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In New Video Game, China Seizes Disputed Islands From Japan

Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force escort ship Kurama leads other vessels during a fleet review amid heightened tension last year over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.
Itsuo Inouye
Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force escort ship Kurama leads other vessels during a fleet review amid heightened tension last year over the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

Chinese gamers may soon be able to settle by force a thorny international dispute between their government and Japan over who controls a small chain of islands in the East China Sea.

The basic platform of the newly released Glorious Mission Online was developed as a training tool for the People's Liberation Army. Game maker Giant Interactive Group (GIG) has expanded the "first-person shooter" game with a simulation of a Chinese amphibious assault on the Senkaku islands, as they are known in Tokyo, or Diaoyu, as Beijing calls them.

Glorious Mission Online is described by Tech in Asia as a Call to Duty clone that "surfaced almost by accident in 2011 when a state TV program showed Chinese soldiers training using a computer game that no one had seen before."

Gu Kai, GIG vice president and game developer, is quoted by the BBC as suggesting that the game's appeal lies with the fact that "most young boys, from the bottom of their hearts, want to be a soldier. They like to fight, they like to win."

In a press release, GIG says players will be able to "fight alongside Chinese armed forces and use weapons to tell the Japanese that they must return our stolen territory."

The disputed islands in the East China Sea have been a source of tension between the two countries, especially in the past year.

The trailer for Glorious Mission (seen at about 1:20 into the video below) features a blustery monologue, dramatic music and sound effects.

As Japan Daily Press notes, the game's Senkaku/Diaoyu update "even features an appearance of the Liaoning, the Chinese navy's first aircraft carrier," which was launched last year but believed to still be a long way from operational.

The Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reports that reception to screenshots of the game released on July 22 has been "mixed."

The paper quotes one online poster as declaring: "The issue of defending the islands is not a game."

"We shouldn't fantasize this sort of thing," the poster wrote.

According to the English-language Post:

"Another common sentiment [expressed online] was that Glorious Mission Online ... was hopping on the 'kang ri' or 'anti-Japanese' bandwagon – a term that refers to a recent influx of Chinese dramas and movies that almost always feature Japanese characters as antagonists."

The game might be up against market forces in addition to Japanese forces, according to the SCMP:

" 'The Chinese gaming market is made up of three major categories: the martial arts fantasy, historical fantasy, and 'red' [patriotic] games,' said analyst Yu Yi in a 2012 interview with gaming site Kotaku. 'Just like historical dramas ... [patriotic] games give ... players a sense of nostalgia ... allowing them to think back to a simpler time when everyone had a purpose, good or bad. However, with more multiplayer online games now, [patriotic] games are seeing a decline in popularity.' "

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.

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