State media call for “rational” patriotism

After two days of violent anti-Japanese protests in China stemming from a territorial dispute over a chain of islands in the East China Sea, media in China are now calling on the public to remain calm and “rational,” apparently concerned about how violence at home might play internationally over the sovereignty issue.

Over the weekend, hundreds of protesters surrounded Japan’s embassy in Beijing, some reports calling the action peaceful and others saying protesters had tried to break through police barricades. Protesters in the northern Chinese city of Qingdao set fire to a factory run by Japan’s Panasonic as well as a Toyota dealership. Protests turned violent in other cities too, with police in the southern city of Shenzhen, across the border from Hong Kong, reportedly dispersing crowds with tear gas.

Images of protests across the country proliferated on Chinese social media as well. In this photo, shared on the popular Sina Weibo platform, protesters in Inner Mongolia are shown marching with a banner that reads: “Even if all China becomes a grave, we must kill every Japanese” (哪怕华夏遍地坟, 也要杀光日本人).


[ABOVE: Protesters in China's Inner Mongolia region march with a banner pledging to kill Japanese.]

An editorial on the front page of today’s official People’s Daily newspaper had the audacity to suggest Chinese protesters “did not lose restraint” and had “remained calm.” But the editorial, which emphasized the need for “civilized” and law-abiding conduct as Chinese asserted their territorial sovereignty, was at the same time a tacit admission that events over the weekend had been anything but calm.


[ABOVE: In this photo of anti-Japanese protests in China posted to Sina Weibo, a Chinese protester holds a sign that reads, "Oppose Violence, Love Your Country Rationally."]

This week’s push for “rational patriotism,” mirrored also in commercial media like Guangzhou’s Southern Metropolis Daily, is a reminder once again of the razor’s edge China’s Communist Party leadership has walked in mobilizing jingoistic nationalism to legitimize its power, in the process creating further sources of domestic unrest that can be difficult to manage politically.

A full translation of the editorial in today’s People’s Daily follows:

“Use Civilization and Rule of Law to Gather the Force of Patriotism” (用文明法治凝聚爱国力量)
September 17, 2012
People’s Daily

“The Diaoyu Islands are China’s!” For days now, people in places across the country have shouted this across the waves of the East China Sea. In their fury they did not lose restraint, in their enthusiasm they remained moderate, expressing themselves in a civilized and orderly manner, voicing the determination of the Chinese people in protecting their sovereign territory, forcefully opposing the drama perpetrated by the Japanese government in “purchasing” the Diaoyu Islands, and winning the respect and understanding of the international community.

When the sovereign territory of the Mother Country is subjected to provocation, our anger is irrepressible, and the enthusiasm of the youth of China must have release. These patriotic feelings are precious, and they must be cherished and protected. But, a civilized attitude abiding by rule of law should be the basic conduct of the citizenry. Doing damage to the legal property of one’s countrymen and venting one’s anger on the heads of Japanese citizens in China is extremely inappropriate.

Protection of sovereign national territory of course requires fierce assertion, but at the same time it demands that we act in a civilized manner and abide by the law. In today’s China, we are far from the era of weakness and poverty, no longer a China carved up by others at will. Protecting national interests, acting in a civilized manner and giving priority to rule of law, these are the marks of a powerful country and crucial guarantees of national revival. We must use civilization and rule of law to gather the force of patriotism, transforming our ardent love for our nation into the driving force of a powerful country. In today’s globalized world, we should let the world see a China that is developing peacefully, in which governance is progressing and the character of the people is rising. Therefore, safeguarding our national sovereignty and territorial integrity, and protecting the dignity of our people, requires that we act in a civilized manner and abide by rule of law, remaining cool and calm, expressing our patriotism in a legal and orderly way.

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