Baidu Inc., China’s largest search-engine, and Tencent Holdings Ltd., the nation’s biggest Internet company, placed patriotic banners on their websites amid the worst diplomatic crisis with Japan since 2005.
The homepage for Baidu’s search engine today featured an animated illustration of the islands, known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, with a Chinese flag flying atop. Tencent posted a banner on its QQ website commemorating today’s 81st anniversary of the Mukden Incident, which led to Japan’s invasion of China.
China and Japan’s clash over the islands is putting at risk a trade relationship that’s tripled in the past decade to more than $340 billion. Tensions escalated after Japan’s cabinet approved the purchase of the islands for 2.05 billion yen ($26 million) on Sept. 11. China, which has said it doesn’t accept the move, responded by sending government vessels to the area.
Clicking the image above Baidu’s search box takes users to a separate webpage with the message “The Diaoyu Islands belong to China!” and an enlarged image of China’s flag over the islands. Users can then click to plant a Chinese flag on the islands to show their support. A counter on the page shows more than 2 million electronic flags have been planted.
“The intended statement is one of rational patriotism, and a renunciation of violence and extremism,” said Kaiser Kuo, a Beijing-based spokesman for Baidu. “Planting a digital flag is a far better alternative than throwing stones or eggs or smashing cars.”
Thousands of protesters threw eggs and plastic bottles at the Japanese embassy in Beijing today. Police in the southern city of Guangzhou said they detained seven people for vandalizing a Japanese-brand car on Sept. 16 and held another three for smashing an unidentified store front.
On Tencent’s QQ website is a banner commemorating the Mukden Incident, also known as the Manchurian Incident, which took place in 1931. The event near what is now the Chinese city of Shenyang led to the Japanese invasion of China.
“Never forget national humiliation,” the Tencent banner reads. “Enrich the people and build a powerful nation.”
Clicking that banner leads to a second page with details on casualties from the Japanese invasion of China.
Jane Yip, a spokeswoman for Shenzhen-based Tencent, didn’t immediately respond to calls and e-mailed request for comment.
— With assistance by Edmond Lococo