Anti-Japan mood fosters Chinese unity
September 18, 1996
Web posted at: 11:10 a.m. EDT (1510 GMT)
BEIJING (CNN) -- Chinese protesters in Taiwan, Hong Kong and
Macao demonstrated again Wednesday against Japanese claims to
a chain of potentially oil-rich islets in the East China Sea.
The demonstrations came 65 years to the day after the
Japanese invaded the Chinese province of Manchuria, beginning
a chain of events leading to World War II.
In the weeks since right-wing Japanese activists set up a
lighthouse on one of the disputed islands, the Chinese
government and its state-run press have unleashed a flurry of
anti-Japanese critiques. And whether in Hong Kong, Macao,
Taiwan or on the mainland, Chinese people -- who have not
forgotten the past -- eagerly echo those critiques.
"Chinese people are very sensitive about territorial issues,
especially when it's an issue of Japan encroaching on Chinese
territory," said one Chinese man.
Even the recently released Chinese film "The July 7th
Incident" appears to be timed to incite anti-Japanese
sentiments. The film focuses on the Japanese invasion of
China in 1937.
(25 sec./ 1.1MB QuickTime movie)
Japan has claimed the uninhabited islands, which it calls the
Senkakus, since 1895, when it defeated China and seized
Taiwan and other territories. But China has not relinquished
its centuries-held claims on what it calls the Daioyus.
China claims the islands are an inseparable part of its
sovereign territory, and has hinted it may use force if
Japan does not take action against the lighthouse-builders.
"If the Japanese government continues to condone the
activities of these rightist groups, then the situation will
become even more serious and the problem will get even more
complicated," said Shen Guofang of the Chinese Foreign
Ironically, the dispute over the islands may have simplified
China's often complex relationships with Chinese communities
outside its borders. In Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan,
protesters have taken to the streets and circulated petitions
demanding that Japan back down.
The planning of similar demonstrations on the mainland is
forbidden -- and has even landed Chinese activist Tong Zeng
in detention -- but the protests elsewhere have proven
beneficial to Beijing.
In fact, some analysts say the real significance of the
demonstrations lies not so much in the anti-Japanese message
as in their potential to bring Taiwan and China closer
together and ease the transitions of Hong Kong and Macao back
into China's fold. Hong Kong is to be transferred from
Britain next year, and Portugal is to relinquish its rule of
Macao in 1999.
But while the dispute may bolster unity for greater China, it
is forcing China and Japan farther
apart. With a long and bitter history already between the two
countries, how they resolve this crisis could set the future
tone of their relationship.
Correspondent Andrea Koppel and Reuters contributed to this report.
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.