Anti-Japanese demonstrations accompanied by movements to boycott
Japanese products have flared across China. Television footage showed
scenes of enraged Chinese youths breaking windows of a Japanese
supermarket. Demonstrators carried banners with anti-Japanese slogans.
The demonstrations come on the heels of violent protests in South
Korea over the Takeshima island issue. The situation is dismal.
The demonstrations in China appear to be, however, a product of a
misunderstanding. Convenience stores in northeastern China removed
Japanese products, including beer made by Asahi Breweries, because of a controversy over Japanese textbooks for junior high school students
that some say justify Japan’s past military aggression. Reports began
circulating on the Internet that eight Japanese companies, including
Asahi Breweries Ltd., are providing financial support to the Japanese
Society for History Textbook Reform (Tsukurukai).
According to the brewery, a former employee who left the company
years ago is involved with the society. The company itself has nothing to do with it. Asahi Breweries issued a statement in China denying the reports but the situation shows no signs of subsiding. This no doubt is because of the strong enmity among residents over the history and civics textbooks edited by the society.
Chinese activists meantime are campaigning to collect 30 million
signatures for a petition to oppose Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. In Shenzhen, Guangdong province, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets. The demonstration was organized by a number of anti-Japanese groups, including some that claim the Senkaku Islands are Chinese territory.
These groups contend that the Japanese government and the Diet have
not acknowledged this country’s military aggression in China nor
offered an official apology. Thus, they argue, Japan is not fit to
become a permanent member of the Security Council.
These anti-Japanese campaigns are feeding off each other through
television and the Internet and spreading across the nation. One
Chinese scholar said the unrest was provoked by the demonstrations held in South Korea.
Why does animosity toward Japan flare so easily in China?
One reason may lie in its sense of rivalry toward Japan for Asian
leadership. Japan’s ambassador to China, Koreshige Anami, noted in a
meeting with China’s Foreign Ministry that “as a result of patriotic
education, anti-Japanese sentiments may be instilled in young people.”
But the heart of the matter lies in deep-seated mutual distrust which Japan and China have yet to reconcile even though six decades have passed since the end of World War II. Prime Minister Junichiro
Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine on four occasions served only to
aggravate the situation. It is as though the atmosphere is filled with a dangerous gas that could instantly explode with the tiniest spark.
Around 20,000 Japanese companies now operate in China and about
78,000 Japanese residents are registered there. We call on the Chinese government to ensure that they are not exposed to danger just because they are Japanese.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told a news conference in March:
“China-Japan relations are the most important of all bilateral
relations. We wish to strengthen strategic studies to advance
friendship.” It was his way of prodding Japan to do something to
improve relations. In China, where anti-Japanese sentiment is strong,
it was a risky statement that could have ignited domestic criticism.
Koizumi should respond to this overture as soon as possible. How does he plan to break the deadlock in Japan-China relations? We urge him to send a clear message to the Chinese people.
–The Asahi Shimbun, April 7(IHT/Asahi: April 8,2005)
The Asahi Shimbun