Anti-Japan Protests Restrained After Yasukuni Visit

Japan’s Mainichi Shimbun reports with little specific information that Chinese anti-Japan groups have heeded Chinese governmental injuctions against protesting Koizumi‘s Aug. 15 visit to Yasukuni Shrine.

After last year’s anti-Japan demonstrations in many parts of China, the Chinese government might be hoping to avoid a repeat. Last year’s demonstrations, which at first emerged in the context of Japan’s bid (along with India) to join the U.N. Security Council, quickly widened to include boycott efforts targeting Japanese business and large-scale public demonstrations. Chinese authorities at the time first cited Yasukuni, which was mostly out of the news during the 14 months since Koizumi’s previous visit, at the same time they made efforts to temper public rallies. These efforts included ordering Chinese media not to cover demonstrations and sending text messages to Chinese mobile phone customers warning against unauthorized gatherings.

My undergraduate thesis, which I will post soon, argues that the effect of the Chinese deployment of the Yasukuni controversy in public rhetoric last April helped guide the bilateral tensions down a well worn path: Koizumi’s repeated shrine visits produced a familiar ground for Sino-Japanese historical disputes, one where tensions are pronounced, yet predictable.

Chinese government efforts to keep anti-Japan demonstrators off the streets most likely reflect the regime’s constant interest in stability. Though to the extent that the CCP draws legitimacy from nationalist sentiment in its anti-Japan manifestation, discouraging anti-Japan expression could be risky. Keeping the peace and preventing public unrest that might threaten the stability of the regime and regional economic ties is important, but so might be maintaining a culture of national pride connected to the CCP.

Certainly, without more detailed information than the short Mainichi article, it is impossible to know.

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