Political Violence Thought of the Week

By Erica Chenoweth

“CAR SMASHINGS AHEAD, JAPANESE CAR OWNERS SHOULD TURN BACK NOW”

– sign held by a Chinese man amidst anti-Japanese demonstrations from a series of photos by imgur user brightonatreddit.

Jessica Weiss has a nice post over at The Monkey Cage where she argues that historically, when the Chinese government has tolerated  anti-foreign protests, they have been effectively signaling their intentions to foreign audiences. If this is true, we should be genuinely worried about violent conflict between China and Japan. In this case, though, Weiss is dubious that the Chinese government is in full control of this mobilization, due to the intensity of the protests and the degree to which social media have allowed for mobilization beyond the government’s repressive reach. If Weiss is right, then the major danger is that the domestic sentiment will tie the Chinese government’s hands — that in order to maintain domestic stability, the government will either have to initiate a nasty crackdown at home, or will have to act with even greater belligerence toward the Japanese.

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