Loudspeakers mounted in the trees broadcast a looped message that while it was reasonable for people to express their feelings about Japan, they should do so “rationally.” After a call-and-response about taking back the contested islands, known as the Diaoyu in China and the Senkaku in Japan, one man with microphone in hand reminded his flock of the importance of obeying orders.
There were many large posters of Mao Zedong in the crowd, and the comments of some onlookers pointed to the tightrope walked by an authoritarian government that doesn’t want to appear weak at home. “Back in that time” — Mao’s — “they would have adopted a different method for dealing with the Japanese behavior,” said one 35-year-old man, who gave only his surname, Xu.
Speculation spread in the past few days that the unruly outbursts, which included the torching of some Japanese businesses, had initially been allowed as part of palace intrigue in the run-up to a Chinese Communist Party congress later this year that will usher in a transition of national leadership.
The notion that one faction would seek to rattle the other by street politics didn’t seem out of the question given the tumultuous nature of Chinese politics this year.
In the southwest city of Chengdu on Tuesday, a court ended the second and final day of the trial of Wang Lijun, the former police chief and vice mayor of the sprawling metropolis of Chongqing. Wang’s unsanctioned overnight trip to a U.S. Consulate in February took down the political career of Chongqing’s then-Communist Party secretary, Bo Xilai, who until that point had been viewed as a leading candidate for the Politburo Standing Committee, the center of ruling power here.