It is the world’s fastest-growing economy. Within our lifetimes, it will become the largest. And yet, the face China presents to the world belies the truth of the lives of 1.4 billion people. To speak of broad generalities and the grand sweep of history is to ignore the human and very real concerns of the individuals who comprise those figures.
When and if it becomes the world’s pre-eminent nation, economically and militarily, how will it exercise that power? Will it seek to settle old scores? An incident yesterday, unreported either in the Chinese press* or the Western media, may shed some light on this issue. An anti-Japanese riot in Tianfu Square, Chengdu, the capital of the province of Sichuan, attended by thousands of demonstrators and marching under a banner proclaiming Japanese Dogs, Get Out Of Asia, took to smashing windows of Japanese shops and restaurants. LibertyGibbert’s resident China correspondent, Locusts, was the only Western witness, and though in clear personal danger, remained to record his remarkable and terrifying account of this event here.
There can be little doubt that this riot took place with prior knowledge of the Chinese government, and by extension tacit approval, if not outright support. What can one make of such an event clearly designed to inflame the local population, but not intended for Western eyes? And how will the Japanese respond? In its long history, China has little or no record of expansionist tendencies or military adventurism, although territorial disputes exist between the two nations over several island groups in the East China Sea, and Locusts’ account makes clear these disputes were part of the focus of the demonstrators. Is it a distraction from other pressing local problems, or does it point to a wider agenda? Inscrutable as always, China will reveal itself in its own time, and on its own terms.
The cat’s out of the bag; Xinhua News Agency and the China Media Project have just released reports of the riots, with pictures; more photos available at Sichuan New Media’s Flickr.com page. It’s going to go viral now.
The Xinhua report noted the following:
In Tokyo, right-wing groups had planned to mobilize 3,000 people to gather in front of the Chinese Ambassy to “clarify Japanese’s attitude on the issue”.
This could get ugly.