Baidu has issued a public comment on its decision to display an image of a Chinese flag on the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands for its homepage doodle on Tuesday, noting that its purpose was to “encourage people to be rational in their expressions of patriotism.”

Given Baidu’s huge influence and visibility in China, the move could have been construed as an act of fervent nationalism or stoking trouble, but Kaiser Kuo, Baidu’s director of international communications, told TNW that the move was made to encourage more 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.”

September 18 is a particularly sensitive day in the tensions between China and Japan, as it marks the anniversary of the faked incident that led to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931. Thousands of protesters have gathered in front of the Japanese embassy in Beijing to object to the country’s decision to nationalize the Diaoyu Islands.

Violent riots against Japanese businesses in China last weekend caused significant damage and have caused a number of companies to put operations on hold.

Image credits: AP Photo, via Sino Defence Forum