Chinese search engine Baidu has joined the fight over the disputed Diaoyu Islands, expressing support for China’s territorial claims while calling for an end to violent protests.
The logo on the search engine’s homepage today shows an image of a Chinese flag flying above the largest of the Diaoyu Islands, recently purchased by Japan (where they are known as the Senkaku Islands) amid widespread and increasingly violent protests across China.
Clicking on the image leads internet users to a page dominated by a similar flag and island image, along with a graphic of chiseled stone characters reading “Diaoyu Islands, China’s!”
The majority of the page is taken up by a map of the East China Sea centered around the Diaoyu Islands, the two largest of which are marked with images of waving Chinese flags.
The page also calls on netizens to “plant your flag on the Diaoyu Islands,” with the click of a button.
By noon Wednesday, over 2 million “flags” had been planted, according to a running count displayed on the page, while over 222 million had searched for “Diaoyu Islands,” according to a similar tally shown below.
But despite Baidu’s strident rhetoric, the Chinese internet giant made it clear that the purpose of its flag-waving was to calm the more extreme forms of patriotism seen in China in recent days.
“Our purpose was to encourage people to be rational in their expressions of patriotism, to renounce violence and other forms of extremism,” said Kaiser Kuo, Baidu’s director of international communications, in a statement to internet news site The Next Web.
“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,” Kuo said.
Baidu’s peaceful intentions are featured prominently on its Diaoyu Islands page.
The button allowing users to plant a digital flag calls on netizens to “advocate rational patriotism,” a phrase that has been frequently used by official media and others urging protesters to refrain from violence.
The phrase appears repeatedly throughout the page. The lone photo displayed shows a young, masked protester holding up a hand-made sign reading “Oppose violence, rational patriotism.”
Similarly, a question and answer box at the bottom of the webpage includes topics such as “How do we rationally participate in the Diaoyu Islands Incident?” as well as advice on “How to be rationally patriotic.”
Another question asks “Are demonstrations illegal? What law do they violate?” The answer points readers to relevant sections of China’s law books, which allow for protests but set limits on both activities and intentions of those participating.