At a time of increased tensions between East Asia's two largest
powers, Japan's foreign minister Sunday summoned China's ambassador,
following one of the most provocative anti-Japanese demonstrations
in many years in China.
In Beijing Saturday, thousands of jeering Chinese mobbed riot
police outside the Japanese Embassy, throwing eggs and rocks.
Protest spread to several large cities in the south Sunday, as
Chinese massed outside Japanese stores and consulates, calling for a
boycott of Japanese products and demanding that Japan own up to war
crimes of 60 years ago.
The underlying cause of the protests is widely regarded to be a
growing fear in Beijing that rival Japan may become a permanent
member of the UN Security Council, should UN reform proposals be
adopted in September. Washington recently began openly backing
Japan's longstanding bid for a seat.
That brought a swift response from Beijing. An Internet petition
against the move, for example, held partly on the official Xinhua
news website, got 25 million signatures.
While China may regard the demonstrations as part of a larger
strategy to thwart Japan's UN bid, the outbursts play into a
deepening apprehension in Japan over its vulnerability in a region
with a nuclear North Korea and a more powerful China.
The unusually vitriolic protests "create uncertainty about
Beijing at a time when China is rising economically and militarily,"
one diplomatic source notes.
Japan's ambassador to China, Anami Koreshige, said the incident
was "gravely regrettable" and called on Chinese authorities to
protect Japanese citizens and businesses, as well as the embassy and
other consulates in China. Japan's NHK channel has covered the
Beijing is widely thought to have tacitly supported the protests.
Yet popular anger against Japan is so raw that it takes little
effort to spark.
Japan's obdurate denial of its wartime past deeply offends China
and South Korea. Last week, Tokyo officially approved a history text
that is a "brazen glorification of Japan's colonial expansion,"
notes the Korea Herald. In Beijing many protesters, including Wan
Ping, a Tsinghua University student, said that "Japan is not ready
to be on the Security Council if it lies to its people about
List of grievances grows
Recent months have brought a list of grievances between China and
Tokyo. Along with the Security Council bid and the history textbook,
Japan stated on the Chinese Lunar New Year that the Senkaku Islands
were officially Japanese. In February, Japan and the US declared a
closer military bond. Last summer tensions rose as Japan defeated
China at the Asia Cup soccer games in Beijing.
In the southern city of Shenzhen Sunday, about 10,000 protesters
surrounded a Japanese-run Jasco supermarket and threw water bottles,
the Associated Press reported. And in Guangzhou, about 3,000 people
marched toward the Japanese Consulate General, though police
prevented demonstrators from getting too close. Hong Kong Cable
Television also showed a large crowd protesting outside a shopping
center in the city. …