Protests should not turn to the dark side

Source:Global Times Published: 2012-9-18 0:25:03

Editor's Note:

The past few days have seen a growing number of Chinese demonstrations protesting Japan's unilateral "nationalization" of the Diaoyu Islands, with a series of violent activities marring proceedings. Today marks the 81st anniversary of the September 18 Incident of 1931, which preceded Japan's invasion of Northeast China. It has been reported that a few Japanese factories in China have suspended their business temporarily due to safety considerations. Why have some Chinese demonstrators chosen violent means to show their "patriotism?" Will these violent protests really help resolve the Diaoyu Islands dispute? The Global Times invited some experts to share their opinions.


Illustration: Sun Ying
Illustration: Sun Ying

Radical grass-roots response shows hard social problems

By Jiao Kun

Recently the Chinese people have responded strongly to Japan's "nationalization" of the Diaoyu Islands. The rapid escalation of the situation was unexpected by many people on both sides.

Living in Japan, I did worry whether I would suffer from retaliatory attacks. On social networks here, there are discussions among Chinese compatriots in Japan about whether we should go back to China.

Nevertheless, there doesn't seem to have been much change in Japanese society, at least judging from the situation over the past couple of days. No matter whether in my university or in big shopping malls, ordinary Japanese people do not seem to have a different attitude.

However, this does not mean the Japanese have no idea what is happening. But one characteristic of Japanese society is that people prioritize their personal affairs, and remain focused on their own lives.

I looked at the pictures of Chinese protesters who behaved violently during street demonstrations. By smashing and looting their own compatriots' property, they had nothing to do with expressing patriotism.

In Japan, there are few such people idling in the streets. This is a practical observation both in large and small cities. I'd rather attribute this to the different levels of social development. Back in China, I saw some peaceful demonstrations in big cities. This, to a certain degree, proves my observation.

Most people have stable lives and careers in large, developed Chinese cities. It is less likely that smashing and looting will erupt in these places. In smaller Chinese cities, it's not uncommon to see people quarreling, fighting or selling commodities like stolen cell phones. Many of these people do not have stable jobs. Shocking events will take place if they try to make trouble and profit from street demonstrations that should have been used to deliver a simple message of patriotism.

The Chinese streets will appear more orderly and safer, as greater social growth gives birth to more stable careers and families. But at the moment, the violence seen in recent street demonstrations in some Chinese cities mirrors the social problems we have yet to face.

The author is a scholar living in Japan.


Violent turmoil not way to advance China's rightful cause

Japan's recent decision to "nationalize" the Diaoyu Islands has caused a lot of discontent among the Chinese public. Most protesters in Beijing and Guangzhou waved banners and shouted slogans on the streets to express their feeling. While some people in cities such as Xi'an and Qingdao smashed "Japanese" shops and cars, looted stores, and even attacked people.

In the old days, we believed any patriotic action was guiltless. However, modern society is more civilized. Therefore, more reasonable protests should be encouraged. Beating, smashing and looting will not help resolve the Diaoyu Islands dispute. It may even be counterproductive. These actions do more harm than good to both diplomatic dispute and domestic stability.

Some people offer excuses for such acts. According to them, when facing "jackals," it is no use to talk about rationality with wild beasts. However, wisdom and willpower are more important than violent means during such struggles. Anyway, we should avoid using illegal and violent methods even in the name of patriotism.

Moreover, some people are taking advantage of the situation. Maybe some of the rioters are acting out of patriotism. However, according to media reports, some protesters have criminal records. They may have other purposes.

These violent actions will not really exert pressure on Japan. It was Japan's right-wing forces that provoked the disputes. Violence will not really influence them. We should touch their sore spots. Then twice the result can be accomplished with half the effort. Violent actions will only grieve those near and dear to the people and gladden our enemies. Japan's right-wing forces will be glad to see the chaos in China. Even Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara himself couldn't expect that his proposal to purchase the Diaoyu Islands could have such a "good" effect.

The current situation is a test for China. China has overtaken Japan as the world's second biggest economy. At this time, China's social civilization should keep up with global moral standards. We should take rational actions by analyzing the structural features of Sino-Japan relations. Also, Chinese government should constrain violent protests through the use of the law.

The article was compiled by Global Times reporter Shu Meng based on an interview with Yang Bojiang, a professor at University of International Relations.


China and Japan's economy are highly linked to each other nowadays. Of course, both will suffer from the beating, smashing and looting. However, because the issue is related to national interests, it is difficult to count the cost of these actions. Currently, even boycotting Japanese goods is very difficult. The interdependence of the world economy can be reflected in each individual product, and even each part of the product. For instance, some patents of Toyota, a Japanese brand, are used by car factories all over the world. Many electronic products are being produced under technology patents owned by Japanese companies.  

Chen Youjun, an associate research fellow with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies

I have seen hard times during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945). Heilongjiang, where I reside, used to be occupied by Japan. The Japanese troops committed many cruel acts here. One of them was that Japanese closed and even destroyed many stores. It severely affected China's economy. New stores couldn't open without Japanese permission. Those actions will never be forgotten. However, I am distressed to see that some Chinese are hurting our compatriots. Those people should remember that the stores they have smashed were operated by Chinese people. Those cars that have been attacked were purchased with Chinese people's money.

Yu Yuanji, an 85-year-old resident of Heilongjiang province 

Our patriots bought Japanese products by spending their hard-earned money. Though the brand chosen is Japanese, the purchased items are property belonging to our Chinese. Smashing Japanese products is equal to damaging the other's legal property. It's certainly criminal behavior.

We can find other ways to vent our patriotism, such as offering advice or parades. But destroying others' property is absolutely unacceptable.

Since they have energy and time for protesting and smashing things, why not spend the same amount of energy and time on doing their jobs well? I think that is a more practical and effective way to show patriotism.

Zhang Yu, a college teacher at Qingdao

This violence has broken my Chinese heart. I feel indignant at their rude and uncivilized behavior. I will not join them, because it is useless, for it is the government who makes the final decision. The social unrest would only make people feel jittery.

Besides, the protests themselves can be potentially dangerous. I strongly doubt if there is someone behind the scene manipulating those protests.

Though I disagree with those protests, I will think twice before buying Japanese products next time.

Pan Tingting, a postgraduate student in Fudan University in Shanghai

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