Geremie R. Barmé: Mirrors of History

In Japan Focus, Geremie Barme writes about the historical antecedents to the recent anti-Japan protests:

One could say there is a certain pattern of the past discernable in the way the authorities have run these protests. We have long seen in China political campaigns and mass movements that follow a similar pattern or political logic… There is an issue of official or presumed popular concern, the authorities urge people both within the apparat and more generally to speak out. A period of public fervor, both orchestrated and spontaneous, unfolds. This may be egged on so that mass sentiment can find expression but also be gauged. Then things go too far; the authorities are alerted to the fact that events could get out of hand and the outpourings could turn nasty or, more to the point, they could be used by ill-disciplined malcontents to be directed against the power-holders themselves. There are cautious and then more strident calls for order, followed by cautionary detentions and arrests. These are accompanied by official statements, which usually take the form of editorials in leading newspapers. The tone is set byauthorities higher up. It is declared that a sinister and long-planned plot has been uncovered.


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