Josh Ong is the US Editor at The Next Web. He previously worked as TNW's China Editor and LA Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or email him a Josh Ong is the US Editor at The Next Web. He previously worked as TNW's China Editor and LA Reporter. Follow him on Twitter or email him at [email protected].
As thousands of Chinese citizens continue to protest against Japan’s nationalization of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, local search engine Baidu took a clear stance on Tuesday with a ‘doodle’ on its homepage that showed a Chinese flag planted on the archipelago.
Update: Baidu has provided a statement to TNW explaining its reasoning behind the doodle.
The doodle is coordinated to correspond with the anniversary of a 1931 incident staged by Japan to justify invading Manchuria. The anniversary provides fuel for Chinese protesters who have been demonstrating outside of the Japanese embassy in Beijing and in other parts of the country.
Baidu has also set up a site calling for the protection of the islands where over a million people have planted a virtual flag in support of China’s territory claim, as noted by Shanghaiist.
While Baidu’s localized page for Japan doesn’t show the image, its opportunity in the country will likely suffer as a result of the public display of nationalism.
It’s not exactly clear what Baidu hopes to gain from the doodle. Its declaration of support for China’s side on the issue will alienate Japanese users, but it is also likely to earn points with its domestic userbase. Given the outpouring of anti-Japanese sentiment that has been witnessed in recent weeks, it’s possible that Baidu felt it needed to take a stand or risk being viewed as unpatriotic. Alternatively, the doodle may have come about because the company’s top leaders feel strongly about the legitimacy of China’s claim to the islands.
Japanese companies doing business in China have been sorely affected by the tensions. We’re hearing scattered reports that Japanese restaurants and even the clothing chain Uniqlo have closed up shop for at least a few days to let the situation cool. Still others have voluntarily put up Chinese flags in their windows as a show of support.
Over the weekend, riots erupted throughout China that led to the destruction of Japanese-made cars, disruption of factories owned by companies like Canon and Panasonic and even assaults on Japanese citizens. Meanwhile, a number of Chinese media outlets have called for economic sanctions against Japan in response to the country’s continued claim on the islands.
TNW has reached out to Baidu for comment.
Header image credit: TNW
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