View Full Version : China's fury doesn't wash, but why the froth?

14-04-05, 17:12
China's fury doesn't wash, but why the froth?

By Marc Erikson

SHENZHEN - Here in Shenzhen from Hong Kong last Sunday with a couple of friends for some weekend shopping, I had the misfortune of bumping into a several-thousand strong anti-Japanese demonstration at a shopping center - a day trip wasted. Demonstrations had also been held the previous Sunday in this special-economic-zone city across the mainland border with Hong Kong.

At that time, some Japanese (and for good measure, other) department store display windows were smashed, some items looted. This has been going on for the better part of the past two weeks, not just in Shenzhen, but in Beijing, Changsha, Chengdu and other places. Guangzhou seems to have joined in this past Sunday. Shanghai to date has been largely unaffected.

The never-ending controversy over Japanese textbooks once again allegedly touched off the anti-Japanese protests; other issues apparently include Japan's effort to gain a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, the true ownership of the Diaoyutai/Senkaku islands, and claims to oil-and-gas rich undersea territory in the East China Sea.

What struck me was the well-organized nature of the demonstration. A guy in a dark brown suit (no tie, though) diligently burned a Japanese flag; once aflame, it was quickly doused by another protester prudently equipped with a fire extinguisher. Then there was the designated hitter/screamer - a fellow wielding a broom stick (which, unbeknownst to me, may have some marshal arts significance) who - carried aloft by two stout men - delivered vicious blows with both ends of the stick to the head and body of a puppet of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi carried by a guy wearing a protective motor cycle helmet. And then there were the "riot police", accompanying the protest march more like parade marshals at New York's St Patrick's Day parade up Fifth Avenue.

We thought we'd ask some of the protesters - more like revelers, actually - what this was all about. "Whitewash," said one of them (in English) and repeated the word several times over, presumably referring to the alleged whitewash of Japanese war crimes against China in present-day textbooks. "They [the Japanese] are too arrogant; we can't take it any longer," said another. How did they know about the "whitewash"? They were told about it in their work unit. Where did the Japanese flags come from that were ceremoniously burnt? A guy handed them out when they boarded the bus that took them to the demonstration.

I can't vouch for it that the Beijing demonstrations were as contrived and carefully staged. But people picking up rocks on cue as TV cameras focused on them and making quite a show of hurling them at the windows of the Japanese Embassy while "riot police" looked the other way strongly suggest it - and suggest the same organizers of the spontaneous anti-Japanese outpouring.

Sunday noon, Asia Times Online's Chinese-language sister publication (along with most or all Chinese media outlets) received an instruction from the Communist Party's central publicity department (via provincial propaganda units) to black out completely any and all reports of the protest rallies. Publications staff were, however, permitted to join the demonstrations if they saw fit.

The obvious question is, why was all this cooked up, for what purpose, and why now? There are no convincing answers, and it's in the nature of such contrivances that the originators won't talk. One thing, though, is quite certain: the Chinese claim (at vice foreign minister's level) that Japan is to blame for the unrest is absurd. Sure, Koizumi has insisted on visiting Yasukuni Shrine (war memorial were the remains of several convicted and executed Japanese war criminals are interred) every year. Sure, the textbooks are an issue. And, yes, the Japanese are not the most repentant of souls when it comes to their actions in World War II.

But after seeing what I saw in Shenzhen, I know that the Chinese government and/or Communist Party got this thing going and kept it going. Students might do this sort of thing on their own. They certainly did at Tiananmen in 1989. From the looks of it (the TV pictures), students were involved in the Beijing demonstrations. But in Shenzhen there are no students. It's a special economic zone chock full of contract workers from all over China, working in factories or - per chance - in brothels. And don't tell me this is an arrogant "elitist" view and that factory workers are as capable of being indignant about the historical wrongs done to the nation as university students!

The questions remain: why and why now?

To be systematic about it, there seem to be three possibilities: 1) the government wants to divert attention from pressing domestic problems; 2) Communist Party factional issues are fought out in a strange arena; 3) Beijing wants leverage to stoke up nationalist fervor for international gain. Neither 1) nor 2) can be entirely ruled out.

While the anti-Japan protests were going on in Beijing and other cities, villagers in Zhejiang province did battle with police (and won!), protesting operation of a chemical plant on land appropriated from them by local authorities. Similar such protests over land, taxes and so on have been erupting regularly over the past several years. Still, they do not appear to pose a serious or immediate threat to governmental authority. It has also been noted that Shanghai did not participate in the protests. But it would seem quite a stretch to construe an ongoing factional quarrel between former party chief and state president Jiang Zemin and his successor Hu Jintao out of that.

That leaves international leverage - and that certainly appeared to be the message when Premier Wen Jiabao told Tokyo on Tuesday that it must squarely face up to history. "The strong reactions from the Asian [sic] people should evoke deep reflections by the Japanese government," Wen said, adding, "Only by doing so [facing up to history] can it exert greater responsibility in the international community."

Japan is lobbying to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Wen is telling Japan, shape up if you want "Asia's" support. Note, he didn't say China's. Beijing is challenging Japan for economic leadership in Asia. And Beijing wants to be the acknowledged leading and unchallenged regional power. That appears to be the message. As for the vehicle for conveying it, the issue of distortion of history doesn't seem the best choice. The distortions that litter Chinese history from 1949 till now are too many to count.

(Copyright 2005 Asia Times Online Ltd.

I argue
14-04-05, 20:47
The Chinese are allowed to demonstrate violently against present Japanese who had no contribution to the invation happenned 60 years ago.

Why Uyghurs are not allowed to demonstrate against Chinese invaders inhumanity towards Uyghurs? Uyghurs' peaceful demonstration even aimed to preserving the Uyghur Culture brutally suppressed.

The communist government has been destorting Uyghur history, writing false text books, teaching false idea, taking over Uyhgur properties, killing innocent Uyhgurs, destroying Uyghur environments.

It has been doing nothing to improve the health of Uyghurs. The general living standard of most Uyghurs has been decreasing sharply.

Hundred thousands innocent Uyhgurs are in prison, millions have been killed directly and indirectly in the last 50 years. Why there is no Chinese who is able to speak up against its government to support the justice?

It has been impossible China to be economically so powerful today without the help of Japanese. China say thanks to Japan.

If Japan listens to Chinese in how to educate their children, the Chinese should listen to the world in giving Uyghur a little bit of human freedom.