May 3, 2005


The China syndrome (Joseph Kahn, MAY 3, 2005, The New York Times)

Surging anti-Japan sentiment, which has plunged relations between Asia's two leading powers into crisis, has been fanned in part by official propaganda and hotheaded Chinese youth who hurl stones into Japan's diplomatic compounds. But pressure on Japan to face up to its history was initiated, and could be sustained well into the future, by people like Wang, 37, who has a master's degree in business, travels abroad, runs his own company and cares passionately about Japanese amnesia.

Japan has joined traffic jams and the housing bubble as top concerns for China's urban middle class. Entrepreneurs and white-collar professionals have benefited disproportionately from China's economic policies, but many worry their government will not press historical grievances against a major investor and trading partner for long.

"Our government takes a soft line on foreign policy. They put economic development first," says Li Bin, the chief executive of Nirvana, a health-club chain. "It is critical for successful people to stand up for the rights and interests of the country."

Such sentiments make the Japan issue - and nationalism generally - double-edged swords for Beijing.

China reversed course late last month and ordered people to let the government handle Japan itself. The police detained people for organizing illegal marches. But the authorities are clearly worried that patriotic protests could return, perhaps as soon as May 4, the anniversary of a 1919 protest that defined modern Chinese patriotism. More protests could put as much pressure on the Chinese government as they do on Tokyo.

The Communist Party stirs patriotic feelings to underpin its own legitimacy at a time when few, even in its own ranks, put much faith in socialism.

This is the moment for China to be submitted to its Westminster speech

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 3, 2005 8:29 AM

Mr. Judd;

Wang ought to be asking about the amnesia of his own government, not Japan's. Clearly that's what the ChiComs are afraid of.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at May 3, 2005 8:40 AM