Anti-Japan tempers continue to flare in China. Japanese stores are being vandalised and looted, and Japanese factories are being destroyed. The images emerging from China can be described as unreal — shocking, even. Last month, the anti-Japan protests started brewing in China over disputed islands (called “Senkaku” in Japan and “Diaoyu” in China). There are supposedly oil reserves near the uninhabitable islands, the control of which the U.S. transferred to Japan in 1972. This month, the Japanese government nationalized the islands, setting off China. These latest protests are even more widespread — erupting at over 100 cities across the country — as well as more violent and vicious.
According to AP, Japanese stores such as Aeon, Heiwado, Uniqlo have been vandalised. A Toyota dealership and a Panasonic factory in Qingdao were set on fire. Many Japanese restaurants — or Japanese sounding — restaurants have also been attacked by mobs.
Even the new Resident Evil movie has been marred by the tensions between China and Japan.
While Japanese companies are being targeted, many Chinese own these Japanese restaurants — as well as the Japanese cars that are being kicked and smashed. The violence has even resulted in an unfortunate loss: One 21 year-old Chinese college student was trampled to death during a protest in Xi’an City. Another Chinese person in Xi’an was dragged from his Toyota and beaten so severely that he might be paralysed.
There’s speculation that the government is encouraging the protests — something that website China Geeks does a good job of explaining. Two ways it’s possible to see how the Chinese government could be supporting the protests is that it’s allowing them to continue, and it’s splashing them all over the front-page news.
What’s more, the official line, according to one insider, is that the government and the Chinese national media view this as a “peaceful protest”. The protests, which are erupting across the country, are anything but. Riot police were called in near a Japanese department store in Shenzhen.
It’s important to remember, of course, that not all Chinese are taking to the streets and looting stores. As website Sino Stand explains about a recent protest at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing: “…it’s hard to say how many people present at the protest were active nationalists, how many came because they thought it’d be cool or interesting, and how many just happened to walk by and stuck around.” At the Japanese Embassy protest, pictures have surface on Chinese social networking sites of eggs being distributed to protestors (2 per person!) to throw at the embassy.
The anger at these protests doesn’t seem to be directed only Japan. At the aforementioned Japanese Embassy protest, the crowd started chanting, “Fuck the U.S.A.” Looters even smashed up a Rolex store and a Christian Dior.
To avoid being vandalised, some Japanese owned stores are blacking out their names on signs, having staff wear patriotic armbands and playing nationalistic Chinese music. Some shops are even putting signs out front saying that the disputed islands belong to China. Former Japanese porn star Aoi Sora, who’s widely popular in China, uploaded a picture of herself holding a sign that said the islands belong to China. That might keep her employed in China, but it could make for awkward trips home.
As with previous protests, Chinese people are also are hurt by this mob violence. It’s Chinese people who work in the stores and at these factories. It’s Japanese companies who bring their businesses to China. Japan needs China, and China needs Japan.
So what’s with the protests? The Chinese government could be turning a blind eye to them as a release valve. What’s more, this could be a distraction: Unemployment in China could be much higher than the official figures, the economy could be doing much worse than the government is letting on, and the party leadership is changing. (There are also banking problems, food safety problems, health care problems, and pollution issues, among many, many other woes.)
Japanese companies like Sony and Nintendo should be not be effected by these protests as they have Foxconn build their products — thus, these roving mobs don’t have a “Sony” or “Nintendo” sign they can flock to and destroy. (Kotaku is following up with both companies.) Sony retailers in China could be targeted, however. “We all know these products are made in China, but with a Japanese brand, but it’s just the way it is,” Yan Long, a Sony laptop store manager, told AP. It doesn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be, either.