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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Managed Protests, Restricted Speech, Counting Silently, Japanese Records, and Self-Medicating

I have read a number of pieces regarding the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands dispute and the related anti-Japan protests in China. I do not plan to comment on all of them, but I would like to recommend a few (in addition to those I mentioned before) simply because I think they add intriguing details or perspectives worth considering.

1. One of the often-discussed issues surrounding the recent anti-Japan demonstrations is the degree to which they were supported or organized by the Chinese government. In her piece on NPR "China Ratchets Up The Rhetoric In Island Spat With Japan", Louisa Lim touches on this topic and shares an intriguing discussion she had at a protest last week:
Almost all the demonstrators say they came out spontaneously to protest. But an onlooker who gave his name as Mr. Luo lets slip that he'd like to march, but today isn't his day to do so.

"I haven't been organized to demonstrate," the man says. "I'm having the day off. The government controls and organizes the demonstrations. You can't just go if you like. At the very least, there's organization among the universities. There are half a million college students in Beijing. If they all came here at once, it'd be unimaginable."
I would not argue with that last statement. See (and hear) more of what Lim found here.

2. William Farris, a lawyer for an Internet company in Beijing, in a blogpost "What Protesters Could and Could Not Say During Demonstrations In Front of Japanese Embassy" shared an excerpt from Caixin Online which provides a bit of evidence supporting the idea that the protests were examples not of free speech, but of government-permitted speech. He also shared photos of a number of strongly-worded signs that were permitted at a protest in Beijing. He provides English translations for the signs so more people can understand their messages. See and ponder the signs here.

3. Previously, a reader commented:
As a Chinese, I'm sad to see all the violence that's been going on, even in a modern city like Shanghai. I know that most Chinese don't agree with this, but 60+ years of anti-Japan brainwashing propaganda is hard to simply ignore.
The topic of brainwashing also appeared in Qi Ge's article "China's Brainwashed Youth" on Foreign Policy:
Ever since the 1970s, I have known that the Chinese people are the freest and most democratic people in the world. Each year at my elementary school in Shanghai, the teachers mentioned this fact repeatedly in ethics and politics classes. Our textbooks, feigning innocence, asked us if freedom and democracy in capitalist countries could really be what they proclaimed it to be. Then there would be all kinds of strange logic and unsourced examples, but because I always counted silently to myself in those classes instead of paying attention, the government's project was basically wasted on me. By secondary school and college, my mind was unusually hard to brainwash.

Even so, during my college years, I still hated Japan.
See what else this Chinese writer in Shanghai had to say here.

4. Regardless of any protests, many are focused on applying research to better determine who has a stronger claim to the disputed islands. Nicholas Kristof in his blog on The New York Times shared an article by Han-Yi Shaw, a scholar from Taiwan. In "The Inconvenient Truth Behind the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands" Shaw shares some "new" evidence:
My research of over 40 official Meiji period documents unearthed from the Japanese National Archives, Diplomatic Records Office, and National Institute for Defense Studies Library clearly demonstrates that the Meiji government acknowledged Chinese ownership of the islands back in 1885.
See Shaw's review of the evidence here.

5. In his post "Seriously Hooked on Nationalism" Jeremiah Jenne shared his theory for why the island dispute has recently received so much attention in China:
Yes, I know thar’s oil and gas under them thar rocks, but the real concern is that the current storm of violent knucklehead patriotism no longer has anything to do with national interests and has become all about national pride and transition politics.

China’s leadership swap is in a few weeks and it’s fair to say that things have not gone according to plan. A little bumptious distraction like, say, everybody hating on Japan for a week or two might seem like the perfect remedy.

But basically it’s just the Party self-medicating.
See Jenne's argument for his claim here.

That is all for now. I am not sure how much more I will focus on this topic, but other topics are definitely on the way.

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