China has in recent days been convulsed by violent hatred of all things Japanese, with mobs forming in cities throughout China in order to loot and burn anything associated with Japan and its refusal to concede the Senkaku islands to China.
In Beijing 10,000 people menaced the Japanese embassy, and in over 50 cities throughout the country rioters looted and burned anything identified as Japanese.
“Japanese” convenience stores (including 7-11), department stores (coincidentally largely stocked with international luxury brands) and cars – even police cars – have been the most common target of violence:
Panasonic also reports 2 of its factories were set ablaze and partially destroyed.
Police guarding Japan’s embassy seem remarkably jovial, and organisations have been providing the mobs with things to throw at the embassy – though “please take no more than 2 eggs each”:
In another incident, China’s hacker legions apparently defaced the website of Japan’s Supreme Court with a crude Photoshop of a red flag flying over the isles and a message insisting they are Chinese territory, although the actual propaganda value of internationally advertising the legitimacy of their claims through hacking and cyber-crime seems doubtful.
The leading theory as to why the Chinese government allows such lawlessness (aside from the equally obvious conclusion that it wants to enslave all neighbouring nations in a new Chinese imperial hegemony) is that it is attempting to allow the populace to vent their pent up anger at conditions in China on another country rather than at the corrupt kleptocrats running China itself.
There is however also some suspicion that, much as in the UK in 2011, the mobs are in no small part comprised of opportunistic thieves in it for what they can loot, a fairly notorious tendency amongst poor Chinese:
For its part, in response to assaults on random Japanese the Chinese government has reassuringly proclaimed “China is a nation of laws and the safety of Japanese citizens is protected by the law.”
As it is so keen to point out, these laws do extend to territory not universally recognised as Chinese – hence it despatching 6 warships to the islands in recent days, although some or all of them apparently departed after being asked to leave by Japan Coast Guard vessels.
Further drama is expected, as Chinese fishermen have announced they have “a thousand ships” ready to sail on the islands and occupy them, which would presumably either force Japan to repel them or accept a permanent Chinese presence there.
Big business and state companies have also been riding the wave of xenophobia – Chinese state media has unilaterally cancelled all TV commercials from Japanese businesses, although it seems to have stopped short of actually replacing them all with stirring patriotic propaganda.
Another such effort at a boycott saw a major Chinese travel agent group unilaterally cancel the Japanese travel tours of 50,000 of its Chinese customers, with its boss saying he simply could not abide the actions of the Japanese government.
Foreign companies have also been getting in on the action – French food retailer Carrefour’s Chinese stores have reportedly withdrawn all Japanese products from their shelves, and many other shops have taken to sporting signs refusing Japanese entry or making assertions of sovereignty over the isles (although whether these are genuine gestures or jingoistic ardour or merely efforts to avoid being looted and burned to the ground is not clear).
Even Japanese companies desperate to do business in China have resorted to similar antics – in Shanghai, one Uniqlo store actually resorted to signage proclaiming the Diaoyu isles Chinese – although this probably opens an entirely new can of worms, and indeed Uniqlo has already been the subject of scorn from Japanese online, although most seem to realise only the upper management of most Japanese enterprises operating in China is actually Japanese.
Not infrequently it has been Chinese who have been the ultimate victims of the protests – the reaction of one patriotic Chinese lady upon seeing that the mob she had joined had just destroyed her Japanese car has become a classic: