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Anti-Japanese demonstrations in China

Over the past month or so there have been repeated anti-Japanese demonstrations and riots in China. That in itself is unusual as the Chinese authorities are not keen to allow demonstrations to become a habit, but are signs that this series of demonstrations have the support of the Chinese government.

One of the great things about the blogosphere is that if something noteworthy happens somewhere, there is bound to be a blogger to write about it. Andres Gentry is in Shanghai and popped on down to the Japanese Consulate to have a look – his report has photos and is well worth a read.

But what I found eye-opening was the attitudes of the locals.

Most of the protesters were young 20-somethings and though there were more males than females there were still a fair number of women involved. On not a few occasions it seemed the demonstration was an opportunity for a date as I watched couples walk past. A few parents brought their infant children.

We stayed at the main intersection near the Japanese Consulate General for about half an hour, enough time for one fellow standing next to us to tell us his opinions on Japan. He said he had done his BA work in Nanjing and was doing research at a nearby financial school. He made the obligatory reference to how much he hated Japan and the Japanese. The UN Security Council seat didn’t come up for him. I asked him what the goal of the protesters was and he gave me two: 1) to let Japan know how much Chinese hate Japan and 2) to show Beijing how much Chinese hate Japan. I wasn’t surprised at reason number 2. I asked him why he didn’t just choose a new government for China if he was dissatisfied with the current one and he emphatically said that would be a bad idea becaue the last time that China experienced that kind of freedom it had broken up into smaller states. He did not seem keen on the idea of democracy. I asked if he thought foreigners would start leaving China for other countries, especially India, in light of the protests and he seemed very confident that this wouldn’t happen. He explained he had done research on the Indian economy and that its efforts to modernize had so far failed. He also seemed quite keen to tell me that Indians are fundamentally lazy and that Chinese are fundamentally hard workers so foreign companies have little incentive to leave China.

This wasn’t a conversation, I was only asking questions since I had no intention whatsoever to tell people my own opinions. I confess I repeatedly pressed the student on his attitude towards democracy and the strangeness that he was allowed to protest Japan but not allowed to protest anything about China, much less choose his own leaders. He was adamant that freedom would not be good for China at this time. We spoke almost entirely in English, something which was his choice and one I thought was reasonable since if we spoke in Chinese and everyone around us knew what he was saying than perhaps he might get into trouble. I tried on a number of occasions to ask his girlfriend some questions but she refused to answer and was self-evidently uncomfortable with her boyfriend’s loqaciousness.

Anyway, read the whole thing, which includes a diversion to a local Hooter’s restuarant and links to other accounts.

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7 comments to Anti-Japanese demonstrations in China

  • and though there were more males than females

    The “one-child policy” in action.

  • PJ

    Does Japan have a Hooters?

    I hear that no two nations with a Hooters have ever gone to war with each other.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    When I was in China I was particularly struck with the vociferous hatred that the Chinese youth (especially) feel towards the Japanese. I asked one young military officer how he felt about the colonial period of the late 19th – early 20th century. He basically said that they’d been taught it was a necessary phase to knock China out of its insular malaise. I thought it was an interesting POV, given the context.

  • Stehpinkeln

    Isfma, you didn’t say if he was Japanese or Chinese. Not that it makes a difference.
    The Chinese are as inept militarly as the Arabs are. The Japanese have beat them like a drum over the last couple of centuries. No evidence of that trend changing. Have the Chinese beat any non-chinese in a war over the last few thousand years? China is the Chicago Cubs of the World, sort of. The biggest difference is ever now and then the Cubbies win one. The Chinese, however, remain unsullied by victory.

  • Jim


    You can’t count on the Chinese always to be so hopeless. They were quite a handful in the Korean War. Their internal wars have been fairly intense and have required a high level of skill and organization to win, like Europe’s internal wars. The Taiping Rebellion was very destructive, almost as lethal as Europe’s “World” wars. The period of civil war leading up to the CCP’s take-over was bloody and hard-fought too.
    China stopped expanding and having much of a military culture after the Tang Dynasty, and they paid for it for centuries. They also were world leaders in technologicla innovation for a long period and then laid off that for a period of centuries. Everything turns around if you wait long enough.

  • Mashiki


    Interesting point, as it stands now China is following the path of the US and Europe from the days of the past. They are tinkering and breaking what we’ve made to figure out how it works, they send their youth to our university to learn how to make things better and when they come back they apply it to their own country.

    Give them 20 years, and we’ll see how they are doing. The opposite side is their belligerence, and Japan has seen it. They are in the act of a consitutional reform right now partly because of China, and N.Korea. Partly because they are limted to what they can do in the world. Not to mention China is dealing with great internal instability and it will only get worse as it becomes more integrated in the world economey and with information from the outside.

    It will be interesting to see where it goes, I just hope it doesn’t go badly.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Stehpinkeln – It was a Chinese officer, and I was referring to the European and American presence in China up to the 1930s, and not the Japanese who are irrationally hated by many Chinese. Prior to the invasion of Manchuria, the Japanese held trading concessions in Shanghai and behaved in pretty much the same way as the Euros and Yanks did towards the Chinese people and government.

    Chinese military theory and technology has, for most of the first and some of the second millenia, been the world’s best. To say that China is “unsullied by victory” is a gross simplification. It may not have accumulated the kind of victories that Western nations have chalked up over the years, but this is due to the traditional Chinese world view (ie China *is* the world) rather than poor military prowess. This world view is shaped by the fact that China was (and still is) a large, vulnerable country. It has long and, in most places, lightly defended borders. It is surrounded by powerful potential adversaries. Historically it simply hasn’t been able to afford to look far beyond its neighbours. In the present day these factors explain why China is hyper-sensitive about its sovereignty.

    So anyway, if China goes to (non-civil) war with anyone, it will always be a neighbour, or in a neighbouring country. Off the top of my head, China has militarily defeated India, Tibet, Vietnam and Mongolia in the last 100 or so years. It defeated Japan in coalition and pushed the UN (mainly US) force back from its borders down to the 38th parallel in the Korean war. Chinese troops also fought against the Americans in Vietnam.