.I was with some friends in Xi’an, China, less than three hours away from having to board a train back to our host school in Beijing, when we saw a group of protestors holding anti-Japanese signs marching down the street. Intrigued, we asked around and found out that they were headed to a larger protest which was happening right outside our hotel. We knew something big was happening when we couldn’t hail a taxi because all traffic, except for public buses, was being diverted from the roads leading to the protest site. When we finally arrived I was greeted with the sight of tens of thousands of people, all crammed together in the city center of Xi’an. I left my friends and snaked through the crowd of protestors, taking photos.
Anti-Japanese sentiment as well as national pride was the theme of the protest. Banners often alluded to the Diaoyu islands (or, to the Japanese, the Senkaku Islands), which are claimed by both China and Japan and have been a source of rising tension between the two countries. According to BBC news, this protest was the latest of three consecutive weekends of anti-Japanese protests, which the Chinese government attributes to a string of actions by the Japanese government including giving companies the right to drill in a disputed section of the East China Sea and approving school textbooks that water down the wartime atrocities committed by Japanese soldiers. From what I observed, the protest was largely peaceful except for instances where protestors flung bottles at store fronts of Japanese businesses and in some cases, set small fires.