Hawkish tone in media softens after anti-Japanese riots

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 September, 2012, 9:14am

Some mainland media outlets appeared to tone down their anti-Japan rhetoric at the weekend amid a spate of violent attacks targeting Japanese interests on the mainland.

The online edition of the Beijing Youth Daily on Saturday said damaging of Japanese-made vehicles across the mainland was a gross violation of Chinese law.

"A line needs to be drawn here - the expression of patriotism shouldn't compromise public order," the paper said, "nor should it stray from the rule of law."

Xinhua issued a commentary yesterday urging: "Wisdom needed in the expression of patriotism".

Netease, a big news portal, warned yesterday that "patriotism" had been increasingly used as a cover-up for criminal activity, as shops in several cities, including Changsha , Xian and Qingdao , had been looted or torched.

The online edition of the People's Daily, a party mouthpiece, said irrational acts had shamed the country's legal system, as well as Chinese society as a whole, and could open the country to international criticism. "The expression of patriotism through anger" will be laughed off by those it is targeted against, "and it will also subject our own compatriots to harm", the website said, adding that the public should reflect on the best way to defend the Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan.

This softer tone in domestic media is a significant departure from an increasingly hawkish stance that some adopted by calling for military preparations in order to protect China's claims to the disputed islands.

Professor Zhan Jiang, who teaches journalism at Beijing Foreign Studies University, said some domestic media outlets were hypocritical in their calls for calm, as they were somewhat responsible for whipping up nationalistic sentiment.

He accused hawkish news organisations such as the Global Times, a tabloid newspaper affiliated with the People's Daily, of colluding with irresponsible military generals to manipulate patriotism, in order to make money and serve their own interests.

"They have tried to back off a bit, but only because they realised that their campaigns could backfire, both internationally and on the home front," Zhan said.