Monday, April 18, 2005


China-Japan relations and students in the streets

Let me start this post by saying that I am wholely unqualified to comment on this story. However, there is an aspect of it that I think has not been given full attention in the American media. I saw footage of young Chinese protestors marching, throwing rocks, burning Japanese flags, etc., all over the TV this weekend as the news commentators spoke about textbooks and Taiwan and Japan's economic strength vis-a-vis China and vice versa. I didn't see anybody mention the fact that there is an element of street protest that has very little to do with textbooks, or economic factors, etc -- that there is quite a disconnect there. It seems to me that there are a large number of young people in China (and from the shots I saw, many many of these protestors looked like they were students or in their twenties) who do not feel comfortable protesting against the Chinese government (it hasn't exactly been smiled upon in the past), and here is an opportunity for them to get out on the streets, vent some frustration, throw rocks, defy Chinese police in riot gear, and the like. And while sentiments toward Japan might be generally hostile or antagonistic, it doesn't really have as much to do with Japan as it does with China (as the saying goes, all politics is local). I'm sure the Chinese government realizes this and thinks that this is probably a fairly safe way to allow people out on the streets, to allow them to vent frustrations, without it being directed against the Chinese government. So it's a win-win situation, right? Well, I don't know enough about Chinese society to be able to comment too much on this, but I believe that people like to push boundaries, and so if this is the Chinese government's way of opening the steam valve to relieve a little bit of pressure, I don't know if it's going to be as easy as that. And that's my (uninformed) two cents.

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