Late August is the silly season in American politics, when politicians and pundits say willfully stupid things and political reporters work furiously to report about... really stupid and inconsequential stuff.
Now, normally this kind of trivia is great fodder for this blog during this time of year, because it's so hot in so much of the rest of the world that nothing else is going on. Europe is on vacation, so their crisis can't really get much worse, for example.
This August, however, the three largest countries in Asia seem to be seeing a lot of their own people to behave pretty badly. Let's start with Japan, where one politician has been acting in a far more subversive way than any American member of Congress:
In a move likely to further inflame tensions with Beijing, Japanese nationalists raised Hinomaru flags on one of the islets at the heart of a corrosive territorial row with China on Sunday.
Around a dozen members of the rightwing group Gambare Nippon (Hang in There Japan) swam ashore from a 20-boat flotilla carrying activists and lawmakers.
The landing comes just days after Tokyo deported pro-Beijing protesters who landed on the same islet, which is part of the Senkaku Islands.
The chain is administered by Japan but claimed by China, which calls it the Diaoyu, and Taiwan, which calls it the Tiaoyutai.
China, which fiercely claims the archipelago, had warned against acts "harming" its territorial sovereignty.
Eiji Kosaka, a politician from Tokyo and one of the men who made it to the islet, said the group planted Japanese flags on the mountainside and on shore.
"It is very sad that the Japanese government is doing nothing with these islands," he said, adding the expedition had been "a great success."
Well, I'm sure this won't trigger any kind of reaction among the Chinese population. Oh, wait...
The biggest anti-Japan protests in seven years flared across China yesterday deepening a diplomatic crisis over disputed islands in the resources-rich East China Sea.
The demonstrations occurred after a group of 150 Japanese activists arrived at the islands early on Sunday to take part in a ceremony commemorating the nation’s war dead....
Chinese protestors gathered in dozens of cities, in some cases vandalising Japanese-made cars and retail outlets. About 1,000 people marched in the southern city of Shenzhen, overturning a Japanese-made police vehicle and attacking a Japanese restaurant, according to Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency.
In the western city of Chengdu, a branch of Uniqlo, the Japanese clothing store, had to close due to the protests. Demonstrations were also reported in a dozen other Chinese cities including Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xian, Jinan and Qingdao. In Beijing, a few protesters appeared outside the Japanese embassy on Sunday morning amid heightened security, but there was no other sign of unrest in the capital.
Meanwhile, Time's Krista Mahr reports on the nasty effects of one rumor in Bangalore:
Tens of thousands of people from Assam and other Northeastern states have fled Bangalore since Thursday despite authorities’ attempts to stamp out rumors of pending attacks on their communities. On Friday afternoon, some 1500 workers and students were camped out in the city’s railway station, waiting for specially scheduled trains that have been arranged to ferry people back to their homes in India’s Northeast. Railway authorities told the Hindustan Times that at least eight trains carrying as many as 30,000 people had left for that part of the country in the last three days.
For the last week, rumors have been circulating by SMS of an attack on Eid, the last day of Ramadan which falls on Monday, on people from Northeastern India, allegedly in retaliation for riots that broke out in the state of Assam last month. More than 70 people were killed and some 400,000 displaced in clashes between the ethnic Bodo group and Muslim settlers in a conflict alternately cast as a battle over illegal immigration, religion, and the struggle for limited resources in a poor and remote part of the country....
D’Souza said that by Friday afternoon his office had received 4000 calls in 48 hours from frightened citizens and their relatives trying to figure out whether the threat was real. “This happened. That happened. Nobody knows what happened actually,” D’Souza said. “Parents and relatives have been asking people from Bangalore to come back to their hometowns.” Armed forces have been deployed on the streets and authorities have held several meetings with community members around the city to try and calm the panic and assure that they will be protected.
Your humble blogger would strongly prefer to opine on the trivialities of the American media for the rest of his vacation week, but unfortunately this stuff kinda seems more important.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.