The latest news regarding the spat between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands has taken somewhat of a sexy twist.
Former Japanese porn actress and nude model Sora Aoi has shouldered the responsibility of promoting harmony and friendship between the two countries as she posted an image on her Sina Weibo account (China’s Twitter) on September 14 that reads “Japanese-Chinese friendship.”
Sora enjoys a huge following on Weibo of over 13 million users, and has a following of 352 thousand on her Twitter account. Her message spread like wildfire, but her Chinese followers immediately criticized the picture for having the character “Japan” precede that of “China.” Seventeen minutes later, she posted another image from her iPhone that read, “friendship between the people of China-Japan.” Her messages received hundreds of thousands of comments and made her name one of the most trending keywords on Weibo along with the word Diaoyu.
A plethora of comments verbally abused the celebrity, especially aiming to offend her for her former profession. Others were more accepting of her effort to build bridges amidst the two countries’ tense diplomatic situation. Comments ranged from the sardonic “Be friendly, my ass. Bring friendship with your AV discs” to more amicable ones such as “Definitely… The people of the world are of one family.” ChinaSMACK has translated many of the tweets, which can be read here.
While a good number of Chinese netizens still seem to want war over peace, when Sora asked her Chinese followers where she should go for sightseeing in China many invited her to visit the Diaoyu islands, says the Japan Daily Press.
Located in the East China Sea, the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands are also claimed by Taiwan and have long been at the heart of nationalist disputes between the three countries ever since oil reserves were found in their vicinity in 1968. Although both China and Taiwan claim the islands were theirs since the 14th century, Japan held them in their possession from 1895 – the start of its imperialist era – to the end of World War II. Their administration fell under the control of the U.S. thereafter, but were once again formally returned to Japan in 1971 as a prefecture of Okinawa, although China never accepted the territory as being anything but its own.
Chinese citizens have recently become irate after the Japanese government decided to purchase the islands from their alleged private ownership, for a sum of about $26 million. The move was made upon mounting nationalist sentiment in Japan, which has caused some Japanese to provocatively land there to plant their country’s flag on the islet’s soil. Japanese Prime Minister Noda stated he has no intention to construct anything on the islands – a move he hoped would strip the territory from the ultra-nationalists’ hands so to maintain more level-headed relations with its neighbors.
Contrary to his expectations though, Noda's moderating efforts resulted in an equal if not greater outburst of nationalist sentiment in China. Beijing responded to the purchase by dispatching six patrol ships to the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, while people in Taiwan, Hong Kong and mainland China took to the street in protest of Japan’s decision. They boycotted Japanese products, protested in front of the embassy and raided Japanese stores. Angry slogans against Japan were chanted such as “China is of one heart; bathe Tokyo in blood.” In Shanghai’s Baoshan district, The Shanghaiist reported that a man lit his own Honda Civic on fire in front of a Honda dealership, where he hurled a slogan that read, “Defeat the Japanese devils!” and “Japanese devils return home!” In the meanwhile, anti-China protests were also held in Japan, such as those by nationalist group Ganbare Nippon according to the San Francisco Cronicle. Although these too were very vociferous, they were much more controlled than their Chinese counterparts.
But a recent article on The Economist explains that Sora Aoi’s Weibo post has caused the caustic slogans to take a slightly different slant: one placard at an anti-Japanese protest in China read “the Diaoyu islands belong to China. Sora Aoi belongs to the world.” The latter phrase has now become ubiquitous in Chinese tweets and placards. Although its meaning is not quite clear, this may be a reflection of China’s contradictory feelings towards Japan: while zealous Chinese chauvinism runs high, this banner shows that there is nonetheless a good deal of admiration for the Japanese.
Many netizens remain skeptical of the former pornographer’s sudden entry in the geopolitical scene. Others such as netizen @kenichiromogi tweeted, “Nobel Prize for Aoi Sora,“ to which she answered, “ehm, uh, yes, no no...I mean, I'm sorry.” Perhaps the Nobel Prize is an overstatement. Yet the staggering attention surrounding Sora Aoi’s latest tweets may truly have placed her in a sweet spot. This beautiful young Japanese girl may just become Japan’s improbable ambassador for peace.