The Great 2012 People’s Righteous Japanese Car-Burning Diaoyu Uprising is hereby declared over. The usually semi-fascist Global Times declares that violence is never the solution, while Xinhua intones that the masses agree entirely and hate all the vandalism. Anyway, it was all Japan’s fault. Japan has been sent a message of infantile impotent fury, and Chinese people who feel a need, for whatever reason, to smash something up have been allowed to get it out of their system. Whichever Beijing faction decided to trigger the outrage may or may not have succeeded in its aim; we’ll probably never know.
The scary thing about the pictures in the first link above is not the flames and smoke rising from destroyed property but the signs and banners written by owners of businesses and Japanese-branded cars, pleading and begging with rioters. “We will agree to any insane racist wacko opinion you want us to,” they essentially say, “if only you promise to leave us alone.” There’s a whiff of Cultural Revolution here, with innocents competing to be extreme for fear of being labeled and persecuted if they don’t.
In civilized Hong Kong, the anti-Japanese protesters outside Exchange Square are displaying Nazi swastikas and likening Japanese Prime Minister Noda to Adolf Hitler and Emperor Hirohito. (Historians tempted to dispute the aptness of these comparisons should also check out the University of Hong Kong, where students apparently emboldened by their younger brothers’ and sisters’ fight against National Education, are portraying top school officials as deposed Arab despots. Mubarak is Deputy Vice-Chancellor Prof Roland Chin, while Gadaffi is Dean of Student Affairs Dr Albert Chau. Seems a tad disproportionate – or maybe HKU really is torturing dissidents and holding public executions.) Noda’s crime is ‘nationalizing’ the Senkaku Islands, buying the rocks so the governor of Tokyo doesn’t do it first in order to provoke trouble. This is the thanks he gets. His views on sovereignty over the Diaoyu/Senkakus are here, halfway down between the bit about how Japan, not Korea, legally owns Takeshima Island and the bit about how Japan, not Russia, legally owns the Kuril Islands, or Northern Territories.
His (and Japan’s) official line is that there is no territorial dispute. China also refuses to accept that there is anything to discuss. They agree on one thing, at least. The Japanese government’s decision to buy the islands, and its de facto policy of not stationing any armed forces there, show a pragmatic preference to avoid antagonizing China. Armchair generals are pontificating about Hollywood-style scenarios; for example, China lands troops at night, then Japan uses its superior submarine capabilities to starve them out, then face-saving unarmed cops arrest and deport them. It won’t happen: the US has said that while it doesn’t take sides on the sovereignty issue, it is committed to defending Japan. The PLA can’t be that deranged. We hope.
The Takeshima/Dokdo dispute with Korea is unsolvable. When all you have are faded maps and two peoples refusing to give up their claims – and bitter hatred from the past – there is no way out. There is no acceptable King Solomon to suggest cutting the thing in half. It is difficult for outsiders to comprehend how strong feelings are. If you think Arabs go berserk over the prophet Mohamed, and the Chinese go nuts over Diaoyu, wait until you see a Korean totally freak out over Dokdo. As for the Kurils, Stalin grabbed them along with southern Sakhalin at the last minute in World War II and kicked out the Japanese residents. Of all the disputed places, it’s the one that can really be seen as part of the Japanese homeland – originally Ainu-inhabited and colonized centuries back as North Ezo, like Hokkaido. Now Russian. Don’t like it? Don’t start world wars.