Anti-Japan Protests Reach Fever Pitch as Panetta Visits Beijing

China's anti-Japan protests have escalated a dispute over a scattering of islands, threatening to pull the world's three biggest economies into conflict

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Peter Parks / AFP / Getty Images

Riot police stand firm against anti-Japan protesters in the Chinese city of Shenzhen on Sept. 18, 2012

U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta certainly picked a sensitive date for his visit to China. Sept. 18 is the anniversary of the 1931 Mukden Incident, when imperial Japan used a railway bomb its soldiers planted in Manchuria to stage an invasion and make way for its brutal wartime occupation of China.

That catalyzing moment in history, known after its date as the 918 incident in China, would not seem to affect the Americans too much today, except that China and Japan’s relations have been rocked by a territorial dispute that has dragged relations to their lowest point in years. Over the past few days, there have been anti-Japanese protests in numerous Chinese cities, with thousands of angry citizens hurling bottles and eggs at the Japanese embassy in Beijing and regional Japanese consulates. Japanese-brand cars have been torched and some Japanese-owned factories in China forced closed.

(PHOTOS: Anti-Japan Protests Hit China’s Capital)

In a police state where security forces almost never allow protests of this magnitude to coalesce, the streets of China seethed with patriotic fervor, as citizens relished the rare chance to express themselves publicly. “I hope there’s a war between China and Japan,” said Zhang Tihai, a retired farmer, as thousands of Chinese marched past the Japanese embassy in Beijing on the 81st anniversary of the Mukden Incident. “That will settle things once and for all.” Near the embassy, riot police and other security forces lined a normally busy stretch of road more than 2 km long, doing nothing to dissuade the protesters from marching. “Support the army, kill Japanese,” blared one protest banner, while another urged, “Take over Tokyo, kill Yoshihiko Noda,” referring to the Japanese Prime Minister. Some ralliers held aloft portraits of Chairman Mao Zedong, who fought the occupying Japanese and later founded the People’s Republic in 1949.

The current conflict centers on a scattering of uninhabited islets in resource-rich waters that the Chinese call the Diaoyu and the Japanese label the Senkaku. (Taiwan also claims the islands.) Earlier this month, after Tokyo’s fiery nationalist governor Shintaro Ishihara threatened to buy some of the islands from its private owner, the Japanese government announced it would nationalize the specks of land instead. If Tokyo hoped that move would calm tensions between Asia’s two biggest economies, it was either being naive or disingenuous. Japan is facing an election in the coming months; looking weak on China isn’t going to win any votes.

In the short term, though, it’s the Chinese leadership that appears to have capitalized most on the island dispute. With a once-a-decade leadership transition set to begin soon, Beijing has been gifted the perfect diversion from the sensitive power handover. The upcoming leadership change will inevitably raise questions in China about how far the country has come — and, more important, how far it still has to go, at a time when the domestic economy is slowing and politics still remain the preserve of a corruption-plagued Chinese Communist Party. “Japan’s behavior over the Diaoyu Islands issue is a brazen negation of the fruits of the victory in the global war against fascism,” fulminated the People’s Daily, the Chinese government’s mouthpiece. Serious problems closer to home have been conveniently ignored in the state press, as was the mysterious two-week disappearance of Vice President Xi Jinping from the public eye earlier this month.

(PHOTOS: China: Island Dispute Spurs Anti-Japan Protests)

Enter Leon Panetta. The U.S., of course, happens to be Japan’s ally. Since the end of World War II, Washington has promised to defend Japan in the event of any armed conflict. Prior to landing in Beijing on Tuesday, the U.S. Secretary of Defense visited Japan, where he reassured Tokyo of Washington’s commitment to its treaty obligations. (After Japan’s defeat in World War II, the U.S. forced its erstwhile enemy to give up ambitions of developing a normal military force, lest an imperial Japan again threaten the Pacific.)

Last year, President Barack Obama pledged to pivot U.S. foreign policy toward Asia, a shift designed to recognize the economic ascendancy of the world’s most  populous continent. But the move was also viewed as an effort to contain a rising— and a more militarily assertive — China. During the Secretary of Defense’s visit to Japan, he unveiled plans for the two countries to develop a second missile-defense system for the island nation, which worries about a threat from a nuclear North Korea backed by the Chinese. The announcement of this joint U.S.-Japan radar shield naturally didn’t please Beijing.

At the start of his Asia trip, Panetta warned of how quickly regional territorial tensions could blaze out of control. (China is also sparring with maritime neighbors, like Vietnam and the Philippines, over disputed shoals and islands in the South China Sea.) “A misjudgment on one side or the other could result in violence, and could result in conflict,” Panetta said. By the time he arrived in Beijing, the U.S. Secretary of Defense was urging cooler heads to prevail: “With respect to these current tensions, we are urging calm and restraint by all sides and encourage them to maintain open channels of communication in order to resolve these disputes diplomatically and peacefully.”

(MORE: Tensions with Japan Increase as China Sends Patrol Boats to Disputed Islands)

But some of the thousands of protesters at the Japanese embassy in Beijing on Tuesday made their displeasure at Japan and its security alliance partner very clear. Cooler heads were not in evidence. “F— Japan,” one Chinese university student, who gave his name as Kevin, yelled in English. “F— America. Declare war on Japan. Declare war on America.” Chinese flags waved, images of Chairman Mao loomed.

Meanwhile, a pair of Japanese chose Tuesday to briefly land on one of the disputed islets, a display of nationalist showmanship that immediately aroused further indignation in China. “The unlawful landing of the Japanese right-wingers on the Chinese territory of the Diaoyu Islands was a gravely provocative action violating Chinese territorial sovereignty,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei.

At the same time, the Chinese media reported that 1,000 Chinese fishing boats were rushing to waters near the islands in what is surely an officially coordinated maneuver. It’s instructive to look back two years ago, when the Japanese coast guard detained for 10 days the skipper of a Chinese fishing boat that rammed a Japanese coast-guard vessel in disputed waters. You’d think that such an incident might have inflamed a Chinese public primed by a domestic education system that heaps hate on the Japanese wartime aggressors. But although some protests occurred back then, the decibel level of anger was far lower than it is today. Beijing’s leaders have chosen to allow today’s anti-Japan demonstrations to ignite, and the world’s three biggest economies — the U.S., China and Japan — may be the victims of further explosive fury.

— With reporting by Chengcheng Jiang / Beijing
MORE: Japan Frets over U.S. Support in China Dispute

73 comments
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DonRickles2
DonRickles2

That the Chinese people are bitter toward the Japanese for WWII is understandable, but how do they feel about their own government, a government where some have estimated killed approximately 30 million of its citizens during the "Cultural Revolution"? How quickly they have forgotten about the slaughter of their youth during Tianamen Square. There are a select few nations which have practiced genocide against their citizens, but only China remains as the one country whose governmental structure hasn't been changed by those acts.  Say what you will against Japan, but they have never commited genocide against their own countrymen. I know I'd feel better with Japan at my back rather than the Chinese.

Chhajuram Induscharwak
Chhajuram Induscharwak

Panetta visit is not for peace nor China's allowing protest but world opinion for peace matters hence U.N.O. general assembly be called to prevent further cold war politics.

Zrinski
Zrinski

Japan is 98.5% Japanese. Japan does not let foreigners vote and kicks them out all the time. Japan is RICH and has a horrendous colonial history. Yet no one is Demanding the Japanese in Japan, be replaced with a Blended humanity to end “racism”. They only Demand this of White countries. This is the common ground on which anti-Whites say we must all agree:

What is non-White belongs to non-Whites. What is White also belongs to non-Whites. Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White.

XeonForge
XeonForge

Rich lol. Maybe at one time but Japan economy has been stagnant for the last 20 years.  Many Japanese barely get by and are anything but rich. Also you pretty much answered the point why Japan isn't raciest.  How can a country be raciest which is 98.5% Japanese lol.  It would be like saying Africa is raciest towards whites which is predominately black. Not to mention it isn't so much anti-white as it is anti-foreigner. Many 2nd and 3rd generation Korean Japanese aren't considered Japanese. Okinawan's aren't considered by many  mainlanders  as real Japanese either lol.  Although people will find that a lot more has to do with not understanding social context and how it plays into every aspect of Japanese society.

Japanese don't tend to interact with strangers or people they haven't been formally introduced to first. You won't find someone just come up to you in most cases. Well unless your in Osaka but that is a different story.  Sure your have your hardcore right wing nut jobs just like anywhere. Yet most people will find Japanese to be very considerate open once you get to know them. At least they don't run around like raging manics destroying property, burning flags, overturning cars and acting like delinquents. Chinese and Muslims should go out bowling sometime as they seem to have a lot in common lol. People just have a problem looking at things outside their sphere of influence and therefore throw racism as a convenient excuse. 

Sachi Mohanty
Sachi Mohanty

...

If this China-Japan war of words becomes hot, then other stuff like India-Pakistan conflicts or Libya, Iraq, Syria will appear like a calm day at the park.

May be me and my generation who were not born during the last two world wars will yet witness a world war.

Who said there were no world wars fought in the 21st century?

BRING. IT. ON.

Twitter: @sachi_bbsr:twitter 

...

gavin2012
gavin2012

Everything said and done aside, conduct down- to- earth reseaches and investigations on whom the Diaoyu Islands belong to by every way and means , and you will have the final say!

Phoenix31756
Phoenix31756

The islands don't belong to NO ONE !

IMHO, Earth belongs to HUMANITY, not anyone !

gavin2012
gavin2012

Everything said and done aside, conduct down- to- earth reseaches and investigations on whom the Diaoyu Islands belong to by every way and means , and you will have the final say!

ChrisNSide
ChrisNSide

It is worth mentioning that democracies don't go to war against each other. But the problem is not democracy; the problem is a vast and unruly state like China in the messy, decadeslong process of liberalization. The truth is that these Communist dictators in Beijing, whom the media love to hate, may turn out to have been the most benign and easy-to-deal-with Chinese leaders that the west will see in their lifetime. President Hu Jintao is as good as it gets from the point of view of a State Department policy planner. Meanwhile, the problem with authoritarian systems is that if they remain in place for decades, the only people who end up capable of running ministries and formulating policies are the authoritarian elites themselves. Thus, toppling such systems entails serious risks. The new democracies in Central and Eastern Europe were helped along the path to stability by liberal elements within the former communist power structures who actually knew how to govern.

One can only hope that China's eventual transition will go as smoothly as that of Poland and the Czech Republic.  China’s economy is slowing and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is preparing for a change in leadership. What’s more, the CCP has been at the receiving end of a lot of criticism in the wake of the Gu Kailai murder trial and its revelation of wide-spread corruption by her husband, Bo Xilai, a high-ranking CCP official. More important when considering the prospects for conflict in the region is the simple financial calculus: states go to war when the cost of doing so is less than the perceived rewards. While these islands may be rich in energy resources, it is unlikely that they exceed the economic and political costs of a war between any of these countries. A war between Japan and China would be a crippling blow to an already fragile global economy, particularly to the economies of those states involved.  China and Japan may be flexing their muscles a bit, but both know it is in their best interests to resolve differences through negotiation, not war.

vstillwell
vstillwell

Reminds me of a Tea Party protest. A bunch of misinformed sheep ranting about things that don't amount to a hill of beans. 

Phoenix31756
Phoenix31756

I like that " Misinformed" !

Are you saying your information is better then theirs ?

This I like to see you prove !

CKGTan
CKGTan

When I lived in Korean I saw the Korean parents and grandparents teaching their children to hate the Japanese.  Chinese parents do the same thing. 

rory2012
rory2012

 Chinese don't teach children hate Japan rather teach children what Japan did in the past.There is a different there.

CKGTan
CKGTan

The Chinese government is fanning he flames. Most of the protest are organized by the local government and its thugs. The average Chinese citizen doesn't care.

Phoenix31756
Phoenix31756

And you don't think the US Government doesn't do it too ?

TheKirk
TheKirk

Japan is a much admired country in the rest of the world except in parts of Asia (Korea, China, etc.) where it has committed some of its worst war crimes. I think what Japan should finally do is to formally apologize for its actions, and try to build goodwill between it and its neighbors. How, I don't know. 

Also, the Chinese, in as much as they want to prove to the world that they are a superpower, should think about being less aggressive, especially with how it deals with its neighbors. I hope they'd learn diplomacy and stop twisting other people's arms.I wonder what Germany (and Italy( did for it to be in a totally different place right now.

Tsiao12
Tsiao12

@TheKirk  

What about America kept sending troops overseas? America is the #1 hated nation in the world! China hasn't fight with any country since 1988!

Phoenix31756
Phoenix31756 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Does anyone know whose really going to suffer in all this hate were experiencing now ?

It's NOT the governments of these nations, that's for sure !

It's HUMANITY!

Make no mistake, the powers that are in place will destroy what hope the human race has ! 

mike921
mike921 like.author.displayName 1 Like

LLllllllllllet's get ready to rumble!  Japan very strongly believes in their own superiority, so, let's have the US take a break and let Japan and China go at it.  Only one rule, no nukes.

Phoenix31756
Phoenix31756 like.author.displayName 1 Like

NICE !

The END result of any major war is the REDUCTION of the number of mouths too feed ! You reduce the consumption of food by killing off those whom consume it !

K-Rue
K-Rue

The fact is that, most of the protestors are young jobless citizens in their twenties? There aren't a lot of actual WWII victims taking part of this protest. I am fully conscious of what Japan did during the war but, other than that, what's the real reason for this protest? All China is trying to do is to use the war as an excuse to provide pressure for the Japanese economy. The Dokdo/Takeshima dispute was a very complex problem but the Senkaku Islands are just too easy. China didn't even care about the Senkaku Islands until Japan dicovered that it was filled with valuable underground resources. If the Chinese are really doing it for the hate of the war, then why are they selling the Japanese goods stole when they pillaged Japanese department stores? Several reports say that the protests accidentally demolished a Samsung store for mistaking as a Japanese oringinated company. wow.

Tsiao12
Tsiao12

@K-Rue  

You ignorant hater know nothing about history! Go look on encyclopedia!

ShinIng Chen
ShinIng Chen

There were more "accidents" such as a few Mercedes were mistaken as Mitsubishi and damaged, Carrefour/KFC/McDonald's got destroyed, a Taiwanese instant noodle company was mistaken to be Japanese... Many of these Chinese protesters were not using their brains anymore.

Phoenix31756
Phoenix31756

I may be an American citizen but your anger at America should not be directed at me, right ?

Well, the argument is that if am a Citizen of my country and I voted for a Douchbag who can't run my country and he pisses off people in other countries, then I should get the same treatment or hate that he deserves right ?

After all, I did elect him to represent me and my country right ?

I DON'T THINK SO !

  

K-Rue
K-Rue

I don't know how I'm expressing anger towards the US. Infact, America is much of a homeland too me rather than my origin country Japan. Also, I understand what you're trying to say. It's because, the anger from what the leaders of Japan did over 60 years ago during the war are directed at me daily. (which is what this whole territorial dispute is about!!!!)

rory2012
rory2012

That show you how good  the Chinese national education is in regard to national shame in the past. NEVER forget. NEVER again take the sh#t from anybody

K-Rue
K-Rue

Or why not the whole entire western world rather than just the US?

K-Rue
K-Rue

Just for clarification, when you say "never take sh#t from anybody", are you directing that towards the Japanese?

Tsiao12
Tsiao12

@rory2012  

Exactly! Americans know nothing about other country! They kept thinking people from other country are evil like hell but kept sending its own troops invading other area without UN resolution! Just ask yourselves why American flags were burned most, not others?

rory2012
rory2012 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Particularly USA.clear.

Joe Far
Joe Far

The Chinese government has shown the world again, that they are not civilized enough to be an integral citizen of the international community. I have the deepest wishes that this can change.  The details that date back over 100 years ago when Japan first claimed Senkaku is disputable.  Who the hell knows. Sure, it may have belonged to China before that somewhere down in history or even during the same time, transcribed in some ancient documents no one knows who wrote. They should mind as well claim Korea and other neighboring countries as theirs too if that's there line of thought. The important part of it all is how they carry things out because the WORLD is watching and sooner or later people will get fed up with China. They are being too aggressive and the world doesn't appreciate it. 

Like what some other posters are saying, China had PLENTY of time to question this issue and even bring it to international court. They didn't. China only started making claims after the UN released a report in the 70's that there could be natural gas fields in the seabeds near the islands. Fast forward to today and now it's waay too late for them to be groaning and being barbaric about it . The Chinese government and the Chinese people, despite their feelings and what they were taught by textbooks about the matter also need to realize that the majority of the world (i'm guessing) acknowledges that the islands are part of Japan at least in the last century. Therefore, it's not strange that Japan would purchase the island from the private owners who were Japanese. They only bought it because otherwise, it would've gotten in the hands of the governor of Tokyo who is known to be a right-winger. That is potentially more dangerous.  

Also, I'm sick of hearing the analogy with Hong Kong and Taiwan being returned to China so why shouldn't the islands. No one has lived there, literally forever! It's definitely not the same. In fact, if the islands were "returned" to China, what other lands and islands will they be able to claim? Anyhow, if China cares so much about the feelings of their people and their lost ancestors, China should've attempted open discussion with Japan and suggest things like making this entire area an off limits zone. Neither country gets it. Don't know how that would fly, but sometimes the thought and attempts for peaceful resolution that count. This options is perhaps not too late to pursue. 

If China wants to rightfully gain sovereignty, then bring the evidence to prove it to the international court of justice. That is how matters are settled these days.   

I personally didn't care much about who gets the islands or who it really belongs to. I do care now  that China is trying to disrupt progress of world peace. It sounds like they are the only ones in the world who would go to war over this matter. I'm just going to close by saying that in the end, what all of this will boil down to is politics. The fate of the islands will be with the best interest for the security of those who hold majority of the world's power. China's aggression and character leads me to think that China will not be favored. But that's just me. 

David1180
David1180

"If China wants to rightfully gain sovereignty, then bring the evidence to prove it to the international court of justice."

Correct me, if I am wrong, but I do not think the US recognizes the international court of justice either, nor China.

Tsiao12
Tsiao12

@David1180  

typical American ignorant superemism!

rory2012
rory2012 like.author.displayName 1 Like

 Your international community is built and circle around the Western power base on guns and boats

Joe Far
Joe Far

I guess you're right to a certain extent but I don't see how your comment addresses anything to my original post. 

China was a late comer to the community. It's natural to expect adaptation and assimilate to the ways that have come to be. Ofcourse there's always room for improvement but I'd say so far,  it's worked out pretty well. 

What China is doing is stomping and putting up a fit like a little kid because they think the louder and more aggressive they are, they would get what they are after. My point is that this will work to a disadvantage to China because no one in general likes violent whiners.

David1180
David1180

I think the overwhelming majority of people disagree with the violence in these demonstrations. Only a small percent are such black sheeps (that, I must say, exist in every society of this world, including the US or any other country) . That's why the China government took action to reign in such voilence, staring yesterday.

China has been keeping a pretty low profile. So do not blame China when it stands up to its right. There was an agreement between China and Japan to put aside the island dispute and China even proposed and is still proposing joint exploration of the resources there. Now Japan suddenly comes up and says that there is sovernty issue over these islands --- they belong to Japan. Period. Japan nationalized these islands, and that caused the uproar in and strong objection from China.

So why are you blaming China for this whole mess? It was Japan that started this whole thing.

rory2012
rory2012 like.author.displayName 1 Like

 Don't make me laugh.Late comer of the community, whose community?

Jason Cheng
Jason Cheng like.author.displayName 1 Like

How abt the issues going on in the midle east?

Jason Cheng
Jason Cheng like.author.displayName 1 Like

After reading all the comments below, i would say if the whole world belongs to American, there will be no conflict at all.    And many americans think so.    NO matter how the issue sorts out, the U.S. will be the winner. ohya

proletaria
proletaria

I don't think you read English very well comrade.

mauielectric
mauielectric

I was at the gas station and I over heard two asian guys saying something like

they were at some chinese restaurant in los angeles and they were not welcome

because the manager thought they were japanese and refused services but they

told the guy that they're koreans and finally they got the table.WTF !

Tsiao12
Tsiao12

@mauielectric  

There are also a movie called "Innocent Muslims" in America!

So you guys should think of yourself, not just say what others did wrong!

mauielectric
mauielectric

If the international law says the island belongs to Japan then the Japanese are the one

who's supposed to be angry over this.but is there any riot in Japan ? is there any

Japanese attacking Chinese citizens in Japan ? Chinese better stop acting idiotic it's

time to grow up ,only thing that you're proving to the world is how violent you are.

Over a time Japanese people has changed they're not like the people from WWII so

stop the racism.this is 21st century.

wsxyz
wsxyz like.author.displayName 1 Like

International law doesn't say that the islands belong to Japan, so your premise is false.

rory2012
rory2012 like.author.displayName 1 Like

 What the F##K you are trying to say?

XeonForge
XeonForge

Over a bunch of worthless rocks lol.  If China had a problem with this why wasn't something said decades ago?   Senkaku Islands (known by China as the Diaoyu Islands), which are also administered as part of Okinawa prefecture. So why the hell wasn't this brought up when Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972? China had plenty of opportunity to voice it's concern then yet didn't. So is it any surprise yet again this all comes down to oil and  the potential rare earths which may be present there. Yet no one knows for sure or have confirmed this. China is showing it's true colors finally lol.  If nothing else this should be a warning to US, Europe, and who ever else wishes to do business in China. You do so at your own risk. If you don't want to end up like the Japanese then it might be a good time look for a more stable trade partner.  China  clearly hasn't grasped the concept of a modern civil society. One which uses invitation, creative thinking,  dialog, civil order, corporation, freedom, independence, pluralism, human rights balanced with human responsibilities, values, justice and prosperity. What this tells me is that China will do whatever it takes to take the focus off it's own political/domestic  issues even if that means starting a war. Nationalism need not show it's ugly head now or ever in this world. The Chinese should take heed from one of it's own.  Confucius: “To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life; and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.” Couldn't have said it better myself. 

 

Independence

 

Pluralism

 

HumanRightsbalancedwithHumanResponsibilities

 

Values

 

JusticeandProsperity

 

Independence

 

Pluralism

 

HumanRightsbalancedwithHumanResponsibilities

 

Values

andProsperityOne in which doesn't use it's nationalisc tendencs to take away focus from the real problem. That being the PLR itself t. Do the Chinese even care how this is damaging their repuation. Especially after them trying to hard to been seen as sensiable after their hosting of the Olympics. This tells me now they should have never gotten the games are clearly didn't deserve it. 

rory2012
rory2012 like.author.displayName 1 Like

Stupid ! China made the point more than a decade ago. You think the world guided by USA have justice ?If you are weak in economically and military,you have no say.Look around the world now particularly in Middle East.That's why China quietly build up the nation for the last decade in order to stand up for her rights and justice. China is no longer the sick man of the Asia as she was called century ago.