Pollution & Nationalism

Politics, The Environment

Two protests, two Chinas, each explaining the other. And yet, I have to admit being somewhat overwhelmed and baffled by the whole thing. So please excuse the fragmented nature of this post.

First, the anti-Japanese protest in Shanghai:

Possibly as many as 30,000 people were marching through the streets of Shanghai today. Some of them smashed up a teppanyaki restaurant, some threw stones at passing Toyotas, and some called for the mass murder of Japanese people. Mass gatherings invariably lead to mass hysteria, and sociologists would not have been disappointed by the euphoric chanting, the subsumption of individual selves and the eventual recourse to mindless violence.

Some explanation:

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.

Next, the other, less well reported protest against pollution:

Thousands of people rioted Sunday in a village in southeastern China, overturning police cars and driving away officers who had tried to stop elderly villagers from protesting against pollution from nearby factories, witnesses said Wednesday.

More on Chinese environmentalism from Praktike.

Quoting an article from the Guardian, E. Heroux points out that such protests are quite frequent:

Government statistics say the number of protests grew by 15% last year to 58,000, with more than 3 million people taking part. In many provincial capitals, roadblocks occur more than once a week . . . .

But what does it mean that the scene of this latest clash with the police has become a major tourist attraction?

Ian Burma writes:

There is no evidence of a direct link between the rural Zhejiang protests and the anti-Japanese demonstrations elsewhere, but the very thought that such links might be possible would fill any Chinese government official who knows anything about history with dread. That is why the authorities will no doubt try to stop the demonstrations from going much further. But there is equally little doubt they will recur, no matter what the Japanese do.

UPDATE: Japan’s apologies to China:

Not only do I think Japan has already apologized, but I believe such national apologies have little or no worth and aren’t worth the hot air they generate. In fact, neither do they satisfy the Asian countries they are directed towards (if and when they ever find out about the statements) but they increasingly inflame otherwise sympathetic Japanese who feel they are forced to engage in constant self-flagellation. This distracts them from the more important historiographical issues at stake on all sides. On the other hand, it is also highly inaccurate to portray the apology diplomacy” of Japan as a story of repeatedly issuing unambiguous statements of admitted guilt and apology. These statements vary greatly, and were often issued with great reluctance and in the face of opposition from conservative politicians who etertain the most revisionist historical positions.

UPDATE: Here is a good round-up of posts on the protests.

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