That cartoon really does a great job of summing up why the public furor over this issue seems so embarrassingly overwrought. It’s also a good example of the backlash created by the unnecessary destructiveness of the protests.
My girlfriend was looking at the feed as info was coming in on Sunday and she said, ‘these guys think that they are the Red Guard.’ I think that is true in some ways – the angry youth are acting out a kind of passion play, based on how they imagine loyal patriots would act in a time of crisis. Also, similarly, it seems like the popular momentum has somewhat spiraled away from the control of the central authorities.
I had not heard that China Unicom sent that message out. Fomenting nationalism is a dangerous kind of pandering, and it is worrisome to see such politically charged rhetoric coming from a large institution. But I think that most of the most extremism is coming from the grass roots, and is not necessarily part of a coordinated plan.
Though it might seem counterintuitive, I don’t think the central government really wants people to keep fanning the flames quite so hard right at this point. I don’t think the government is thrilled about these kinds of demonstrations (despite their nationalist bent) – because the technocrats that hold sway over the direction of the party are largely pragmatists – and these public displays put party leadership in an awkward position. What they stand to gain by pushing the hawkish line demanded by the vocal (and violent) masses seems to be dwarfed by the potential economic and political consequences that the ongoing conflict that such a position would clearly lead to. I imagine some leaders wish this issue would just disappear. Surely some factions of the party are pleased. But undoubtedly all of them are paying very close attention.
These incidents are another piece of data in an organic experiment combining social media and the world’s largest population. In nationalism, or in Japan, we have discovered a clear catalyst.
Again, my hope is (and there seems to be some evidence to support the notion) that the extremism of public response is producing a counter current of moderation, like a whirling eddy within a fast flowing river.
I was impressed with the shirt of your colleague. It is not always easy to be a part of the counter current, and that kind of dissent deserves to be saluted.