There are rumours of a large demonstration in Beijing this Sunday against all things Nipponese. I think that having marched everybody up and down the hill so many times over invading Taiwan, the authorities are now in a difficult position with regards to anti-Japanese feeling. They have to be seen internationally to calm things down, but this leads to anger in China as people perceive that they aren’t doing enough. And the internet and text messaging, which seems to be where this movement is being organised, are something that’s very difficult for them to monitor, try as they might.
For people who aren’t living here it’s probably difficult to get a sense of how strongly people feel about Japan. Or at least how they say they feel. Time and time again even the seemingly more clued-up students will volunteer that they ‘hate Japanese people’. It’s amazing how quickly a short statement of opinion can ruin your opinion of someone. ‘Congratulations!’ I think, ‘now I hate you!’
It also opens up an interesting dilemma. Now I’m aware that in the class I can’t make any reference to the three Ts. I think that even if I did, it would be greeted with silence. Actually the students are always keen to talk about Taiwan, but nevertheless I never respond when it’s referred to in class because I can’t honestly tell them how I or most of the rest of the world see it. A fellow teacher was just yesterday upbraided by the Communist Party stooge in the Foreign Affairs Office for pointing out at an English Corner (this is one reason I steer clear of the things) that Taiwan has in effect been independent for a very long time – something that is, for most of the world, a geographical question. Also yesterday when we were practising correcting false statements I mischievously wrote on the board ‘Taipei is the capital of Thailand’, which seemed to upset some of them – the idea of Taipei being a capital disturbs them, and as they’re taught never to say Taiwan, but Taiwan Province, whenever I make any mention of the place they make a big point of it.
However, Japan is a different matter. They don’t seem to consider it to be a controversial topic as far as talking to foreigners is concerned. So am I right in thinking that I can openly tell them that they are wrong and that their government is lying to them about it?
It will be interesting to see, now that the Government is clamping down on all references to the protests in the press, if foreign teachers are somehow made to feel they shouldn’t talk about it. In the meantime, I have no compunction about making someone who claims to ‘hate Japan’ lose face in class!