Yesterday, (Saturday, October 16) I walked to the old city to do tourist stuff–see the Bell Tower, Calligraphy Street, City Wall. In need of a little break, I went to the Bell Tower McDonald’s hoping to find a western bathroom. 25 minutes in-line revealed the American gastronomic homogenizer apparently does the squat thing in China, dang. *Hey, Mickey D’s, you export our taste for high-fructose corn syrup, our deep-fried french fry love, our penchant for the super-sized—why can’t you export our wonderful sit-and-flush toilets???

My frustration was quickly forgotten when I re-emerged outside to student-filled sidewalks and streets–at least 2,000 were marching in red and waving the Chinese national flag. 25 minutes earlier I was walking in the company of leisurely Saturday afternoon families, lost tourists, and fashion forward Chinese students. I did not see this coming.

Where did they all come from?
What the hell’s going on???

More students pour into the streets and around the plaza at the base of the Bell Tower. More and more-there’s got to be 5,000 students dressed in red, waving Chinese flags and carrying an assortment of signs and banners. They are singing the Chinese national anthem, I think. Mostly it’s all Chinese, but on one banner I make out, “Fuck Japan.”

Aha! This is all about a recent territory dispute between China and Japan–China claims Diaoyudao islands but so does Japan. But it all goes back to the detainment of a Chinese boat captain back on September 7th.
Here’s one article I found as soon as I returned home:

But you can do a Google search for ‘Xi’an Japan Protest’
as I think other more main stream media outlets have picked up the story.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2010-09/21/c_13523557.htm
Chinese protest against Japan over Diaoyu Islands issue
BEIJING, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) — Chinese protesters vented anger against Japan Saturday when they took to the streets to assert China’s claim to sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands.

More than 2,000 college students gathered in downtown Chengdu, capital of the southwestern Sichuan Province, at around 2 p.m., unfurling banners and shouting “Defend the Diaoyu Islands,” “Fight Japan” and other slogans.

More people joined the protest and the procession marched through some of the city’s main streets, with some protestors distributing Chinese national flags.

The protest ended at about 3:30 p.m.. No violence has been reported.

In Xi’an, capital of northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, more than 7,000 college students marched, holding flags, banners and shouting slogans such as “Diaoyudao is China’s” and “Boycott Japanese goods.”

The protestors sang the Chinese national anthem while marching peacefully. Some set fire on Japanese national flags.

When demonstrators were breaking into a Mizuno sportswear shop, riot police rushed to the site and put the situation under control.

All Japanese shops along the route of the protest had closed, local police authority told Xinhua.

In Zhengzhou, capital of central China’s Henan Province, college students thronged to a downtown square at about 2 p.m. and then marched through the city, shouting “Long live the motherland,” “Return the Diaoyu Islands to China.”

Some protestors said they learned about the protest on the Internet and gathered there voluntarily to support a previous protest in Shanghai.

The students left the scene at around 4:40 and returned to campus, ending the more than three-hour protest.

Police were stationed along the routes of the protests, but no clashes had took place.

China-Japan relations have been strained since a collision occurred between two Japanese Coast Guard patrol ships and a Chinese trawler on Sept. 7 in the East China Sea off the Diaoyu Islands, over which China claims sovereignty.

In Tokyo, right-wing groups had planned to mobilize 3,000 people to gather in front of the Chinese Ambassy to “clarify Japanese’s attitude on the issue,” according to a report on ifeng.com.

China-Japan relations are experiencing an era of frequent turbulance that would last for ten to 15 years as China’s rising economic and political power have triggered discontent among Japanese people, said Yan Xuetong, director of the International Studies Center at Tsinghua University.

Both sides have tried to avoid deep-rooted problems and focus on common interests, but it would just worsen instability in bilateral ties, Yan said.

Here’s a little more for the back story:

BEIJING, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) — Japan’s latest decision to prolong the illegal detention of a Chinese trawler captain has kept the dispute over Diaoyu Islands under spotlight, as such defiance against facts and international norms continued to draw strong protests from the Chinese government and people.

CHINA’S SOVEREIGNTY OVER DIAOYU ISLANDS UNDISPUTABLE
The Diaoyu Islands, 120 nautical miles northeast of China’s Taiwan Province, have been China’s territory ever since ancient times.

All records, whether in historical books, academic research or on old maps, have well proved China’s undeniable sovereignty over these islands.

The name Diaoyutai Island appeared in 1403 in a Chinese book “Voyage with the Tail Wind.” By 1534, all the major islets had been identified and named in the book “Record of the Imperial Envoy to Ryukyu.”

“‘Record of the Imperial Envoy to Ryukyu’ clarified the boundaries between China and Ryukyu and attested to the fact that the Diaoyu Islands are part of China’s territory, which was acknowledged by scholars in China, Japan and Ryukyu as well as the governments of China and Ryukyu in later centuries, ” Mi Qingyu, a professor at China’s Nankai University wrote in a history book about the Diaoyu Islands.

On a map published by Japan between 1783 and 1785, the Diaoyu Islands were marked as within China’s borderlines.

A recently discovered book written during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912)called “Record of Ocean Nation” has again proved the islands have always been part of China.

Kiyoshi Inoue, a renowned Japanese historian, confirmed in his book titled “The Diaoyu Islands and Its Adjacent Islands” that historical facts as early as the 16th century attest, the Diaoyu, in the East China Sea between China and Japan, have been an intrinsic part of China’s territory.

“It is a well-known fact that the Diaoyu Islands have been part of China’s territory since the Ming Dynasty,” he wrote in Chapter Three of the book.

His viewpoint was based on documents such as sea charts, logbooks and exploration records about South China, Taiwan region and the Ryukyu Islands found in the library of British Admiralty Board, as well as many Japanese historical records.

Though the Diaoyu Islands were ceded to Japan after China lost the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 and signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, the Cairo Declaration in 1943 stipulated that Japan should return all China’s territories it occupied including these islands.

These provisions were later reinforced in the Potsdam Proclamation in 1945. In the same year, Japan announced its unconditional surrender while accepting the proclamation in its entirety.

With all these powerful evidence, China’s sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands is undisputed.