Save the lecture about historical context. We’re talking about rocks. Uninhabited rocks. If indeed there’s black gold inside the set of rocks known as the Diaoyu Islands, governments should mine ‘em together and split the profit, as was proposed once upon a time ago. But nooo, that would be too elementary a solution. We have to act like children, because we are, in the grand scheme of things. Children whose children behave like — shock! — children, flipping over police cars and boycotting products.
You reap what you sow. The government here — and, in the interest of fairness, the right wing of the Japanese government, which incited the latest round of street protest in China by sending 150 lawmakers etc. toward Diaoyu/Senkaku, then watching 10 activists land on them — has sowed nationalism, and reaps this shit:
The Chinese state news media portrayed the demonstrations as fairly small, each involving fewer than 200 people, and not extending to inland provinces. But photographs posted on Sina Weibo, the country’s most widely used microblogging service, suggested that the crowds had been far larger. In one photo said to be from the southwestern city of Chengdu, deep in China’s interior, the number of protesters appeared to be in the thousands.
“Defend the Diaoyu Islands to the death,” one banner said. Another said, “Even if China is covered with graves, we must kill all Japanese.”
The excellent South Sea Conversations adds about the dangers of nationalism:
The ICG’s Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt recently commented that the leaders of China and Japan have little “political capital” to spend on defying “nationalist or populist sentiment”. In this excellent interview, SKA identifies nationalist sentiment as a constraint on governments’ ability to compromise or back down during a dispute. There are counter-examples, such as Noda’s governament’s speedy release of the recent protagonists, where Chinese and Japanese leaders have appeared to defy pressure to be uncooperative and confrontation. But the two countries’ recent record suggest this has beendifficult in the past.
Public opinion offers an explanation for what learned observers consider to be China’s counterproductively hardline stance in the previous Diaoyu confrontation in September 2010 (itself a response to Japan’s abnormally trenchant action in detaining an infringing Chinese fishing boat captain for several weeks rather than releasing him swiftly, as they did yesterday). The ill-will on the part of both publics may have had a lot to do with the non-implementation of a deal negotiated back in 2008 for cooperative development of some of the oil and gas deposits in the area.
Nationalist activists on both sides are true believers in their cause, so even where their actions may be deliberately incited and/or tacitly sanctioned by their governments, they nonetheless impact the dispute by necessitating responses from the other side. Once the Qifeng-2 escaped the clutches of the Hong Kong authorities and got beyond PRC territorial waters, for example, Beijing had little or no control over whether the passengers of the Qifeng-2 would actually manage to set foot on the island last Wednesday.
The “true believers” are manageable when they’re slinging virtual rocks on the Internet, but once cars get overturned — police cars – then shit has gotten real. Look:
So, good luck, governments. Keep on fiddling with the people’s emotions and watch as your self-interests are cut from under your feet. Yay nationalistic fervor and all that garbage. Mobs are always great until they stop listening — the biggest fools are those who believe they ever listened in the first place.