This is interesting. In a show of nationalism, Chinese search giant Baidu today put up a doodle depicting a Chinese flag planted on the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands.
China and Taiwan both lay claim to the uninhabited East China Sea islands, currently controlled by Japan.
According to Baidu, the purpose of the doodle is to “encourage people to be rational in their expressions of patriotism.”
Speaking to The Next Web, Baidu’s director of international communications Kaiser Kuo said the intention was to foster peaceful protests:
The overwhelming majority of Baidu’s employees and users clearly feel very strongly on this topic, but our purpose was to encourage people to be rational in their expressions of patriotism, to renounce violence and other forms of extremism. Planting a digital flag to express your feelings on the matter of the Diaoyu Islands is a much better alternative to throwing rocks or smashing cars.
Tensions over the islands recently re-emerged when the Chinese armed forces sent six war vessels into the disputed area.
Over the past few days, these have seen people in Chinese cities attacking the factories of major Japanese companies, including Toyota and Panasonic.
Today the Wall Street Journal is reporting that thousands of protesters have gathered outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing.
In response, the embassy has shut down passport processing and a number of businesses have shut up shop.
Anti-Japanese sentiment tends to run high on 18 September as it marks the anniversary of Japan’s invasion of Manchuria in 1931.
While Baidu’s move might win it points in China, there are those who think that it’s doing itself potential damage, especially as it looks to expand its overseas interests. In fact, Tech in Asia’s Steven Millward goes as far as calling it “corporate suicide”.
“Baidu’s patriotism might play very well at home, but surely the search giant is now utterly toxic in the rest of the region,” he says.