08/20/2012, 00.00
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Chinese take to the streets over Diaoyu / Senkaku. Beijing stands idly by

by Chen Weijun
In the last two days popular demonstrations have verged on hysteria over Japanese "abuses" on the disputed archipelago. In Shenzhen, more than 20 thousand people overturned Japanese cars and smashed shops and restaurants from the Land of Rising Sun under the eyes of police, who did not intervene. Experts agree: "It is convenient for Beijing to let people vent their frustrations. But if the demonstrations were to degenerate, they are ready with the repression. "

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The "islands disputed" by both Beijing and Tokyo are increasingly inflaming mainland China. In the last two days, mass demonstrations were held in ten large cities that have verged on hysteria. In Wenzhou and Shenzhen about 20 thousand demonstrators overturned cars and burned Japanese flags under the eyes of dozens of policemen who, despite it being an unauthorized gathering, did not intervene. Other episodes have taken place in Guangzhou, Jinan, Hangzhou, Harbin, Chengdu, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.

The latest phase of the new diplomatic incident ended with the return of Japanese nationalists to Ishigaki and the Chinese groups return to the former British colony. Both delegations visited the disputed islands, which the Chinese call Diaoyu and the Japanese Senkaku, in the same week. At present, the three atolls and five islands are part of Okinawa Prefecture under the Japanese Government. But the Chinese continue to reclaim sovereignty, which at times undermines the relationship between the two major Asian economies.

The actual value of the archipelago is still unclear. It does have a strategic value, being on one of the most important shipping routes, others argue that in addition it has rich fishing waters and endless gas fields in the subsoil. In 2008, as a gesture of detente, the two governments signed an agreement for the joint exploitation and research in the archipelago, which, however, remained only in words.

The fact remains that they inflame the nationalistic spirit of both Chinese and Japanese and Tokyo that Beijing are only to happy to divert popular attention from internal tensions. In Japan it is the normal political crisis - the Democratic Party is going to dissolve the government and wants to keep the popular attention - China is preparing for the 18th Communist Congress and is in desperate need to keep the spotlight away from politics.

For this, the authorities did not intervene despite the extremely violent nature of the demonstrations. One demonstrator in Harbin says: "As an ordinary citizen the position of my country is not clear to me, but personally I say that we have overthrown this small country Japan and we can do it again. To stand out, China must first have a united people."

An even more dangerous demonstration took place in the southern city of Shenzhen. A thousand people overturned cars manufactured in Japan in protest, while thousands marched in front of the Japanese consulate asking for "justice." At least three Japanese restaurants were damaged in a serious way, and the megastore Jusco - Japanese brand - was mobbed by angry citizens who destroyed everything they could lay their hands on.

However, Beijing has no intention of letting the chaos run rampant. According to Zhou Yongsheng, an expert on Japanese affairs at the China Foreign Affairs These angry outbursts help people forget national problems." But Chen Zimin, a political analyst, claims: "The Congress is approaching and if things get worse, there is no doubt that it will trigger a repression. It is acceptable for people to vent their frustration, but the communist government has no intention of  allowing the situation get out of hand. "

All of this is in sharp contrast to the normal reaction to mass unauthorized gatherings. The central government has always maintained an iron fist against anyone who dared challenge it by taking to the streets. There were innumerable protests last year that ended with the arrest and conviction of the protesters, most of the time ordinary citizens fighting against the abuses Communist authorities,.


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