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Senkaku Dispute Widens Gulf Between Japan and China

On 11 September 2011, the Japanese government purchased and nationalized three of the disputed Senkaku Islands (note: China refers to them as Diaoyu, Taiwan as Tiaoyutai ). Since then, anti-Japan demonstrations in China have picked up, increasing the gulf between both countries.

All three governments – China, Taiwan and Japan – claim territorial rights over the islands. This status quo that had been held for many years, was disrupted by Ishihara, the Governor of Tokyo, who known for his firm stance on foreign policy, pushed for donations to purchase the Senkaku Islands. As a result, the Japanese Government decided to nationalize the Senkaku Islands.

In an interview, the Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary, Osamu Fujimura, explained that the intention [ja] of the purchase was “to plan a peaceful and stable long-term maintenance and management of the Sekaku Islands”, but suggested blocking Tokyo's purchase in order to avoid any friction with other countries.

In any case, this decision triggered widespread anti-Japanese demonstrations in China. Among the hundreds of thousands of participants across the nation, some turned to rioters. Every day, the Japanese media reported a case a Japanese company being targeted.

Chinese protests against Japan  over Diaoyu Islands continue

Protesters were filling the street in front of the Japanese Embassy in Liangmaqiao area to protest against Japan over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands (aka Senkaku Islands). They had offensive posters with the head of Japanese PM Yoshihiko Noda. Copyright(c)Demotix (18/09/2012)

The disturbance also spread to Twitter:

@NOBUOBU: 反日デモ、反日デモって、日本と関係のない企業まで、炎上させて、ここまできたらデモどころじゃない、ただ暴れたいだけなんじゃないか?国民性疑う、情けない…

@NOBUOBU: Anti-Japanese demonstrations. Going as far as burning down businesses unrelated to Japan is far from being a demonstration. Aren't these just riots? I suspect it's their national character. How shameful…

@activeminority: ほっとんどの中国人は、まるでほっとんどの日本人が尖閣諸島は自分たちのものだと思っているのと同じように、魚釣島は当たり前に自分たちのものだと思っている。そんなお互いが我を張り続ければどうなるだろうか?自分はそれが恐ろしい。

@activeminority: Most Chinese think that the Diaoyu islands naturally belong to them, in the same way that the Japanese think that the Senkaku Islands belong to them. What would happen to each country if this continued? I'm afraid.


@activeminority
反日デモ隊が集まった花園酒店に、しばらくして「理性愛国、反対暴力」というプラカードを持った学生が集まった。彼らはデモの終息後、花園酒店の周りのゴミを拾い集めた。「中国の将来にも希望はある」このTweetをWeiboにあげた中国人のコメント pic.twitter.com/Co78MeQT (写真:松松老師)

@activeminority Students gathered in front of the hotel where the anti-Japan protest was taking place with slogans saying “rational patriotism, no violence”. After the rally, these students picked up the garbage around the hotel. One Chinese Weibo (micro-blogging service) user, commented “There is hope in the future of China” pic.twitter.com/Co78MeQT  (image by 松松老師)

The government and mass media have been blamed as well:

@kou_1970: 尖閣問題をこれだけ大きく煽ったのは石原慎太郎氏であることは間違いない。在中日本人への被害、日本製品不買運動、交流イベントの中止、旅行客激減、地方自治体同士の会談延期など被った被害や金銭的損害ははかり知れない。石原氏はどう責任を取るのか。それでもなお「シナ人は無法」などと言うのか。

@kou_1970: There is no mistake that it was Mr. Shintaro Ishihara who aggravated the Senkaku problem to this extent. The cost of damages to the Japanese people, (including) the boycott of Japanese products, the suspension of exchange events, sharp decline in tourism, and postponed talks between local governments is immeasurable. Will Mr. Ishihara take responsibility? Will he still say that “the Chinese are lawless”?

Twitter user @myoga33 looked at the U.S. ‐ Japan Security Treaty [ja] which allows the American army to take steps to protect Japan because the state has abandoned the right of belligerency in its constitution:

@myoga33: 尖閣問題で日中が対立して喜んでいるのは、この件で人気取りを狙う政治家やメディア、日米の軍需産業、そしてアメリカ軍と人民解放軍の軍拡派だろう。 国民にとっては尖閣問題で中国とけんかしても何の益もない。煽りにのるより、尖閣問題を乗り越えて日中関係をどう改善するかを考えた方がよい。

This creates feelings of schadenfreude in some people. Politicians and the media, the military industry of Japan and the U.S., the hard-liners of the Chinese People's Liberation Army and the U.S.military are probably wondering how much popularity and support they can gain from this dispute. We better think about ways to amend the Japan-China relationship instead of feeding trolls.

@noyamapisaka refers to a story which was incorrectly quoted by several mass media companies, about a thousand Chinese fishing boats heading towards the Senkaku area. (The website, Gohoo, proved the inaccuracy of these media reports).

@noyamapisaka: 普段はマスコミを疑ってて、これは!と思って信じたら誤報。これじゃマスコミの信頼は落ちる一方。 RT @antennakun: 大量の中国漁船尖閣行きを否定=「禁漁明けと勘違い」-11管本部長 http://bit.ly/U8nvpj

Believing that the media is normally vigilant is incorrect. In this case, trust in the media will keep declining. RT @antennakun: Denial of masses of Chinese fishing boats heading towards Senkaku = “Misunderstanding of the end of fishing prohibition” – 11th Regional Coast Guard manager http://bit.ly/U8nvpj

On the other hand, @mipoko611 has been highlighting the idea that the Chinese authorities organised the demonstrations.

‎‏@mipoko611: 中国は国民に反日感情を植え付け、政治利用出来ると思ってたけど、もう制御できなくなってしまってるんじゃないかな。ここで力づくで制御すれば、一度着いた火は内政に向かうから

I think China was trying to plant anti-Japan sentiment in its citizens but they can no longer control their sentiments. ― that is, if they suppress the demonstrators their anger could be directed towards internal (domestic) politics.

‎‏@mipoko611: 民衆の感情なんて、そうやすやすと操作できるものじゃないし、中国史なんて、その失敗の繰り返しなのに、なんで権力者というのはいつの時代も学習しないんだろう。

Even though people's emotions is not something to toy with, and many mistakes have been repeated in China's history, no matter what era, why do powerful people never learn?

As of October, protests are tapering down and things are gradually returning to normal. However, planned events between Japan and China continue to get suspended one after the other, leading to economic losses.

We will soon feature a post by a blogger who wrote about the Nobel Prize Laureate Mo Yan and his hope for a speedy recovery of ties between the two countries.

This post was initially translated by Isamu Yoneda

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