I hadn’t planned on doing another set of follow-ups so soon, but there were a couple of things worth mentioning this weekend.
The first is the continuing escalation in Sino-Japanese tensions over the fishing vessel incident I talked about Friday, in which a Chinese ship on Tuesday reportedly rammed two Japanese patrol boats near the disputed Senkaku Islands (or Diaoyu in China) after the Chinese ship’s captain refused to allow his vessel to be inspected or to leave the sea around the islands.
The arrest of Zhan Qixiong has sparked demonstrations in Beijing and prompted the Chinese government to make a significant diplomatic issue out of Zhan’s detention, with the Japanese ambassador to China, Uichiro Niwa, reportedly summoned just after midnight last night to hear Beijing's latest demand.
The language used — Japan was warned against making ‘misjudgements’ and urged to find a ‘wise political resolution’ — was typical of the lecturing tone Chinese officials seemed to have adopted in recent months as they apparently co-ordinate efforts to alienate as many neighbours as possible. It’s a far cry from the charm offensive that China had appeared to be on until late last year to ease concerns about its growing clout.
China’s media, meanwhile, has upped the emotional ante, reporting that Zhan’s grandmother died of a heart attack following news of his arrest (the China Daily itself merely reported that ‘Chinese media’ had reported the death – I would hope that someone, somewhere has checked on the veracity of the original report).
Interestingly, according to Reuters, Chinese media ‘have warned that public opinion could become riled by the arrest and Beijing's official stand appears partly driven by that pressure.’ Has the Chinese government made a rod for its own back with its past attempts to stoke and direct internal ‘outrage’ to distract from discontent at home?
On another issue I talked about last week there has, though, been a more positive move, with Hebei Province backpedalling, according to the BBC, on an order to ration electricity supplies to allow the province to meet energy efficiency targets.
The BBC said Friday:
‘Thousands of people in China are to have their electricity restored after the reversal of an order for enforced power cuts to meet energy-saving goals.
‘Officials in Hebei Province ordered local governments to maintain normal power supplies for residential users. Hospitals, schools and homes in Anping county have suffered intermittent cuts.’