Chinese protesters pelted the Japanese embassy in Beijing with eggs and bottles in response to the Japanese government’s announcement of a proposed plan to bring the “privately-held” Senkaku/Diaoyu islands under national ownership.
Decrying Japanese imperialism while touting signs emblazoned with Chairman Mao’s iconic portrait, Chinese university students took to the streets and called for war with Japan. Japanese news outlets relayed tales of violence against Japanese nationals within China, prompting China’s foreign ministry to issue a statement declaring that the public anger was not at the Japanese people and any Japanese citizens within China would be protected in accordance with Chinese law.
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Protests and riots are not often permitted in China, lending validity to claims that these riots are state-sanctioned. However, by Saturday officials were calling for restraint in light of the escalating nature of the protests. The situation was further complicated in terms of international relations when China dispatched naval ships to patrol near the disputed islands in what is being called a ‘law enforcement’ operation according to Chinese state media.
The disputes goes back to 1885 when Japan claims to have first surveyed the islands. Of course, it claims to have found no trace of Chinese sovereignty in that initial survey and declared the islands sovereign territory in 1895. These islands were then sold by the Japanese government into private ownership in 1932.
From the Chinese perspective, these islands are part of the long-standing legacy of aggression and imperialism between Japan and China that ended with World War II. After Japan’s surrender, the United States briefly administered the islands until handing them over to Japan in 1972.