The DF-21D anti-ship missile launcher. Isn't it sweet? (Internet photo)
Li Peng's artwork depicts Chinese military hardware: attack helicopters, anti-ship missiles, tanks and fluffy bunnies. (Internet photo)
With both the People's Liberation Army and the Japan Self-Defense Force preparing themselves for a possible war over the disputed Diaoyutai (Diaoyu or Senkaku) islands, Beijing has already stolen a march on Tokyo by co-opting the Japanese animation style of moe anthropomorphism to give cute cartoon characteristics to the PLA's military hardware, including tanks and helicopters.
Mecha musume is the term applied in Japan to the depiction of weapons as little girls endowed with the properties of moe, signifying "adorable" or "cute." Beijing could thus be aopting an unusually sophisticated approach combining hard and soft power to signify its indignation to Japan over the territorial dispute in the East China Sea — to whit, back down or face adorable destruction.
Several works of Chinese mecha musume are presented on the Japanese-language page of the China Internet Information Center, a website operated by the state-run China International Publishing Group. Cartoons by artist Li Peng depict advanced weapons systems such as the WZ-10 attack helicopter, DF-21D anti-ship missile, Type 99 main battle tank and the aircraft carrier Liaoning in large-eyed schoolgirl form. One drawing portrays figures "retaking" the Japan-controlled islands, while Chinese soldiers, missiles and rockets are depicted as cute little bunnies.
As an attempt at winning hearts and minds, it remains to be seen whether the cartoons may prove popular enough among Japan's manga-obsessed "otaku" to influence government policy over the dispute. Former prime minister Taro Aso is a self-declared otaku and reportedly previously adopted the subculture to promote Japan in foreign affairs. With Aso now deputy prime minister under the new Shinzo Abe administration, it may not be so far-fetched.