Escalating tensions between Japan and China reached a high point on Sunday after Beijing broke off top-level ties with Japan and anti-Japanese protests were held in several Chinese cities.

The recent surge in tensions was sparked when a Chinese vessel collided with two Japanese coast guard ships on September 7 near a group of islands in the East China Sea, known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan, which are claimed by both countries. The 14 Chinese crew were released last week, but the captain's detention for further questioning - pending a decision about whether to press charges - has inflamed ever-present anti-Japanese sentiment in China. Beijing has threatened Tokyo with "strong countermeasures" and announced that it was suspending high-level contacts with Japan.

Several anti-Japanese protests have been held across China since the incident. On Saturday, small groups of demonstrators marched in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and the north-eastern city of Shenyang to mark the anniversary of the start of the Japanese invasion of China in 1931, an event that has historically strained ties between the two Asian giants.

Although Japan has called for calm and urged China not to let the incident ruin their relationship, anti-Japanese sentiment in China seems difficult to placate. Our Observer in Shanghai tells us why.

On September 8, dozens of people protested in front of the Japanese embassy in Beijing, brandishing the Chinese flag and singing the Chinese national anthem. Video posted by Pouilleprod on Youtube.

"We’re not just protesting because of a maritime spat, but because we refuse to continue being humiliated"

Aideen Li is a webmaster for a Chinese company. He lives and works in Shanghai.

"Chinese resentment of the Japanese is directly linked to history. The Japanese killed, raped and massacred the Chinese people [when they invaded Manchuria in 1931], yet they are still teaching their children that they were actually trying to help us.

Unlike the German government, which officially apologised for the actions of the Nazis during World War II, the Japanese government has never recognised the harm inflicted on the Chinese people. On the contrary, they continue to deny it. As long as they have not apologised, we will not be able to turn the page and move on, to develop a normal relation with them.

It's a question of dignity. We value our dignity more than our lives. Had the Japanese officially apologised, we Chinese would have long got over this painful episode of our past. Today, we're not just protesting because of a maritime spat over disputed seas, we're protesting because we refuse to continue being humiliated.

I personally have not joined the protests, because I don't find the motives behind them very rational.I'm sure our relationship with them can improve eventually, but for that, the Japanese have to admit their past mistakes and show sincere remorse."

Photos of protests in front of the Japanese embassy in Beijing on Sept. 8

In front of the Japanese embassy, protesters held the sign of "滚" ("get out") and shouted "Diaoyu islands belong to China! The East China Sea belongs to China!"



All photos originally posted by the NGO IFeng (China Federation for Defending the Diaoyu Islands) on their website.