In the wake of the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruling that China had been stealing islands in the South China, the Xi Jinping administration's propaganda machine went into overdrive to whip up patriotic sentiment in China, with a massive wave of anti-American and anti-Japanese sentiment.
The venom for non-Chinese governments and businesses was supposed to be online only, though, and now that it has spilled over into violent street protests, the Chinese Communist Youth League and the National Cultural Security and Ideology Construction Research Center are trying to figure out how to stop the brawling and pickets in front of the country's Kentucky Fried Chicken outlets, which have spiraled out of control.
Oiwan Law's Global Voices story on this gives an excellent picture of the weird alliances, rhetorical moves and political scrambling going on behind the scenes. My favorite bit: the Communist Youth League, elements of whom led the protests, are now denouncing the protests as being stoked by Chinese press that is "controlled by capitalists" who're staging them as false-flag ops.
To cool down the patriotic sentiments, propaganda authorities issued censorship instructions to all media outlets (via China Digital Times):
Once again, for the near future, do not hype or spread information related to illegal rallies and demonstrations. Pay close attention and delete inflammatory information.
On the same day, Hu Shijun, chief editor of Global Times, also tried to distance the publication from the protests by calling the participants "SB," meaning "stupid ass."
But the censorship instructions and public disavowals didn't stop the movement. On July 19, photos showing a group of primary school kids protesting outside a KFC restaurant in Shandong province went viral on social media.