Tue, Apr 26, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Chinese protests were manipulated

By Paul Lin 林保華

From all appearances the wave of anti-Japanese protests in China have reached an end. Following a meeting of the Chinese Politburo, the Xinhua News Agency reported that the focus should be on construction and development.

An article in the People's Daily talked of the importance of constructing a harmonious society for the sake of stability, saying that the flames of anti-Japanese anger needed to be extinguished. The article combined the ideas of taking economic construction as the center, as advocated by Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), former president Jiang Zemin's (江澤民) reform while developing stable diplomatic ties and President Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) construction of a socialist harmonious society.

The April 17 meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (李肇星) and his Japanese counterpart Machimura Nobutaka was a tense affair, ending with the men failing to shake hands. Regardless, in the interests of "extinguishing the flames of anger" Xinhua reported Machimura as saying that Japanese aggression had caused much harm to the Chinese people in recent history, for which Japan felt a deep remorse, and again offered his apologies.

Japan, Xinhua said, had learned the lessons of history, and would continue on the road to peace. In this way Xinhua was able to claim a major diplomatic victory for Beijing, as "little Japan" had backed down, leaving no more reason for people to take their anger to the streets.

According to The Economist, Japan has officially apologized for its activities in the Sino-Japanese war on 17 occasions, but it appears, at least in China's eyes, with insufficient contrition. What-ever the actual wording of this apology, it should be made public and taken as an apology, accepted by the Chinese government, for past Japanese aggression.

Given that Xinhua has signaled official recognition for the apology made during this meeting, the problem should finally be laid to rest. The concern is that this apology will again be discounted when Beijing needs to manipulate public opinion for the sake of nationalism.

For in reality, this wave of anti-Japanese sentiment has been manipulated by the government from the very beginning. This was made quite apparent in the anti-Japanese rallies in Beijing, the first of which involved thousands of people, while the second drew just scores of people, due to the intervention of the authorities. The violence was never allowed to get out of hand due to the presence of riot police at the protests. Lives were not put in danger and damage was kept to a minimum, so that in case compensation had to be made, it would not prove too costly.

The effect was intended to leave a strong impression on other countries, who will now know that not giving Beijing due consideration, and offending Chinese public opinion, has serious implications.

They hoped the fear instilled in the Japanese people during this series of events would have a similar effect to that felt in Taiwan -- using pressure on businesspeople to achieve political goals. Instead, China has earned itself a reputation for being an unruly, uncivilized nation. Also, its refusal to pay compensation has made it look unreliable, giving investors pause for thought.

Japanese businesspeople are not likely to be as lily-livered as the Taiwanese entrepreneurs, coming as they do from a country endowed with a warrior spirit.

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