China Pushing And Scripting Japan Protests 

      By JOSEPH KAHN (NYT) 1339 words
      Published: April 15, 2005

      BEIJING, April 14 - Enraged about Japan's tendentious textbooks and 
      territorial disputes in the East China Sea, Sun Wei, a college junior, 
      joined thousands of Chinese in a rare legal protest march on the streets 
      of Beijing last weekend. 
      Yet the police herded protesters into tight groups, let them take turns 
      throwing rocks, then told them they had ''vented their anger'' long enough 
      and bused them back to campus. 
      ''It was partly a real protest and partly a political show,'' Mr. Sun said 
      in an interview this week. ''I felt a little like a puppet.'' 
      China has tapped a deep strain of nationalism among its people, gambling, 
      analysts say, that it can propel itself to a leadership role in Asia while 
      cloaking its move for power in the guise of wounded pride and popular 
      But the government also seems to have taken steps to control -- some say 
      manipulate -- a nascent protest movement to prevent a grass-roots 
      challenge to the governing Communist Party. 
      In the last few weeks, relations between Asia's two leading powers have 
      reached their most serious crisis since diplomatic ties were 
      re-established in 1972. China has confronted Japan over newly revised 
      history textbooks that gloss over wartime abuses. It stepped up its claim 
      to disputed islands and undersea gas reserves between the countries. 
      China took Japan and the United States to task for declaring that they 
      would jointly defend Taiwan in case of an attack from the mainland. 
      After weeks of hints, Chinese leaders said outright on Wednesday that 
      Japan did not have the moral qualifications to become a permanent member 
      of the United Nations Security Council. That effectively thwarted Japan's 
      ambition to attain that status as part of an overhaul plan this year. 
      The steps have proved immensely popular at home. But stirring up patriotic 
      sentiment to unite the country carries big risks, because party officials 
      fear nothing more than unscripted political activity. Furthermore, they 
      depend heavily on the good will of the major foreign powers to keep 
      investment flowing and the economy humming. 
      ''The basic policy of our government has been to be conciliatory to Japan 
      and the rest of the world,'' said Pan Wei, a political theorist at Beijing 
      University. ''But that policy has become less viable today, when people 
      are demanding a harder line.'' 
      The government's new approach will face a major test this weekend. It will 
      juggle an emergency diplomatic visit from the Japanese foreign minister, 
      Nobutaka Machimura, with a possible second wave of rallies against Japan. 
      Messages have circulated on Internet forums and mobile phones calling for 
      demonstrations in Beijing, Shanghai, Shengyang and Chengdu, though it 
      remains uncertain if the authorities will allow them to proceed. 
      One well-connected government media editor in Beijing quoted a senior 
      Communist Party leader as saying he was pleased with how protests unfolded 
      last weekend. But the same official also warned about the spread of 
      nationalist sentiment, including within the party itself. 
      ''There is a state of concern, even panic, about whether this could get 
      out of control,'' the editor said. 
      Hu Jintao, China's recently anointed top leader, adopted a nationalist 
      stance after taking full control of the government and military last fall. 
      In March he arranged for the country's legislature to approve a law 
      authorizing military action if Taiwan moves too far toward formal 
      Officials said the law was necessary because delegates at the generally 
      passive legislature, the National People's Congress, demanded that the 
      government do something concrete to check Taiwan's independence movement. 
      But even Chinese officials say the legislation backfired overseas, 
      probably delaying European plans to lift an embargo on arms sales to 
      China often emphasizes that it intends to have a ''peaceful rise,'' 
      integrating itself into the world economy while living in harmony with its 
      neighbors and the United States. 
      For many years China extended that white-glove policy toward Japan. But it 
      also fueled domestic rage with virulent anti-Japanese propaganda. Now, 
      political analysts say, the government cannot easily suppress emotions 
      over what many people see as Japan's failure to atone for past atrocities. 

      Some analysts say the authorities have managed the protests deftly, 
      though, tolerating and even encouraging discourse that would normally be 
      taboo. ''I think the movement has been heavily manipulated,'' said Yu Jie, 
      a critic of the government who has written extensively on China-Japan 
      relations. ''The sentiment against Japan is real, but the government has 
      co-opted it for its own purposes.'' 
      Officially, the Foreign Ministry says China had no choice but to allow 
      people to protest. 
      ''This protest was held spontaneously by some Beijing people upset about 
      Japan's wrong attitude and actions on the history of the invasion'' of 
      China and other issues, said Qin Gang, the Foreign Ministry spokesman. 
      Earlier this month a government-run association of retail stores issued an 
      appeal to boycott Japanese-made goods. The boycott's promoters have had 
      free rein on the Internet and the use of the tightly monitored network for 
      mobile phone text messages. 
      Internet sites and government-run newspapers have also rallied support for 
      an online petition to keep Japan off the Security Council. The official 
      news media claim that more than 30 million people signed the appeal. 
      The police, who routinely deny permits for protest marches and sometimes 
      detain people who seek the permits, approved the anti-Japan protest with 
      little advance notice last week. 
      But in one indication of how the government sought to manage the event, at 
      least four leading organizers of previous grass-roots efforts to confront 
      Japan were ordered to stay home, the four said in separate interviews. One 
      organizer said the authorities had reminded him of that order by cellphone 
      on Saturday. 
      ''We were told this was an entirely spontaneous event, so the people 
      leading the movement must have no role,'' said Tong Zeng, who has been 
      organizing anti-Japan activities since the late 1980's. ''The police 
      wanted to maintain tight control.'' 
      Mr. Sun, the college junior, said he felt that most of those who had taken 
      part, like himself, cared deeply about what he said was Japan's hostility 
      toward China. ''There is not a single person at my university who would 
      defend Japan,'' he said. ''It is clear that the Japanese have forgotten 
      their own past.'' 
      But he said the micromanagement of the protest left him feeling that his 
      own government was ''playing tricks.'' 
      China arranged similar violent demonstrations against the United States in 
      1999, just after the American bombing of China's embassy in Belgrade. The 
      United States called the incident, which occurred during NATO's war 
      against Serbia, a mistake. But many Chinese saw it as intentional because 
      China opposed the war. 
      Now, unlike 1999, the Chinese government has used the demonstrations as a 
      popular platform for announcing a new policy. On a high-profile visit to 
      India this week, Prime Minister Wen Jiabao bluntly stated what lower-level 
      diplomats have been hinting for weeks: China will not allow Japan to 
      assume a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council until it 
      meets Chinese demands. 
      ''Only a country that respects history, takes responsibility for history 
      and wins over the trust of peoples in Asia and the world at large can take 
      greater responsibilities in the international community,'' Mr. Wen said. 
      Shi Yinhong, a foreign relations expert at People's University in Beijing, 
      said the demand was a clear move for political leadership in Asia. 
      ''The moral issue is China's trump card over Japan,'' Mr. Shi said. 
      ''China is now playing that card.'' 

      Photo: More than 6,000 marchers demonstrated in Beijing on Saturday to 
      protest new Japanese textbooks that critics say gloss over Tokyo's wartime 
      atrocities. They demanded a boycott against Japanese-made products. (Photo 
      by Greg Baker/Associated Press)(pg. A9)