At a Guomei electronics store in Beijing — teeming with flat-screen TVs, cameras and stereo systems — consumers seemed divided. "We should ban their products," fumed 70-year-old former soldier Sun Zhiyi as he left the store. "Japan's ambition is growing bigger and bigger. Our government is too weak."
Others, however, praised Japanese products for their good value. "Their quality is good and I will still buy them," said 20-year-old bank clerk Yu Jinsheng, shopping for a camera.
In 2010, China temporarily stopped exports to Japan of rare earth metals used in high-tech manufacturing after Japan arrested a fishing boat captain whose trawler collided with two Japanese patrol boats off the islands.
China could also threaten Japan with sanctions like it did with the United States in 2010 over Taiwan or cancel trade delegations, but this is unlikely because it could have a detrimental effect on trade relations, said Sarah McDowall, a London-based senior Asia-Pacific analyst at IHS.
"They need each other," she said.
Beijing is treading a careful line, wanting to pressure Japan over the islands and appear a staunch defender of Chinese national interests, without encouraging violence. Protesters in Beijing and several other cities carried portraits of Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong. Though the current leaders use Mao as a rallying symbol, his radical policies have been abandoned and so carrying his poster is a safe, backhanded way of criticizing the government.
On Saturday, protesters in Beijing numbered in the thousands and nearly breached a metal retaining wall in front of the Japanese Embassy. On Sunday, security personnel outnumbered the protesters, who threw water bottles, bananas, tomatoes and eggs at the embassy and chanted slogans.
State media appealed for people to be "rational" on Sunday, in contrast to their more combative language last week. "The expression of patriotic feelings should not come at the cost of disrupting domestic social order," Xinhua wrote in a commentary.
Censors also stepped up their policing of social media to prevent news of protests from spreading. Users of China's popular Twitter-like Sina Weibo site couldn't search for the term "anti-Japan protests" on Sunday and videos of protests once posted quickly disappeared.
Further complicating matters, Japan's newly appointed ambassador to China, Shinichi Nishimiya, died Sunday, three days after collapsing near his home in Tokyo. No official cause of death was released. He had been appointed ambassador on Tuesday, and was to assume his new post next month.
Associated Press television producer Aritz Parra, reporter Charles Hutzler and researchers Henry Hou and Flora Ji in Beijing, reporter Eric Talmadge in Tokyo, and photographer Eugene Hoshiko and researcher Fu Ting in Shanghai contributed to this report.
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