- - Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The diplomatic row between China and Japan over the Senkaku Islands, which China calls the Diaoyudaos, stepped up this week as demonstrations in several major Chinese cities turned violent.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in at least 10 major cities, including Shenzhen, Shenyang, Harbin, Qingdao and Hangzhou. In Shenzhen and Hangzhou, angry demonstrators damaged Japanese restaurants and Japanese cars even though the owners were Chinese citizens. Meanwhile, calls among nationalists to boycott all Japanese goods echoed across the country.

Reports from China revealed that several local municipal governments issued directives to boycott “Made in Japan” merchandise and were circulated on the Chinese Internet.

One popular theme during most of the demonstrations was calls by protesters to kill Japanese. One banner that went viral on the Internet and online journals bore the words “Even if all China becomes a graveyard, we will kill all Japanese.”

The protests were the first anti-Japan activities since 2010, when Japanese businesses in China were targeted by public demonstrations.

During those protests, some rallies across the nation turned into anti-Chinese government rallies with demands for more curbs on Chinese officials’ widespread corruption and calls for more income equality.

The current rift between China and Japan was triggered by the recent plan launched by the Tokyo municipal government to buy a four islets in the Senkakus chain, located in the western Pacific south of Okinawa and north of Taiwan.

Fourteen protesters from Hong Kong, Taiwan and the mainland staged a daring landing and flag-hoisting ceremony on one of the Japan-held islands there, but the protesters were apprehended and were sent back to where they came from by Japanese maritime law enforcement.

Chinese government reaction to the protesters’ violence against the Japanese was mute, indicating likely endorsement by Beijing. All political demonstrations in China are tightly restricted by the government.

However, equally incendiary to the angry Chinese youth was publication of a rare domestic condemnation of the violence at the anti-Japanese rallies. On Tuesday, a lone commentary scolding the thuggish demonstrators was published by the Beijing-based China Youth Daily. It became an instant focus of the nation.

“The stupid behavior of our property-smashing compatriots is not patriotic, but harmful to our nation” read the headline of the commentary.

It went on to scold what it called “stupid compatriots.”

“Regrettably, a few demonstrators did stupid things again that could only harm ourselves, but delight our foes,” the commentary said. “You smashed vehicles owned by your compatriots, made them suffer property loss, hurt their feelings. The photos of your stupid actions quickly spread to websites all over the world, severely damaging the image of the patriotic demonstrations, the image of China. Those Japanese right-wingers must be secretly happy about what you did.”

Websites in China that carried the commentary were quickly filled with readers’ invectives that condemned the commentary that opposed the violence.

China launches largest dual-use cargo ship

The 36,000-ton Roll on/Roll off [RORO] vessel called the “Bohai Pearl” made its maiden voyage on Aug. 8 from its home port Yantai in China’s Shandong Peninsula.

The RORO vessel is an essential element for military sealift — specifically, in delivering wheeled military vehicles such as trucks, tanks, and armored personnel or assault carriers to faraway places.

The ship has its own built-in ramps and can upload and offload large cargo without cranes. The Bohai Pearl has three-levels, with a capacity for more than 300 military vehicles.

The Bohai Pearl was commissioned by the Shenyang Military Region of the People’s Liberation Army. The maiden voyage was hailed by China’s official media, especially military press outlets, as a significant step forward in enhancing the PLA’s long-range strategic delivery capability.

Official state-controlled media said the Bohai Pearl, during its maiden voyage, carried several dozen armored vehicles, howitzers and other heavy military equipment. A military official from the Shandong-based Jinan Military Region was quoted as saying that the Bohai Pearl could also be used in wartime as provisional military barracks, capable of accommodating more than 2,000 troops.

The PLA is rapidly improving its strategic military delivery capabilities.

Analysts say the Bohai Pearl is expected to be used for moving a sizable number of combat vehicles and wheeled weapons to places such as the disputed islands in the South China Sea.

The Bohai Pearl also will be used to bolster closer strategic sea links between the PLA’s Shenyang Military Region in the northeast and the Jinan Military Zone in eastern China.

China’s military operates seven military regions. Three — the Beijing, Shenyang and Jinan military regions — are well placed to guard the Bohai sea area in the northeast and the capital, Beijing. The three military regions are connected by land routes. ROROs such as the Bohai Pearl will serve as a vital sea connection.

Miles Yu’s column appears Thursdays. He can be reached at mmilesyu@gmail.com.