If this is what triggers WWIII, we are going to make a scene.
Japan has just upped an ever-escalating turf war with China,with major Japanese firms closing their Chinese operations and urging expat workers to stay home in anticipation of angry protests.
Reuters reports that China’s worst outbreak of anti-Japan sentiment in decades has caused weekend demonstrations and violent attacks on Japanese businesses, including Toyota and Honda. Apparently, a number of frightened Japanese expats are now in hiding, and the Chinese government is warning that trade relations are in serious jeopardy. Aaaand of course, all of it is over some otherwise unheard of spits of land in the East China Sea:
“China and Japan, which generated two-way trade of $345 billion last year, are arguing over a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, a long-standing dispute that erupted last week when the Japanese government decided to buy some of them from a private Japanese owner.
The move, which infuriated Beijing, was intended by Japan’s government to fend off what it feared would be seen as an even more provocative plan by the nationalist governor of Tokyo to buy and build facilities on the islands.
In response, China sent six surveillance ships to the area, which contains potentially large gas reserves. On Monday, a flotilla of around 1,000 Chinese fishing boats was sailing for the islands and was due to reach them later in the day, the state-owned People’s Daily said on its microblog.
The weekend protests mainly targeted Japanese diplomatic missions but also shops, restaurants and car dealerships in at least five cities. Toyota and Honda said arsonists had badly damaged their stores in the eastern port city of Qingdao at the weekend.”
An intriguing blog by the Financial Times points out how this turf and trade war could have wider implications for Asia and beyond:
“And with China on Tuesday marking the anniversary of the 1931 Japanese occupation, there are fears that the public anger provoked by the territorial row could fuel more outbreaks of violence.
While Beijing has played a big role in inflaming the dispute with Tokyo and exploiting popular anti-Japanese sentiments in China, the authorities now seem seriously concerned about the dangers of further violence.
In an editorial on Monday, headlined “Violence is never appropriate solution”, the state-run Global Times said ‘violence cannot be tolerated simply because the protests are aimed at Japan. Mainstream society clearly opposes violent protests this time.
There is no reason to suspect that the government is turning a blind eye to the violence over the weekend. This is simply the view of those who make a habit of criticizing the government.’
The English-language newspaper also, interestingly, linked these protests with other protests aimed against the government – suggesting that officials are very well aware of the danger that anti-Japanese protests might somehow turn into broader political demonstrations.
However, state-run Chinese media are also at pains to show that the public anger over the disputed islands is more than justified, not least the Tokyo government’s decision to buy the islands from a private Japanese owner.”
What do you think? Is this something to be concerned about, or simple spear-rattling between two frenemies?
American elections! A new letter from Provence! Yang Ming! Harvard! These topics and more will be yours for the reading in the October 2012 issue of Carnet Atlantique! Coming soon!