The Chinese government is allowing irate Chinese to protest publicly against Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands dispute (though things are getting out of hand and they’ve had to use tear gas and water cannons on some mobs, among other means of trying to put a lid on it.). Here’s a photo a friend in Tianjin took the other day:
“Japanese and dog no nearing” 日本人和狗不得靠近
There are two things you need to know about to have the most basic understanding of the photo above and why so many Mainland Chinese are freaking out over a couple of rocks in the Pacific: the Japanese invasion of China during WWII and the legacy of Western colonialism in China. (For now I’m skipping the psychological angle regarding repression, anger, anxiety, and stress due to current societal pressures in China that are unrelated to Japan, though no doubt that’s just as relevant.)
WWII and anti-Japan sentiment.
Any dispute with Japan, no matter how small, is automatically super-charged, waiting for a spark. When the Japanese invaded during WWII, they committed such atrocities that the Nanjing Massacre (aka The Rape of Nanking) is one of the few events in modern history that people dare to consider in the same league as the German Holocaust. However Japan has never made anything close to a satisfactory official apology (though some individual Japanese do), and victimhood is cemented into the Chinese psyche via their patriotic education. (See Why they hate the Japanese and Japanese apologies for more about this.) The anniversary of the Manchurian Incident, the staged even used as a pretext by the Japanese for launching their invasion of northern China in 1931, is September 18.
In WWII, real Chinese patriots destroyed their own Japanese-made vehicles, unlike the current crop of frustrated Chinese, who I’m representing with the photo above. Never mind that the “Japanese and dogs no nearing” sign is attached to a Japanese-made motorcycle. And never mind that it’s parked outside of a luxury Japanese shopping mall (Isetan – according to my friend who took the photo). This kind of irony is not uncommon. And this anti-Japanese sentiment is drawing on more than the Japanese WWII invasion; it’s also fueled by anti-colonial feelings. The “No dogs or ____” thing pops up whenever there’s a heated dispute with another country/race.
Colonialism and Anti-Western/Foreign Sentiment
“No dogs and Chinese allowed” 狗与华人不得入內
It’s debated whether or not the “No Dogs or Chinese” sign outside a Shanghai park in pre-Liberation China actually ever existed, but the truth of the matter is moot because it’s now a legendary part of the cultural fabric. The sign in the photo was famously smashed to bits by Bruce Lee in Fists of Fury, and it serves a symbol of national/racial/civilizational victimhood and humiliation. It’s automatically remembered in conflicts with foreign nations. Hence the license plate above, and this taxi sign below:
“Refuse to carry frenchmen and dogs” 不载法国人和狗
This was taken during the 2008 Olympic torch anti-French protests after some yahoo tried to steal the torch from a disabled Chinese athlete. The Olympics were such an emotionally charged event for the Chinese, and the protestor was protesting T!bet (another super-sensitive issue), so it sparked some popular resentment that drew on the “No Dogs or Chinese” legacy.
This “no dogs or peasants” signage is from a high-end shopping mall:
I assume it’s unintentionally ironic.
And finally, here’s a cute cartoon I found depicting the sensitivity of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Island dispute and the propensity of some (not all) Mainland Chinese to trash other people’s Japanese property. Japanese touching the islands is like pushing a “flip car button” in China:
“Flip car button” 翻车键
Click the image for the source.