In Brief: Reflecting on the Diaoyu Incident

Much has been written about the boat collision that took place in the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. A few days ago, a friend of mine ran across this message, posted as a status update to the Xiaonei (China’s Facebook) profile of another friend. This kind of thinking on the incident is probably one reason the turnout at the 9/18 protest was so abysmal:

A boat captain was locked up by Japan’s Justice department and everyone across the country started worrying about him. But I wasn’t concerned that he would meet with any inhuman treatment, because Japan is a country with the rule of law. But every day in Beijing, there are hundreds of our countrymen locked in Anyuanding’s black jails. They’re beaten and abused by corrupt police officers, given food to eat that’s not fit for dogs or pigs, and sleep at night without even blankets to cover themselves. Men and women are mixed together, denied respect and human rights. Being a prisoner in Japan is better than being a Chinese citizen.

The guy who wrote this — I’m being intentionally vague to protect his identity — is not a “dissident”, and has in fact been repeatedly described by our mutual friend as a fenqing. Maybe the time these guys are spending online talking about China has led them in a few directions they weren’t expected…

(Another interesting reflection on the incident can be found here.)

0 thoughts on “In Brief: Reflecting on the Diaoyu Incident”

  1. Agreed. Another reason, so I’ve heard, is that protests were suppressed around the country because of fear that they could become rallies around domestic issues. Reading that post makes you feel that the authorities that felt that way weren’t too far off base.


  2. The major issue is not really about that one single fishboat captain, rather the soverignity of the Diaoyu islands and the circumstances of why the crewmembers are arrested in the first place.


  3. The message posted on Xiaonei reflects one of two things, (could be both) …
    1. There’s great degree of “freedom of speech” in China.
    2. The so-called “black jails” are not as bad as portrayed, or this person has never been to any of them.


  4. Resorting to red herrings, aren’t we?

    “This kind of thinking on the incident is probably one reason the turnout at the 9/18 protest was so abysmal”

    No, it’s not. From what you have written about China, at least you have some knowledge about the country. You should know better.


  5. When viewed as an isolated incident, it’s difficult not to feel that Japan handled the whole thing very poorly and that China “won.” As many in Japan (and elsewhere) have asked, why would Japan choose to detain the captain in the first place if it wasn’t prepared to deal with an angry diplomatic response from China?

    Such events take place in a much broader context, however, and I’m sure that many who work in China’s foreign ministry are concerned about how the incident will play throughout the region. Some have even suggested – and not without good reason – that the real “winner” here is the U.S., as regional tensions and general nervousness about China’s growing military power result in closer relations between the America and China’s neighbors. In the end, with the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands still nominally under Japanese control, with the Japanese now preparing to expand its military by as much as 100,000 troops, and with all of Asia looking on as China flamboyantly flexes its muscles, it’s perhaps reasonable to imagine that China’s “victory” here is purely pyhrric.

    “Peaceful rise” my ass.


  6. Compared to the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and possibly Iran next, and countless wars the U.S. fought before this, yeah, China is having a peaceful rise. Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean it’s not true.

    The consequences are hard to predict. But China definitely needs a moment that says to Japan and other Asian countries “Don’t mess with me” loud and clear. It’s China’s fate as a large country – large countries are simply not all loved like small countries. Sure, those countries now want to get closer to the U.S., but they now would think twice before picking a fight with China. Again, just because you wish China would lose doesn’t mean this is entirely bad.


  7. Keisaat, the main reason China emphasises ”peaceful rise” is because currently it doesn’t have the military hardware to do otherwise, it’s just biding it’s time until it’s powerful enough to take on anyone else (i.e. the US).


  8. @ keisaat: I don’t think that’s a red herring. I said it’s probably one reason. Certainly, it isn’t the MAIN reason, but the person who said this is, like I said, considered a “fenqing” by many friends and this protest is the sort of thing I would kind of have expected him to be interested in. Obviously, there are other, more widespread reasons people didn’t go protest. But I don’t think it’s invalid to suggest that this might be one reason.

    @ tc: He has not been in a black jail to my knowledge. I assume he just read the Nanfang story about it last week.


  9. >why would Japan choose to detain the captain

    Because the decision was made by the Coast Guard/prosecutors in Okinawa, not the Foreign Ministry.

    By the way Custer, I wonder how hard you had to look to find an “alternative” opinion on this issue. I looked around and couldn’t find a single Chinese or Hong Kong media that didn’t make the following faulty and baseless assumptions:
    – The Japanese coast guard rammed the fishing boat
    – The detention was “illegal”
    – It was an act of “aggression”
    – The whole event was planned by Japan for reason X

    By the way, even the Chinese newspapers in Canada were similar, although the tone was much more restrained. But they would have an article on a buildup of troops from 2,000 to 20,000 without any kind of context, leaving the reader to come to the “aggression” conclusion.

    In that kind of environment I really wonder how difficult it would be to come up with an alternative viewpoint….


  10. @Some Guy
    Well said. It is common for Chinese people to view Japan as a monolithic entity where their government controls everything. It’s understandable, as that’s pretty much how it works in China. Few understand that Tokyo cannot interfere with the judicial branch, and it probably took a lot of pressure/pleading before the judge in Ishigaki decided to repeal his decision.

    I must say if Beijing hadn’t curbed nationalist sentiments and broken up rally organization, there would’ve been a lot more protesters.


  11. When Chinese citizens were kidnapped near Chinese islands in Chinese water by Japanese thugs, the person posted that kind of message was very inappropriate to say the least. He certainly pleased his foreign masters, but earned no respect from no ethnic Chinese anywhere in the world, for sure.


  12. @ Some guy: I literally did not look for this at all. The reason this is an “in brief” post is because someone passed it along to me as something they saw on Xiaonei. If it were something I spent time looking for, there would be a full length post about it.

    As for the friend of mine who found it, I don’t think they looked for at all either, just came across it on the “status updates” page of their Xiaonei account.

    A bigger issue with your question, though, is that you’re looking in the media. Granted, in HK or in Canada they could make this argument, but Chinese media certainly can’t. Outside of official media, this thinking isn’t hard to find. Had I been looking, I would have gone to that Han Han article that was deleted last week, where he makes a very similar argument.


  13. Once again, we see the same attitude as the one I talked about on the HH article: if the government doesn’t care about my personal interests, then I won’t care about your (ie. national) interests.

    I mean, feel free to not pay taxes and whatever, but the Chinese territories will be inherited by whatever dynasty that comes after the current one. The CCP isn’t China’s first owner, and it won’t be the last. The bigger it gets now, the better.


  14. The person who posted the ‘message’ on Xiaonei had done a huge damage to his own interest and he didn’t even know it. This idiot might be praised by foreign anti-China elements and perhaps got some money from them, but his children, his children’s children … will be forever despised by foreigners, especially by Japanese. This moron is extremely short-sighted. He has done tremendous damage to my interest and yours, not CCP’s interest, which I care very little about.


  15. @ tc: uh…what? First of all, like I said, this is just a regular guy. He’s not getting money from any “foreign anti-China elements”. As for the rest of your comment, which makes virtually no sense, feel free to explain what you’re talking about.


  16. Thank you, Mr. Custer, for allowing me to comment on your blog. You could have deleted them, if you didn’t like them. I do appreciate that.

    I am not at all surprised any or all of my comments make no sense to a lot of people. Comments are just comments. Everybody has his/her own interpretation of things. I tried very hard not to respond to other’s comments addressing to me, because that could make the conversation never end, or end with bitter arguments, or worse. I don’t think that’s good. I rather go take a nap instead.

    I do say things in very broken English. If you believe any of my comments offend you or anybody, please let me know immediately.
    You have my email address. Thank you, again.


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