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Date Posted: 21:21 14/04/2005

Shanghai joins the Japan bash

The wave of protests against Japan moves to the country's most 'international' city

RUNNING DOG didn't really want to write about the sickening wave of anti-Japanese protests now sweeping across China. Running Dog didn't want to mention the acts of vandalism against Japanese-owned stores in Shenzhen or Chengdu, or against Japanese residents in Shanghai. Running Dog didn't want to give the oxygen of publicity to the various 'patriots' involved. In fact, Running Dog would prefer not to give them the oxygen of oxygen.

Things have, quite clearly, got out of hand. And after the marches in Beijing and Guangzhou at the weekend, Shanghai is seeking to get in on the act.

The details of the Shanghai anti-Japanese march, which will take place on Saturday, were received by almost everyone in possession of an e-mail account in the city today, and they make depressing reading.

The march, in any case, will begin at 9.00am at the Bund and end at the secluded Japanese consulate near the main library on Huaihai Road, passing Nanjing Road, the People's Square, and a number of Japanese-owned shopping centres along the way.

'Remember to bring food and drink,' say the organizers, 'but do not choose Japanese labels.'

'As far as possible, do not bring valuables,' say the organizers, 'and wear sports shoes, or better, running shoes, if you can.'

'Do not bring Japanese cameras, videocameras, mobile phones, sound recorders, or other electronic devices,' say the organizers, 'in order to prevent accidents.'

'At the consulate, do not throw stones, metal, or hard objects,' say the organizers. 'We recommend that you bring tomatos and eggs, portraits of Koizumi, lighters and Japanese flags.'

There is even a list of official slogans.

'Resist Japanese goods, oppose the history-distorting Japanese textbook!'

'Resist Japanese goods, support national goods.'

'Oppose Japan becoming a permanent member of the Security Council. Refuse Japanese goods! Give us back the Diaoyu Islands! Oppose the history-distorting Japanese textbook.'

The organizers also provide safety advice.

'While burning Japanese flags or portraits of Koizumi, please pay attention to your safety. You don't want to burn your clothes and immolate yourself!'

The government spokeswoman, Jiao Yang, has already acknowledged the existence of the activities, saying at her routine press conference yesterday that the authorities would be 'paying close attention' to what happens on Saturday. E-mails from Shanghai Online and SMS from China Telecom have also been sent out to warn potential protestors against getting into trouble.

One can at least say that the government has not yet thought it necessary to disapprove of the activities. They may, conceivably, be looking to gain leverage in the wider power struggle against Japan. Alternatively, with riots and protests proliferating throughout the country, they may actually be hoping to keep their powder dry. Perhaps they are keenly aware that social unrest need some sort of acceptable outlet, and if the masses are angry, then the anger might as well be channeled towards the perennial bete noir that is Japan. The march, after all, is organized by students, and students, ipso facto, are angry.

Chairman Mao knew it: it enabled him to launch the Cultural Revolution. As part of their post-adolescent struggle for identity, young students yearn for freedom. If they are not allowed to express their opinions, they have to finesse it, and pretend - somehow - that they identify whole-heartedly with the nation, and that such an identificiation has been arrived at with their consent and with a complete understanding of right and wrong. In a country where one is not permitted to express dissent, the only way to maintain one's integrity is to pretend that one's patriotism is freely chosen, and based on truth. And so, our patriot-rebels do not want to hear about the various apologies made by Japan over the years, because they have invested so much in the belief that their anger is rational and based on Japan's refusal to apologize.

This kind of rebel can really cause a lot of damage. In the end, one suspects, they don't really care what they are angry about. The anger is enough.

It is interesting, though, that the various charges against Japan are considered all of a piece. The organizers claim, at one point in the document issued today, to be opposed only to 'Japanese right-wingers who distort history', and not to 'Japanese friends who live in China'. But it is clear that anything done by the Japanese is, by its very nature, of questionable motive. That's why the application for permanent membership of the Security Council, the occupation of the Diaoyu Islands, and the distortion of history are linked together so intimately.

If you scratch the surface of such 'patriotism', if you start to ask questions of it, you start to hear a number of very unpalatable opinions. Some of Running Dog's friends will describe the Japanese as 'perverts' or 'psychopaths'. Everything the Japanese do is derived from the same immutable characteristics that led to the invasion of Mukden and the Rape of Nanjing.

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