It is an important time for China. The sea of change is rising fast around the old guard of the communist party as they struggle to reform civil and legal rights, allow a representative voice for the world’s largest population, and continue to mobilize media control over a social web that is more like a tsunami sweeping the globe.
In the span of a few decades, what was a billion peasants toiling in the fields has become a contemporary culture of college educated, connected, cosmopolitan, iPhone-toting hipsters rapping to the latest trends and fashions. Of course, that is not the case for many people still struggling in the poor and middle classes — quite an alarming number actually — but the ruling elites have done an admirable job lifting hundreds of millions out of poverty.
The widening chasm between the rich and poor remains a serious problem, just as in the US. But like the US, the power of social media has given people a thunderous voice like never before.
. . . what’s worked for China for the past 30 years — a huge Communist Party-led mobilization of cheap labor, capital and resources — will not work much longer . . . Whatever top-down monopoly of the conversation the Communist Party had is evaporating. More and more, the Chinese people, from microbloggers to peasants to students, are demanding that their voices be heard . . . China is now a strange hybrid — an autocracy with 400 million bloggers, who are censored, feared and listened to all at the same time.www.realclearpolitics.com
Enter the Diaoyu Islands. At an important juncture in modern Chinese history — appointment of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China — what better time for Japan to strike a scalding knife into the deepest, most agonizing torment, rage and humiliation at the heart of the Chinese national psyche — memory of the Nanjing Massacre, or The Rape of Nanking?
“The Nanking Massacre or Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanking, was a mass murder and war rape that occurred during the six-week period following the Japanese capture of the city of Nanking (Nanjing), the former capital of the Republic of China, on December 13, 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War. During this period, hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and disarmed soldiers were murdered by soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army. Widespread rape and looting also occurred. Historians and witnesses have estimated that 250,000 to 300,000 people were killed.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_of_Nanking
Like it or not, Japan’s official “purchase” of the Diaoyu Islands cannot help but be conflated in the hearts and minds of the Chinese with the tragic history of aggression between the two countries.
Pictures of the discarded dead, the raped and murdered match those of Auswitch. Has the world forgotten the Nanjing Massacre? Has Japan forgotten the Rape of Nanking? Does the world remember the Nanking Massacre? Have we remembered lest we can even forget?
Are a few miniscule islets – called “Senkaku” by the Japanese and “Diaoyu” by the Chinese – grains of sand in the vast oceans, worth enraging an entire nation to bloodlust?
The centre cannot hold . . .
. . . protests over disputed islands spread across numerous cities and at times turned violent . . . another day of demonstrations against Japan, after protests over disputed islands spread across numerous cities and at times turned violent.
Thousands of protesters massed at the Japanese embassy in Beijing on Saturday, hurling rocks and bottles at the building and burning Japanese flags . . . During the Saturday rally in Beijing, one of the protesters held up a sign with the provocative slogan, “For the respect of the motherland, we must go to war with Japan,” Reuters reported
Beijing was infuriated . . . thousands of protesters gathered outside the Japanese embassy, carrying posters of Mao Zedong and Japanese flags scrawled with obscenities, throwing beer bottles and golf balls and singing the national anthem.
[Editor's note: interestingly, some even within China have questioned the spontaneous authenticity of the protests, casting a suspicious eye on the extent to which such events may have been orchestrated.]
. . . Microbloggers questioned whether Sunday’s demonstrations were spontaneous.
“Such large-scale uniform banners and dresses cannot be made in one day. Do you really believe it’s people-initiated?” wrote a Weibo user named Linglingqi, urging the banner-makers to reveal who covered their costs.
Another user named Afraxafra said: “I feel such a massive demonstration definitely cannot be organised by a small number of average people.”
Even if the government helped organize some of the fury, rest assured the pain and outrage expressed is very real, and dangerously miscalculated by the Japanese government. I’m sure there are many Japanese citizens who are shaking their heads in wonder at what their government is trying to accomplish, not to mention the Japanese people who are now likely targets of violence and recrimination within China.
The problem is thrown back to 1971, when the US signed the Okinawa Reversion Agreement, which stipulated the Diaoyu Islands as part of territories guarded by Japanese sovereignty. The Chinese are angry at the US for its neutral posturing on the issue now, when they are already implicated in the dispute as an interested and responsible party.
Is the US using Japan as a pawn for it’s political ambitions in Southeast Asia?
Behind the farce of “buying” the Diaoyu Islands, Japan has a much bigger plan. Since the United States announced its strategy of returning to Asia, Japan has been acting as “a pawn of the US” to encircle China.
By getting involved in the South China Sea dispute, playing up the “China maritime threat” and frequently holding large-scale joint military exercises with US forces, Japan, together with other US allies, is trying to contain China’s rise.
. . . Japan has to recognize China’s sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands and atone for its past aggressions and atrocities, and take measures to punish those Japanese who deny the country’s violent past, in the way that Germany has been doing for decades. Only if Japan does that will China and other Asian countries see it as a normal country. Otherwise, China should prepare for a long-term struggle.
The role the US ultimately plays in resolving this dispute will be crucial to the future course of strategic international relations between countries. The US must play a defining role despite it’s current attempts to remain neutral.
. . . the U.S. State Department has stated that “the US does not take a position on the question of the ultimate sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands.” But further complicating matters is the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan. According to Article 5 of the treaty, “Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes.”
According to an unnamed State Department official quoted by Japan’s Kyodo news agency in July, the islands “fall within the scope of Article 5,” meaning that if China took action to reassert its sovereignty over the islands, the U.S. would be obligated to intervene on Japan’s behalf. If it did not take action, that could presumably be seen as a tacit acknowledgement that the islands are not part of Japanese territory.
In other words, it’s going to get a lot more complicated. And whether we like it or not, Washington is involved.
If the US government insists on maintaining complete neutrality over this issue, that is “a tacit acknowledgement that the islands do not legally reside under Japanese jurisdiction”.
The Chinese government has shown remarkable restraint thus far in handling this emotionally volatile issue. Japan would be well-advised to fully appreciate the extent to which China still lives in the shadow of The Rape of Nanking. In the hearts of many Chinese, Japan has yet to show genuine contrition in a full historical confrontation with their crimes and misdeeds.
I would ask the Chinese people to show similar restraint towards Japanese and other foreigners living in China. They are not the proper target of your anger, and hurting them is criminal and merely cathartic.
Japan (and US), “Pull down thy vanity/ I say pull down.” E. P.