Today is the 81st anniversary of the Mukden Incident, the contrived casus belli which led to the Japanese annexation of Manchuria and 14 years of subsequent hostilities with China. Hence it is a day when anti-Japanese sentiments are likely to be at a flashpoint. With the some of the insane sabre-rattling rhetoric we've seen in the media in recent days, things had already got pretty ugly over the weekend - with some of the government-orchestrated mass demonstrations against Japan here spilling over into acts of vandalism and looting.
Most Japanese businesses in China have decided to close down for a little while, in the hopes of avoiding any further such incidents. I hadn't realised, but one of the largest '7/11' convenience store chains here is apparently Japanese-owned (ah, that would explain the sushi), the one that has a branch right next door to my apartment - and is the only place within a mile or so that sells milk. This local outlet - and all others in Beijing, I gather; and probably across the whole country - went dark yesterday, and draped a Chinese flag over the logo above its door. I doubt if most Chinese folks are any more aware than I was that this was a Japanese company, and if they were, the flag ruse isn't much of a disguise. On the contrary, it's likely to draw attention to the place. I suppose the thinking is that patriotic young Chinese wouldn't - couldn't - attack somewhere that was displaying their national flag. I'm not sure that xenophobia-crazed looters would feel so constrained. But there are unlikely to be any such gangs of hotheaded youngsters in my quiet suburban neighbourhood, I think.
No - violence is far more likely to arise from frustrated customers who resent being cut off from their supply of ice cream and fruit salad and pot noodle and other yummy snack foods. I'm already getting quite wound up about it myself, and it's only been just over 24 hours. And I suppose we've got no Yoshinoya either. I know a few people who might be driven to riot over that.
It would be nice to think that all this jingoistic nonsense might soon die down. But Xi Jinping, the heir presumptive to the Chinese leadership, has once more disappeared from sight; there's still no word on the timing of the next National Congress and the announcement of the new Politburo; and Wang Lijun is due to go on trial.... TODAY, funnily enough. (Wang is the former Chongqing police chief whose falling out with Bo Xilai at the start of this year upset everybody's applecart.)
So, I fear the state-run media will be stoking up this anti-Japanese 'distraction' for a few more weeks at least. Ah, China.