CCP: Enough with the anti-Japan protests!

As China’s image continues to be blemished by reports in the foreign media of sometimes-violent riots against the Japanese, facilitated by government officials, the CCP has decided it’s time to call it quits for now.

China’s foreign minister called Tuesday for an end to anti-Japanese protests, the first signal that the leadership may no longer welcome the sometimes violent demonstrations that have underpinned a new and more confrontational approach to Japan.

The minister, Li Zhaoxing, told a meeting of the Communist Party’s propaganda department attended by 3,500 people that government, military and party officials, as well as “the masses,” should stay off the streets, state media reported.

“Cadres and the masses must believe in the party and the government’s ability to properly handle all issues linked to Sino-Japanese relations,” Mr. Li was quoted as saying. “Calmly, rationally and legally express your own views. Do not attend marches that have not been approved. Do not do anything that might upset social stability.”

But his appeal to rein in the protests most likely reflects the views of top leaders, who may have concluded that little is to be gained from further protests and that social stability is at some risk if they continue unchecked…..

The big test of the order will come next week. Urban residents have been sending text and e-mail messages to one another calling for major marches on May 1, China’s traditional Labor Day, and on May 4.

I think this is a smart move. No, I don’t think the people should be prevented from demonstrating. But it signals that the government has wised up to just how damaging this episode has been to China in terms of trade and reputation. If it means they’ll no longer be giving the demonstrators rides to rallies and supplying them with eggs and rocks to throw, it’s a good thing.

It will be extremely interesting to see what happens the first week in May. My hope is that today’s announcement will take some air out of the balloon so China can focus more on things that really matter.

The Discussion: 19 Comments

I’m also very interested to see what the first week of May holds in store for the People’s Republic of China.

I noted the quote “should stay off the streets” from FM Li. That was kind of a passive statement from my point of view. He didn’t demand that people stay off the streets.

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

April 20, 2005 @ 12:23 am | Comment

This is going to be a very interesting situation. No Chinese official will want to be seen suppressing an anti-Japan protest on May 4th, anniversary of the protests in 1919 that eventually brought down the warlord government and spawned both the CCP and the KMT.

April 20, 2005 @ 12:41 am | Comment

If the students do what they once did, then they’ll go to the house of any minister they consider to be pro-Japanese, and beat the crap out of him. Who says these kind of popular protests against Japan can’t influence China’s foreign policy? The government is going to find itself in a position where it can’t compromise with Japan, even if it wants to. Ghosts of Li Hongzhang …

April 20, 2005 @ 3:55 am | Comment

I just got back from three weeks in the famed Middle Kingdom, and I’m busy catching up on all my favourite blogs. Peking Duck is obviously one of my first stops.

Anyways, I was in Shanghai during the protests and arrived in Hangzhou a few hours after they finished there. I had dinner with some old students of mine that night and got some local opinion on the whole thing.

Rather than being vehemently anti-Japanese, they were rather more like excited, giddy school children in regards to the day’s events (keep in mind, these are post-grads). Their attitude made me feel like the whole thing was being treated as some sort of carnival-like “be-in” where a good chunk of people showed up just to be a part of something.

The one part that did worry me was how flippantly anti-Japanese they were in casual conversation, as if they felt expected to toe that line rather than consider their actual feelings on the subject. That’s the sense I got.

April 20, 2005 @ 5:26 am | Comment

This is hardly news, though, it was being made clear before last weekend’s protests that things would only be tolerated so long. What happened in Tiananmen Square last weekend? Exactly. Why? It was all planned, but the government sure as hell was not going to let things go that far. Forgive my Beijing arrogance, but what happened in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Tianjin and maybe a few other places was small potatoes. Here, on the other hand, the order to stop was given last week and has already been enforced.

Still, it will be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of weeks. I predict that certain leaders of the anti-Japanese movement will be arrested or otherwise detained pre-emptively, again, should they be in Beijing in time for any of the planned protests. So the government allowed people to vent a bit of their pent up frustrations and now they’ve said ‘Enough’.

Sorry to be an arsehole and minimise things like that, but that’s the extreme version of how I view the situation.

April 20, 2005 @ 6:00 am | Comment

Great article in the Guardian about how Japan and Britain will serve as the US’s two island bases on either side of the world- the twin pillars. Pretty scary when you think of other such pillars in the past…
Read the article and then ask if Chinese farts in Japan’s general direction are worth it:,15205,1463075,00.html

April 20, 2005 @ 8:06 am | Comment

“My hope is that today’s announcement will take some air out of the balloon so China can focus more on things that really matter.”

I totally agree with you. There are lots of problems left to do. Protests in April are enough. I hope no more in May.

April 20, 2005 @ 8:06 am | Comment

The irony is, in Japan, people scarcely seem to care about the protests that have been happening. That has been my experience living here in Japan — as usual, apathy rules the day, and nothing (no matter how big) is going to distract Japanese people from their daily life of shopping, going to Disneyland, and eating in gourmet restaurants.

April 20, 2005 @ 8:18 am | Comment

I don’t think “people scarcely care” is a fair characterization. It’s been front page news here for quite a while, and bookings for tourist travel to China (Japanese link) are down 20-30% for the upcoming holiday week starting 4/29.

Interviews with Japanese business leaders who have economic expansion plans in China (sorry, no link) typically indicate that they realize China is a complex society and they aren’t about to change their overall plans over a largely contrived issue. But in this case, I wouldn’t equate not panicking with not caring because it’s clear they’re watching the underlying currents carefully.

April 20, 2005 @ 9:02 am | Comment

Sorry, wrong link in previous comment. Correct link.

April 20, 2005 @ 9:06 am | Comment

I doubt there will be major marches. I think the only reason that they allowed the protests in Shanghai last week was to give Shanghai it’s “turn”.

I should point out that reading the Chinese media on this issue has been amusing. They are spending a huge amount of time talking about China-Japan relations, but they don’t mention *why* they are talking about China-Japan relations. Also, it’s odd but the Chinese media portray China-Japanese relations in a completely different light than the Western media. Reading the Chinese media you don’t get the impression that these are quite as bad as you do reading the Western media. All of the Western stories are talking about where China and Japan disagree, whereas the Chinese media are talking about the large areas where they agree.

I should point out that there is this mistaken point of view that because the Western news media is relatively free from government control and that the Chinese media is heavily censored by the government that the information in Western media is necessarily always “better” which isn’t the case. One thing that happens is that because most Western media is intended to sell newspapers, it tends to focus on the dramatic. Also, the fact that the Chinese media often is the mouthpiece of the government is useful. After all, finding out what the Chinese government wants you to think is a good sign of what is going on in Beijing, and it was pretty clear from the Chinese media coverage that Beijing did not want to increase public anti-Japanese sentiment. (It also helps to be able to read both Chinese and English because often the People’s Daily Chinese and English editions differ from each other in significant ways.)

One thing to mention is that the reporters at the People’s Daily and Xinhua tend to be very sharp people. One of their responsibilities is to write “neibu” articles and reports which are intended for internal circulation in the Communist Party. I’m sure that the both the People’s Daily and Xinhua wrote some very good articles and analysis on the weekend demonstrations. They just circulated it internally with the Party and did not publish it on their websites.

The best thing to do is to read things from a variety of sources and take nothing at face value.

April 20, 2005 @ 11:14 am | Comment

One other thing about news media in China. I’ve found that while in China, that I’ve gotten a pretty good view of what is going on nationally and internationally. There is enough national and international news coming in from the outside that its impossible to surpress this sort of information.

I’ve also gotten the sense that I have a good idea of what is happening locally. The Chinese media is surprisingly candid when it comes to local affairs.

The thing that I don’t get a good sense for is provincial politics. Provincial politics is not covered by the international media, while at the same time its too high up for the local media. With national issues, the media knows that they are in competition with the international media and they can’t surpress or lie very much, but when it comes to provincial issues, I can’t figure out what is going on.

April 20, 2005 @ 11:19 am | Comment

Joseph, my guess is that provincial authorities are able to pressure papers and reporters where it hurts…it’s that whole paradigm where the national government is in general better respected than much of the local…

April 20, 2005 @ 4:02 pm | Comment

Patrick, I know just what you mean about the young Chinese going to the rallies alsmost as a social event that everyone partakes in. To a large extent, that’s what the Tiananmen Square demonstrations were like for the average attendee (not the core activists, of course). It was exciting, it was fun, it was the thing to do. I can understand that and respect that.

April 20, 2005 @ 4:07 pm | Comment

Dear Joseph Wang,

I have read everything you written on this website, and I have to say that I rank you as the most important contributor to the pages of Peking Duck – at least as far as discussions about China are concerned.

What you have been saying about China closely mirrors all that I have been saying – I refer to my earlier comments in the November and December archives.

Unlike you, unfortunately for me, I do not speak very much Mandarin. But I am lucky to have a Chinese financee, Gao Ying, who translates for me much of what is written in Chinese newspapers, and much of what is said on Chinese television news and current affairs programs. I think that you are absolutely correct when you say that the quality of reporting and analysis in the Western media is poor, often sensationalised, and not always more insightful than the Chinese media.

Your views are always balanced and sane, and are clearly derived, as you said, from a variety of sources.

My wish here isn’t to embarrass you with all of this praise, so please forgive me if I sound in any way patronising or condescending. I simply want you to know that I for one, greatly appreciate your comments, and that for me at least, you are a breathe of fresh air.

I look forward to reading your future contributions.

Best regards,
Mark Anthony Jones

April 20, 2005 @ 7:26 pm | Comment

I have been enjoying Joseph’s posts as well. Thanks!!

April 20, 2005 @ 7:32 pm | Comment

I don’t suppose that the Chinese masses were all reading Japanese textbooks and suddenly got collectively “outraged.” I haven’t been in China in a long time, not since 1980-81. Back then I was most struck by the time warp thing: people asking “How is honorable Harry James?” and stuff like that. No doubt much of that has changed. Still, I guess the last thing the leadership actually wants is people expressing their opinions in an uncontrolled way. I personally find the continuing hatred of the Japanese, along with the fixation on Taiwan, faintly ridiculous. Twenty years ago we were asked endlessly what we thought about Taiwan, and the people in my delegation (in our completely naive insensitive way) expressed no interest in the question at all (whatever we supposed the question was).

April 20, 2005 @ 7:37 pm | Comment

yeah, Joseph W. – I was hoping the link on your name was to a blog, but nooo! I’d love to read more of your thoughts at length…though you certainly do a tremendous job on these comments. Thanks from another grateful reader.

April 20, 2005 @ 8:16 pm | Comment


“I should point out that there is this mistaken point of view that because the Western news media is relatively free from government control and that the Chinese media is heavily censored by the government that the information in Western media is necessarily always “better” which isn’t the case.”

Seeing an argument from both sides is what all people should endeavour to do. However, any pretence that a state controlled media is more informative than a free press can only be the viewpoint of an individual who, subconsciously at least, is heavily influenced by the former.


January 1, 2006 @ 11:29 pm | Comment

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