the deputy director of the Institute of Asian and African Countries at the Moscow State University, Andrey Karneev believes that the demonstrations did not as much reflect the patriotic feelings of the Chinese population, but were a sign of mistrust towards the government and the growing tensions in the society.

«Only one thing is clear now – China is going through a difficult period this year. A series of political scandals affected the attitude towards the leadership, also among the young. Many believe that the government is not capable of anything, including its inability to firmly stand up to the Japanese. We are witnessing a dangerous tendency of weakening of the government’s authority while complex processes are taking place in the government itself. Paradoxically, but in the time of the growing economy in China a certain dissatisfaction is growing as well, along with a strange feeling that the past decade was a lost decade, that not everything in the country is going the right way and social inequality is rising. These emotions are not clearly understood yet, but they came to the surface in the protests related to the Diaoyutai Islands' situation».

Perhaps it would not be difficult to prohibit the extremist slogans, to punish the most violent protesters and delete the appeals to violence in the Internet. It would be much more difficult to remove the causes of the social dissatisfaction which were the deep cause of the mass protests. It is a complicated task for the Chinese authorities to see behind the rise of the patriotic sentiment a diversity of faces and destinies instead of just a desire to protect the sovereignty of the country.

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