Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday denounced Japan’s decision to buy disputed islands as a farce and said Tokyo should “rein in its behavior,” as China moved to snuff out anti-Japan protests after days of demonstrations.
Relations between Asia’s two biggest economies have faltered badly, hitting their lowest point in decades on Tuesday when China marked the highly charged anniversary of Japan’s 1931 occupation of its giant neighbor.
Tension had run high on land and at sea, with four days of major protests in cities across China and Japanese, and Chinese boats stalking each other in waters around a group of East China Sea islands, known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands and in China as the Diaoyu Archipelago (釣魚群島).
“Japan should rein in its behavior and stop any words and acts that undermine China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Xi said in a meeting with visiting US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, according to Xinhua news agency.
Xi is tipped to replace Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) as party chief later this year.
Tokyo’s nationalist governor, Shintaro Ishihara, floated a plan for metropolitan authorities to buy three of the islets, prompting Japan’s government to buy them instead in a bid to defuse the crisis.
“If Japan yields to China on this problem ... China’s hegemony in Asian waters would easily be established,” Ishihara told the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.
Japanese businesses shut hundreds of stores and factories across China, some sending workers back to Japan in fear the protests would get out of hand. Japan’s Beijing embassy had been under siege by protesters throwing water bottles, waving flags and chanting slogans evoking Japan’s occupation.
“It seems the protests in front of our embassy have subsided,” the embassy said in an e-mail to Japanese citizens.
Outside the embassy, police moved on a lone protester who had been shouting “Defeat small Japan” early yesterday.
To prevent a repeat of the protests, large numbers of riot police were deployed around the embassy and Beijing’s subway operator closed the station nearest to the Japanese mission.
On Tuesday, about 50 Chinese protesters surrounded and damaged a car carrying US Ambassador to China Gary Locke, embassy spokesman Nolan Barkhouse said. The incident happened outside the US embassy, which is close to the Japanese embassy.
“Embassy officials have registered their concern about yesterday’s incident with the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs and urged the Chinese government to do everything possible to protect American facilities and personnel,” Barkhouse said.