Anti-Japan fever

There’s a superb first-hand account of what’s going on outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing.

In the middle of the street there was a partition with police directing people to parade around it in long circles. People had huge Chinese flags and banners saying things like “Fuck little Japan.” What I was most surprised by were the number of Chairman Mao posters floating around. I asked a few people about this and the consensus was “Mao would never let Japan get away with this.”

As the crowds paraded around, they sang patriotic songs, chanted “Little Japan, fuck your mother,” “Chairman Mao 10,000 years,” “China 10,000 years” and most significantly “Communist Party 10,000 years.” (“10,000 years” basically means “Long live…”)

This mass outpouring obviously had official sanction. The police’s presence was to direct the protests rather than try to hamper them in any way.

This so reminds me of the simmering hatred of Japan that surged to the top back in 2005 with all the controversy over the Yasukuni shrine. There, too, the police facilitated the protestors, some officers handing them eggs to throw. They take a more active role in curtailing the demostrations after protestors become too violent, hurling rocks at the embassy. We always knew the Diaoyu islands were a tinder box; now it’s exploded.

For the single best wrap-up of what’s going on in Beijing you have to see this piece by NPR’s Louisa Lim (follow her links). In Shanghai reporters were allowing protestors to approach the Japanese consulate in groups of 10, and the protestors had to register with the police (!), she reported. Signs and rhetoric showed that right under the surface of the new outrage is all the old feelings about the Nanjing massacre and the old chestnut, Japan’s refusal to apologize for WWII war crimes against China.

Make no mistake: this is government-sanctioned and facilitated. Per Louisa Lim:

Close to the demonstration in Beijing on Saturday, cartons of “free rage eggs” were being given out for protesters to throw at the embassy. On the ground beside them lay a Japanese flag, bespattered by broken eggs. Such anger, once unleashed, could prove difficult to contain.

How’s that for an understatement? I think it’s already difficult to contain, to say the least. It will end when the government thinks there’s been enough and then starts to crack down, just like in 2005. Protesting against perceived injustices is something I encourage. Allowing emotions to take over and becoming enveloped in pure white-hot rage is dangerous. In this zombie-like state people can be manipulated to do the government’s dirty work. It does not reflect well on China when Japanese businesses and citizens are attacked. It does not reflect well on China to be seen as hysterics with no iota of self control. And I know all the bad things Japan did in the past. That’s irrelevant. This is supposed to be about the Diaoyu islands, not unbridled hatred of Japan from 70 years ago.The islands almost seem like an excuse.

Update: Excellent photos of damage to Japanese businesses in Beijing here.


Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 89 Comments

Please. Don’t.

September 18, 2012 @ 1:17 am | Comment

@Richard: War, and especially nuclear war, is a worst case scenario. On the other hand, when enough people get enraged, it’s pretty easy for politicians to lose control of the situation. The usual thinking is “If I back down now, I’ll be massacred by my political enemies, but if I escalate, the foreign leadership will back down.” When both leaders think this way, bad things can happen.

September 18, 2012 @ 1:17 am | Comment

Please. Don’t.

Be tolerant. This is the only place where BTC can share his innermost thoughts.

September 18, 2012 @ 1:25 am | Comment

To xilin,
absolutely, the CCP is encouraging the protests in the sense that they aren’t or weren’t doing much to stop it, and their inaction emboldens protesters. I would say they are responsible for the property damage that has resulted from their inaction. However, i wouldn’t say they’re responsible for the protest itself, in the sense that they didn’t tell people to start protesting.

Yes, state media and education play a role. But to me that’s stretching it insofar as proximate cause is concerned.


The islands themselves are worthless. The whole point is natural resources. Maybe someday soon, the parties will grow up and simply negotiate a shared development plan and a sharing of the revenue/resources. I wonder what the chances are of that happening.

September 18, 2012 @ 1:42 am | Comment

@SKC- Unfortunately even those kinds of agreements can be abrogated unilaterally if a signatory feels it’s worth their while. The Argentines pulled out of a similar agreement over the seas around the Falklands back in 2007.

September 18, 2012 @ 5:04 am | Comment

Yeah, sometimes you can’t save people from themselves. Take a good thing you got going, throw it out the window in hopes of getting a better thing, then faceplant.

September 18, 2012 @ 6:16 am | Comment

Does anybody else see parallels with the May Fourth Movement?

They’re calling for a more assertive foreign policy, if the government don’t supply this, what then?

The government could stop these protests. They have the biggest army in the world. Why do countries have big standing armies?

September 18, 2012 @ 6:31 am | Comment

Richard, I think this is a part of the strategic readjustment occurring due the USA’s newly accessible natural gas reserves. Putting my mining hat on the US will probably be energy independent in 20 years, the first time since 1900.

The US doesn’t have to worry about the middle east so it goes to hell in a hand basket. The US only has to worry about goods going from China/ Japan to the US. The Chinese and Japanese really have to worry about oil being shipped via Singapore, hence the sudden interest in these islands and others. This shift in oil dependency has happened very very fast only really the last 5 years.

When I look now I feel like we are 1848 not 2012. From everyone being worried about keeping the French down to all of a sudden everyone for themselves. Now the World War 1&2 + Cold war are over everyone doesn’t have to keep the Japanese/Germans/Russians down it’s everyone for themselves.

I understand that (Richard correct me if I am wrong) there is a lot of focus on nationalism in China, not unlike every western country post about 1848. It has been an effective method of controlling people in the past. The real danger for us and China is that it can then be used as a reason for national aggression like Germany from about 1890. Like Germany, China can become politically isolated easily. Working in asia for a long time there is alot of residual resentment of the Japanese but also alot of resentment of China in Indonesia, malayasia etc etc.

These things can turn quickly, China really needs to develop to cope with their ageing population. I hope none of this affects trade in the region as we will suffer but mostly China will suffer.

September 18, 2012 @ 8:22 am | Comment

Can someone explain to me why, of all the sworn enemies of the CCP (eg, FLG movement, overseas democracy movement), as long as it’s a ethnically Chinese group, no one dares to say ‘CCP is wrong to fight for Diaoyu island’s sovereignty”

I have yet to find any Chinese community, on Taiwan, or HK, or overseas that blamed the CCP for being ‘too hardline’ on this issue. Their position can only be: CCP is actually weak on Diaoyu island, and is only acting tough for political purposes. If CCP is gone, we can get Diaoyu island back.

Clearly, this ‘nationalism’ is not a product of CCP propaganda, as no one dares to challenge the fundamental assumption of that nationalism (they may challenge individual acts of violence, they may challenge how CCP is only manipulating it for political purposes, but no one dares to challenge the fundamental assumption that the issue of Diaoyu Island needs to be fought, and not yield to Japan).


September 18, 2012 @ 8:35 am | Comment

[…] once unleashed and corralled by the Party. First, from Peking Duck, where Richard calls the dispute a tinder box: This so reminds me of the simmering hatred of Japan that surged to the top back in 2005 with all […]

September 18, 2012 @ 8:47 am | Pingback

Rollingwave, China was never to occupy Okinawa, but rather the Japanese island of Shikoku.

The originally envisaged post-war Japan would have been a partition of Japan into allied occupational zones similar to what actually happened to Germany. China would be responsible for Shikoku, Great Britain for Kyushu and southern Honshu, the United States for central Honshu, and the Soviet Union for northern Honshu and Hokkaido.

This original arrangement was to follow the planned ground invasion of the Japanese home islands during Operation Olympic and Coronet.

The atomic bomb made this unnecessary and the U.S. ending up with the whole hog.

Ceterum autem censeo Japonica delendam esse

September 18, 2012 @ 10:14 am | Comment

To Red Star,
LOL. ‘other people have riots, China has riots, so the CCP has done nothing wrong and is beyond reproach’. Does that about sum up your contribution here? Seriously, dude, apart from the tu quoque (again), you need to acquire some logic.

It’s not that there is an anti-Japan riot. It’s that China has the capacity to quash it, but lacks the will and motivation to do so. In the other places, the police actually tried to put down the riots. That, my dear Watson, would be the difference.

September 18, 2012 @ 11:47 am | Comment

HX….ummmm… these riots you mentioned were state sponsored? The English riots a Con-Dem plot in response to Argentine demands to colonise the Falklands?
As it is, did remind me of something…
““In fact, China has riots more serious than England’s every week,” said one Weibo comment”

September 18, 2012 @ 2:04 pm | Comment

HX….ummmm… these riots you mentioned were state sponsored? The English riots a Con-Dem plot in response to Argentine demands to colonise the Falklands?
As it is, did remind me of something…
““In fact, China has riots more serious than England’s every week,” said one Weibo comment”

September 18, 2012 @ 2:04 pm | Comment

The Clock,

‘Clearly, this ‘nationalism’ is not a product of CCP propaganda’

You state this because there is not significant condemnation of the protests in Chinese communities around the world. One question:

If the Chinese government are not at least partly to blame, could you tell me why people are not burning cars and smashing up shops in Taiwan or any other Chinese community around the world?

September 18, 2012 @ 2:10 pm | Comment

@SKC – And, last year, as soon as there were 16,000 police on the streets of London, the riots ended. The Chinese authorities have the strength to do this in every city in the country – but haven’t.

@The Clock – Except that there have been no riots or major demonstrations in Taiwan or Hong Kong. What activism there has been in HK does not match that directed against MNE.

September 18, 2012 @ 2:12 pm | Comment

I made this comment a couple of weeks ago:

‘Chinese vitriol towards Japan and, at times, the West, is a fact. What’s worrying is if China does grow to be more dominant politically and militarily on the world stage some Chinese people might call for a bit of ‘pay back’.’

That was after I had read a comment on Hidden Harmonies about the ‘impending sword of justice’ and how there might be ‘hell to pay’ in the future for Japan and the West.

Now there are thousands of people marching in China, some of them chanting ‘宣戰’ (declare war). Should Japan and the West be afraid?

September 18, 2012 @ 2:17 pm | Comment

Watch this one minute video on youtube:

Raw Video: Anti-Japan Riots in China

0:05 to 0:12 is a microcosm for what could happen in China with these protests.

Just hear them roar. Awe inspiring.

September 18, 2012 @ 3:38 pm | Comment

“Now there are thousands of people marching in China, some of them chanting ‘宣戰’ (declare war). Should Japan and the West be afraid?”

Put simply: no, because wars are not declared in this fashion or simply because of the activities of a reltive minority of crazed nationalists. Wars are only fought when one side believes it has a chance of winning, there is something to fight for, and there is a battlefield on which meaningful victories can be scored. In the case of Japan and China, neither side could have a reasonable expectation of easy victory, the islands themselves are worthless, and any victory would have only the temporary effect of excluding the other side from the air and sea around the islands without preventing an eventual re-match or war of attrition in which the side trying to exploit the area would have everything to lose.

September 18, 2012 @ 5:00 pm | Comment

people aren’t blaming Beijing for the hardline since you know… techincally speaking the PRC hasn’t done shite about his officially except the usual condemnation (which Taiwan also did), the sending of para-military ship is something even Taiwan has done and what pretty much all contestent up and down east / SE asia is doing in all their island disputes.

Now, how much were Beijing responsible for the riots? that’s a tough question to answer, Beijing certainly had a hand in the protest, but it is foolish to assume the manipulate all the protest like a puppet to the note. instead, protest starts when you will, but won’t when you please.

Now, if the result in the last few days was massive crack down that involved many Chinese civilians getting hurt or even killed and made most of China’s city look like a warzone. would China or Beijing look any better? I highly doubt it.

It’s sort of lose lose situation for Beijing at this point. they can’t actually go to war, but if they don’t do anythign soon they’re going to take as much damage as those Japanese busniess did.

So who wins in all this? only Ishihara Shintaro and his son, who looks increasingly like he’s gonna be the PM of Japan soon enough.

September 18, 2012 @ 5:41 pm | Comment


You take a very rational approach to this. Unfortunatlely, the history books are littered with many irrantional people who do dumb stuff. I agree with your point on how wars are started generally, but there are many exceptions.

I’m not saying that there will be any kind of conflict any time soon. All I said was that maybe as a result of history and its application by the Chinese media and education, there might be more and more people calling for ‘payback’ in the future.

Now, a flotilla of hundreds/1000/2000 (depending on news agencies) Chinese fishing boats is heading for the islands with the Chinese authorities vowing to protect them.

Whatever happened to China’s peaceful rise?

September 18, 2012 @ 9:57 pm | Comment

To be fair, the Chinese government is certainly playing wag the dog here (by omission rather than by commission though), but so is the right-wing mayor of Tokyo.

I also don’t think it’s nearly as bad as the Muslim riots. Wake me when a Japanese diplomat is assassinated, or when the Japanese embassy walls in Beijing are breached and torched, then we’ll talk comparison.

September 19, 2012 @ 12:00 am | Comment

certainly, but Libya was a destablized country to begin with, the Libyan government’s clout over their population miniscule, and most people had already expected something like this from the Muslim extremist anyway.

September 19, 2012 @ 1:32 am | Comment

The Mao pictures I see being held aloft are interesting. WaPo article seems to suggest that this may be symptomatic of some internal conflict within the CCP.
Events are interesting – Bo is “disappeared” after his populism. Trials of the main players in his downfall are held in secret and are scripted (it seems) anyway so we’ll never really know what happened. After the wife and during Wang’s trial, Xi disappears with not a word being said. No one knows anything – rumours abound but not an official peep until Xi turns up again…as if nothing happened. There’s been no mention of the changeover jamboree and lots of news about some rocks in the sea that have hithertoo not been that newsworthy (certainly no Chinese person has stepped forward to buy the islands, unlike those who bid on Chinese antiquities “looted” during the Qing era). And now the organised riots (oh, were that the English riots were so choreographed too – ours were such a chaotic mess in comparison!) in Mainland China have pictures of dear dead Mao the Butcher held aloft.
I have my popcorn ready…

September 19, 2012 @ 6:03 am | Comment

@The Clock – Except that there have been no riots or major demonstrations in Taiwan or Hong Kong. What activism there has been in HK does not match that directed against MNE.

That’s because Taiwan and Hongkong have 1/100 the size and population of China.

And in HK, there’ve been numerous attempts to land on the island by protestors (the same protestors who protested against textbooks from Mainland), leading up to this event.

But I’m talking more about the fundamental position of the gov’ and the people – so far, i have no seen any gov’t or people across the strait that havent’ condemned the Japanese actions, even FLG, the most anti-CCP faction, has not said anything ‘CCP should be less hardlin on Japan, and Japan deserves this island more.’.

In other words, when ‘enemies’ of the CCP tries to attack the CCP over this issue, they realize they cannot afford to take the pro-Japan angle, even though they critize the CCP of fanning nationalism flame, on this issue, they cannot afford to not assume the fundamental nationalist position.

In other words, their argument is ‘CCP, despite APPEARING to be nationalistic and fighting for sovereignty, doesnt REALLY care abou it, to them, it’s just another political tool. We REALLY care about it, and will TRULY fight for you over sovereignty rather than just put up a show.’

So you see, in a way, the enemies of the CCP is taking on a even more hardline and nationalist position.

September 19, 2012 @ 8:23 am | Comment

Some foreigners were queried about their nationality, with Americans lectured for their country’s military alliance with Japan. Foreign men were asked if they had Chinese girlfriends.

Ant people with no job prospects, hence no wife and no nookie.

September 19, 2012 @ 8:44 am | Comment

Interesting article….

Reading the Epoch Times, I can’t see too much anti-Japanese sentiment. Did read this though

Taipei Times also not full of rioting and Japanophobia….

September 19, 2012 @ 9:51 am | Comment

@The Clock,

Do you assume that because people are not critical of the protests, they support them?

A number of celebrities from Taiwan have cancelled Japanese events recently. Is this because they support the protests? Have they come out and said this? No. Maybe they just don’t want to damage their image on the mainland?

There have been protests in Taiwan. But they haven’t involved the violence and wanton destruction seen on the mainland. Why?

Over the years there have been many attempts by people from Taiwan to sail to the islands, but they are always scuppered by the authorities who pressure the fisherman not to take them. The government thinks that if these people get to the islands it will only result in a no-win diplomatic mess.

September 19, 2012 @ 2:55 pm | Comment


Oh, and don’t forget how the ROC government and many people in Taiwan claim that the islands actually belong to them, and not the CCP government.

September 19, 2012 @ 3:01 pm | Comment

Whats with the total vow of sheepish silence over at HH??

September 20, 2012 @ 6:17 am | Comment

@KT – Awaiting instructions? Who cares?

September 20, 2012 @ 6:29 am | Comment

@FOARP. A bit of a smarty pants response ….said kindly.

Myself: I always enjoy reading a bit of tenuous logic and name checking the Greek chorus.

September 20, 2012 @ 6:40 am | Comment

Comments in the Torygraph are getting funny now 😉
From our Allen Snyder (sic)
1 hour ago

There is something China can do.

(1) Set up a study group weighing up options, and constantly review them.

(2) Set up a special dedicated task force to deal with the Diaoyu Dao island problems and associated issues.

(3) Thoroughly study and analyse point by point about Japanese true strength.

(4) Identify also many Japanese weaknesses.

(5) Japan is a lofty country but lacks resources for instance.

(6) Always take action to strike where it really hurts.

(7) Develop more cordial relations with both NK and SK who has dispute with Japan.

(8) Liaise more with Taiwan with closer and coordinated joint operation.

(9) Coordinate more with Russia who have dispute over some islands with Japan.

(10) Stretch out more and further towards South East Asia.

(11) Develop stronger navy and build a lot more aircraft carriers as a matter of urgency.

(12) Consider selling the debts in right amount and at the best time.

The list can go on but that give some idea what the option could be. ”

In here

September 20, 2012 @ 6:49 am | Comment

Develop more cordial relations with both NK and SK who has dispute with Japan.

Nice one. Once China’s leaders can settle their business disputes with North Korea, I’m sure they and Pyongyang will be doing fine.

September 20, 2012 @ 8:31 am | Comment

@KT – I kid. HH is also an occasional guilty pleasure of mine. Both for the ridiculous things it says, and the ridiculous things it does not say.

September 20, 2012 @ 1:25 pm | Comment

Keep encouraging Japan to take over the Senkakus, or Diaoyu. Wait till the conflict goes nuclear, then we shall see who is on the right side of history. Keep in mind, China has more cards to play (North Korea, Al Qaeda, nuclear proliferation, etc. etc) than meets the eye, any attempt to create an all-out war or cold war will exacerbated and endanger American interests. Of course, you can say well, the Chinese are already not playing by the rules, yada yada yada, but do you think the present lull and calm and restraint by North Korea, or even the state of international affairs is a coincidence? North Korea could have had a fully functional missile system to carry NUKES to Japan by now, but it does not. Why not? Because China had exercised restraint on North Korea. You may find that is funny, but wait till a full-blown war over the Senkakus/Diaoyu goes into full-gear. Let’s not even ponder about the Taliban or Iran. The full-scale acceleration of nuclear armament against the USA will come to play when a hot war breaks out. At that point, there is turning back, we are indeed entering the beginning stages of World War 3. Then, think back, and see what happened in 2012 when a few American liberals and neocons, decide that it is okay for Japan to unilaterally decide the fate of a few islands known to the Chinese as Diaoyus and Japanese as the Senkakus. As far as I can see, let Japan return the islands to its status before is annexation. The USA has a moral obligation to see that this is done.

October 30, 2012 @ 3:42 pm | Comment

Keep in mind, China has more cards to play

If Beijing wants al-Qaeda in Xinjiang, or North Koren nukes aimed at China (in retaliation for some recent business disputes, for example), let them go ahead.

Funny how people seem to think that only people outside China should be concerned about those issues.

Besides, the Senkakus are a legal issue. International courts, not terrorists or Pyongyang, are the place to decide the issue.

November 2, 2012 @ 5:22 am | Comment

China is tanking its reputation in Asia and beyond so quickly already that they may reach the point where there is not much left to lose by doing something nasty to Japan over this. Perhaps we can all hope that the Senkakus become to China what the Falklands were to the Argentine junta 25+ years ago.

November 2, 2012 @ 8:42 am | Comment

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