As the tension between China and Japan over the disputed Diaoyu Islands (also known as the Senkaku Islands) has elevated, large scale anti-Japan protests have taken place all over China in more than 80 cities over the weekend.
Some of the demonstrations turned violent, protesters started attacking Japanese style restaurants, shopping malls and shops; some even tried to set fire to Japanese vehicles. Yet, in a country where online activities are closely monitored and public security forces are extremely effective, many wondered what made these nationwide protests possible.
Free More News‘s video shows how protesters in Changsha attacked and mobbed a Japanese shopping center in September 15, 2012:
Coordination of protests
Many netizens pointed out that the protests were coordinated via QQ groups, which are more “private” than other social media platforms such as Weibo. From Sina Weibo, Mars explains [zh]:
Weibo is not a popular platform. The anti-Japan propaganda is spreading via QQ groups and QQ space like a virus. The violent protesters are stirred up by these platforms.
Also on Weibo, user Economist finds out [zh] that government civil servants were active in mobilizing the protests:
A friend told me during a meal that we received the same protest call message from different alumni groups via QQ. I asked him about the background of the senders. He said one is working for the land revenue bureau, one is working for a research center in a military corporation.
zy in boston raises [zh] a technical question:
How come there are so many anti-Japan protesters in Shenzhen? What about the three layers of monitoring existing in QQ? Are all these functions suspended because of patriotism?
Indeed over the past two days, even though words like “Rally” (游行) have not been searchable on social media platforms, the term “Anti-Japan protest” has not been banned. Words like “Diaoyu Islands”, “Protect Diaoyu”, “Protest”, and “Crushing” even appear in the hot topic search list.
Below is the screen capture of the “Anti-Japan Protest” (反日示威) search result:
Behind the scenes?
Hu Zimei raises a series of questions and wonders [zh] who exactly is behind the scenes:
Something is wrong. 1. 40-50 cities are protesting at the same time; 2. The total number of participants are not too many but the protests are rather destructive. Most of them are young men, they work together to launch attacks at some very specific targets; 3. The riot police are not prepared; 4. The state-controlled media and opinion leaders consider the violent protests as radical expression of patriotism; 5. All micro-blogs that show the violent scenes are deleted. I wonder if this is organized violence that has nothing to do with people?
Some bloggers believe that the protest is related to the upcoming 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Some news reports have already pointed out that the numbers in the Politburo Standing Committee (top leadership of the Communist Party of China) will be reduced from 9 to 7 seats and the secretary of the Political and Legislative Committee will be dismissed from the core leadership.
The Committee is designed to oversee public security, law execution and judiciary in China and has been responsible for “stability maintenance” in the past few years. Such an arrangement is believed to be related to the scandal of the former Chongqing party Secretary Bo Xilai, who is closely connected with the Head of the Public Security Bureau and the current Secretary of the Political and Legislative Committee, Zhou Yongkang.
Below are some of the speculations found on Weibo [zh]:
Tang Song history: The propaganda authorities and the Political and Legislative Committee are working together under some commands. This is what they want, an excuse for them to take action. Then they can re-enter the scene. This is their intention. They are the directors and you are the voluntary actors. Please think who are the victim and who gain from this? History has be recurring through out all the dynasties. Do we have to go through this again?
RVP: Why there is no violent act in Taiwan and Hong Kong? Only one reason, the Communists are self-directing the whole act.
Cry out loud: Can't you see? They are making use of the anti-Japan protest to express their anger at the government. The Maoist Left is probably behind this. The central authority is caught in the middle of internal and external tension.
While angry patriots are in the street protesting, cooler heads do prevail online as the Tea Leaf Nation pointed out [zh]. Below are some of my picks from the more rational voices:
WeMarketing: I know a bit more about China in this violent protest. We are now in 2012, but history still keeps recurring. This is in the name of anti-Japan, next time in the name of anti-capitalists, or anti-foreigners. If you are among the group of people being targeted at, you can't protect your property and your own safety. Boxer rebellion, Red Guards, patriotic thugs, one generation after other.
hut in the city: In history, both the Boxer and the Red Guard are used as weapons and then turned into scapegoats. Don't join the angry youth. Who will gain from these violent acts? Please just use your brain.
Leja: The Japanese are so smart. They make use of a 7 kilometre square piece of land to stir up the crazies all over China's 960 million square meters of territories. Some of us still feel that they are heroes. My mother asked what would happened if the war started? I said I am not afraid of war but I am afraid of the Cultural Revolution.
As the violence has elevated, riot police have adopted stronger measures. However, as the anniversary of the Muken Incident is approaching on September 18, the anti-Japanese sentiment may continue to grow in the next few days.