In September 1996, Hong Kong was roiled by a wave of angry demonstrations over a Japanese right-wing group's assertions of Japanese sovereignty over the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. 2 Hong Kong mass media decried what they called "a resurgence of Japanese militarism"; anti-Japanese banners and petition drives sprang up throughout Hong Kong; and a number of large and boisterous anti-Japanese demonstrations took place. At the same time, however, the Japanese presence in Hong Kong remained ubiquitous: not only merchandise, but also tourists and other sojourners, most of whom were shocked by the frenzy of anti-Japanese sentiment suddenly before them. How, in the midst of this tension, did Japanese sojourners in Hong Kong perceive Hong Kong and the Hong Kong people's views of them as Japanese? What sense did they make of the Hong Kong people's anger at Japan? How, in turn, did Hong Kong activists perceive the Japanese sojourners in their midst - as innocent tourists and students or as ongoing incarnations of Japanese aggression? And how can we comprehend the very different comprehensions of these two groups?
This chapter seeks to use a very small series of particular events and viewpoints - the Diaoyu Islands protests in Hong Kong in fall 1996 - to arrive, eventually, at an understanding of capitalism versus nationalism, a collision of discourses in today's world. I first set forth the history of the Diaoyu/ Senkaku Islands dispute. I then examine the dispute from alternative points of view: those of Japanese tourists and exchange students and of Hong Kong Chinese student activists, correlating these views with mass media reports. I then explore the complex of motivations behind all sides of the dispute. Finally I examine the dispute as a conflict of social positions, cultural shapings, and, most of all, of opposing frames of global discourse, filtered through Japan's worldwide economic reach and Hong Kong's resurgent sense of Chineseness: the discourses of capitalism in its myth of a pastless present and nationalism in its myth of past as present.
The Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands are a group of small, uninhabited islands some 200 kilometers northeast of Taiwan and 300 kilometers southwest of Okinawa.