Plunge Pontificates

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Asia: Furies Unleashed

Interesting article in Newsweek discussing the current China/Japan situation. There are parts that I agree with completely, others I just shake my head at. Still and all, a good primer on the current situation.

For China's top leaders, the unrest seemed like a recurring bad dream. Last Saturday 20,000 furious Chinese protesters shouting "Japanese pigs, come out!" rampaged through Shanghai, tossing stones and tomatoes at the Japanese Consulate, trashing shops and flipping over a Nissan van. Two Japanese were reported injured by an angry mob; smaller demonstrations broke out in Hangzhou and Tianjin. The previous week, thousands of unruly Chinese in Beijing had broken windows at the Japanese Embassy. Just hours afterward, China's powerful Politburo Standing Committee called an emergency damage-control meeting. President Hu Jintao warned against letting the unrest spread, to avoid giving protesters "a pretext to vent their dissatisfaction" over other issues, according to a high-level Chinese source. The mood of alarm evoked the Politburo strategy sessions back in 1989, added the source, when massive protests paralyzed Tiananmen Square for weeks. "They don't want to lose control."

The immediate cause of the protests—which seemed to receive some official encouragement—was the publication in Japan of revised junior-high-school textbooks that, the Chinese claim, whitewash Tokyo's World War II record. But the simmering Japan-China dispute is not really about the war. Japan insists that it has apologized for its wartime atrocities, and has given China some $34 billion in development aid that is war reparation in all but name—a fact seldom mentioned in the Chinese media. Rather, the two rivals are engaged in an increasingly vitriolic struggle to dominate the economic, diplomatic and military future of Asia. China, flush with pride and power after 20 years of pell-mell economic growth, is spending heavily on its military and flexing its newfound diplomatic muscle. Japan, nervous about China's rise, is shedding the pacifism that has anchored its foreign policy since the end of World War II.