Imagine you’re a young guy, or girl, you work hard, your salary is probably circa 500USD per month at your white collar office job and you save up with a little help from your folks to buy a car. You want reliability, you want cheap parts, you want a brand that people will think you’re doing good in life, you buy a Japanese car, maybe something from Toyota, Nissan, Honda, or perhaps something from Mitsubishi or Subaru. Politics really doesn’t come into the equation when car buying, you buy something that suits yourself as an individual rather than your countries greater needs. Imagine then, being dragged from your car and then watching your car being demolished by a rabid pack of ‘patriots‘.
That was the scene over the weekend in several spots in China as protesters moved to show their anger at ‘Little Japan’ for buying the disputed Diao Yu Islands from the private owner. The Diao Yu Islands have a checkered history, Chinese claim them as their own, as does Japan (who currently administers them). A Japanese businessman once settled on the islands and set up a fish processing factory, the business went bankrupt but the islands stayed in the family’s ownership until recently when the Central Japanese government had their hand force, when a right wing political group said it was going to buy them, the Central Govt stepped in a bid to keep the situation calm but it back fired. Chinese protestors did not take to Japan’s buying of the islands, even though it puts them directly under state control (and thus making it easier to solve any disputes). Prior to the weekend media were reporting several instances of civil disobedience, such as one man who was so angry with Little Japan that he drove his last generation Honda Civic to the local Honda shop and set it on fire (top left).
Protestors were soon eager to show their own mettle against the Japanese Embassy in Shanghai, throwing eggs, water bottles, and reportedly Japanese branded mobile phones at the building before swapping onto rocks. For those that did not have a conventially located Japanese embassy or consulate, Japanese business became the target, protestors in Qingdao’s Huangdao district attacked Jusco, a Japanese shopping mall, and basically raided the place of electrical appliances, a Toyota dealership in Huangdao also felt the fiery wrath of angered Chinese by setting the place on fire and smashing the windows of 200 cars in stock. The Toyota and Honda dealerships near my home in downtown Qingdao were quickly seen emptying their building of goods late on Friday night, they still remain empty, the Honda dealership has had its gate destroyed.
Now, ahead of the 75th anniversary of the commencing of hostilities between China and Japan, anti-Japanese fever is at its height. Japanese car owners (which must account for 20% of all cars on the road) are having their cars damaged, perhaps scratching, at its worse cars are being flipped or at slightest they are being refused service. Today I attempted to park my own Nissan Qashqai outside of a Guo Mei Electrical Store only to be told by the over eager security guard that parking spots are reserved for Chinese, Korean and German cars only. There was only one car, a Kia Cerato, in the car park, I showed the guard my very English middle finger and took my business to the supermarket across the road (I only wanted an SD-Card reader!). My Japanese friends are legitimately worried about their future in China, they have made substantial investments in business which directly employee Chinese workers, several have made noises about moving their families out of China for the time being but with the school year only just begun it is hard on the kids. Japanese workers in Shanghai have been attacked on several occasions, several companies have already stated they will pull out their Japanese workers until the time is right for them to return.
The protestors do appear to be in the minority, users of China’s Weibo (a Twitter like service) have been keen to point out that damaging Chinese property is only hurting Chinese wallets, and many are wondering what the protestors are hoping to achieve, perhaps a total loss of face for China in the media? Smashing Chinese owned and operated Japanese restaurants is not going to have any affect at all on Japan, more rational people are stating that if protestors want to hurt Japan so badly, why don’t they simply sign up to the Armed Forces? Whilst Chinese media were keen to egg on protestors before Friday, a noticeable turn occurred over the weekend when it was apparent that protestors had gone too far, columnists couldn’t hit their keyboards fast enough to denounce protestors actions in damaging Chinese property and the police were asking people who were at the scene of car damaging crimes to hand over any photos they might have so they can assist in catching criminals. Discussion threads on various boards and forums regarding the protests have been removed so as not to encourage anymore moronic and unwanted destruction of property on Tuesday,Â the anniversary of Japan’s invasion of China in 1931.