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China aims at Japan's economy in island protests

By Louise Watt

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 09:15 a.m. HST, Sep 16, 2012

BEIJING » Chinese are trying to hurt Japan economically for leverage in a bitter dispute over contested islands, turning to angry protests and calls for boycotts of Japanese businesses, abetted in part by China's government.

Sporadic protests in China over the past week became larger and at times violent and spread to at least two dozen cities over the weekend. Protesters torched a Panasonic factory and Toyota dealership in the eastern port of Qingdao, looted a Heiwado Co. department store in the southern city of Changsha and ransacked Japanese supermarkets in several cities. Though larger numbers of police imposed more order on demonstrations today, they fired tear gas to subdue rowdy protesters in the southern city of Shenzhen. In nearby Guangzhou city, protesters broke into a hotel that was next to the Japanese Consulate and damaged a Japanese restaurant inside.

Japan has demanded that China ensure the safety of Japanese citizens and businesses. "Unfortunately, this is an issue that is impacting the safety of our citizens and causing damage to the property of Japanese businesses," Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told NHK, Japan's public broadcaster, on Sunday.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said today he is concerned that island disputes in the Asia-Pacific region could spark provocations and result in violence that could involve other nations, such as the United States.

While it urged protesters not to resort to violence, China's government has also encouraged the use of economic pressure in the dispute over Japan's control over the East China Sea islands, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China. China's National Tourism Administration ordered travel companies last week to cancel tours to Japan over the weeklong National Day holiday in early October and promised to compensate any businesses for costs they could not recover, said a lawyer who saw the written order and asked not to be identified because the document is not for public use.

The scale and violence are the worst in recurring waves of anti-Japanese protests since 2005, when lingering grievances over Japan's occupation of parts of China in the 1930s through World War II brought Chinese into the streets. Since then, China's economy has supplanted Japan's as the world's second largest and its diplomatic clout and military firepower have soared. State broadcaster China Central Television on Sunday showed Chinese naval forces conducting firing drills in the East China Sea, though it did not give a date for the exercises.

Tensions have been growing for months over the East China Sea islands, since a right-wing nationalist Japanese politician vowed to buy them from their private owners to better protect them from Chinese encroachment. When the Japanese government purchased the islands this week to keep them out of the politician's hands, China reacted angrily, sending marine patrol ships inside Japanese-claimed waters around the islands.

State media, which answer to the ruling Communist Party, joined ordinary Chinese in calling for boycotts of Japanese goods. One regional newspaper ran a list of well-known Japanese brands along with calls for a boycott. China Central Television halted advertisements for Japanese products on two of its main channels over the weekend, according to China National Radio.

Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn told reporters in Hong Kong last week that though so far the dispute had not had a discernible impact on sales in China, it might if it degenerates "into something more serious."

Imports from Japan are off 6 percent so far this year compared with the first eight months of last year, according to Chinese government figures.

Calls for boycotts in previous rounds of China-Japan tensions have fizzled, so it's unclear whether this time will be any different. The Japanese and Chinese economies have robust trade and economic ties, and Japan is a major investor, its businesses providing jobs in manufacturing and services. A boycott or trade fight would likely hurt the Chinese economy at a time its growth is rapidly slowing and the Chinese leadership is worried about civil unrest.


Associated Press television producer Aritz Parra, reporter Charles Hutzler and researchers Henry Hou and Flora Ji in Beijing, reporter Eric Talmadge in Tokyo, and photographer Eugene Hoshiko and researcher Fu Ting in Shanghai contributed to this report.

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Oye_Como_Va wrote:
Wow, if it's not the middle east, it's the far east.
on September 15,2012 | 03:46PM
keawe wrote:
Let's hope America does not treat Japan like we are treating Isarel. Isarel and Japan are America's steadfast allies let us care for them as such.
on September 15,2012 | 04:35PM
honopic wrote:
If you feel we should "care for" our "steadfast ally" in the Middle East, you may want to learn how to spell the name of the country.
on September 16,2012 | 03:48PM
Peacenik wrote:
As it stands, we in the West, including me, know next to nothing of the history, geograhapy, politics of these islands. If they are scholars in the West who do, I for one would appreciate them enlightening us in the West what they know, so we can have opinions based on facts and not gut feeling.
on September 15,2012 | 07:59PM
HD36 wrote:
Much of the anti Japanese sentiment grew from the movie The Flower of War.
on September 15,2012 | 09:13PM
serious wrote:
Yes, but I believe the Chinese have long memories of the atrocities the Japanese committed against their citizens. Read, Flags of our Fathers as an example.
on September 16,2012 | 04:41AM
HD36 wrote:
True dat. The US will back Japan and China will pull their US Treasury holdings. The economy will be flooded with dollars, interest rates will spike, and we'll have a depressionary inflation. Like Rome did.
on September 16,2012 | 10:56AM
sailfish1 wrote:
The issue of ownership of these islands was brought before the UN when the U.S. handed administrative rights of the islands to Japan. Why doesn't the UN make a ruling?
on September 16,2012 | 12:54PM
mitt_grund wrote:
Japan "acquired" the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in their first attempts at empire building in 1895. That is the period of Western incursion into the Middle East and the Far East, the Opium War where China tried to resist the forced sale of opium into China by Great Britain to restore trade balance. Great Britain saw no other recourse than to force the Chinese to buy opium Great Britain produced in Afghanistan to even out the trade surplus it was facing with China. What better way to subdue a people than to drug them. The U.S. participated in the Western invasion of China as well, assisting the European powers in the Boxer Rebellion which was a people's revolt against the Western powers occupying China. People forget that the Communists under Mao were allies in WW II against the Japanese, as were the Russians. World wars make for strange alliances. Don't put it past the U.S. to do preceisely what Great Britain did, wage war against China to seize back by force what it lost in trade to China. It would be true to form, much like they did in the Philippines, promising indepencence to the Filipinos in the war against Spain, welshing on the deal and slaughtering a million Filipinos and Filipinas in the resulting revolt against the U.S. The U.S. had a bounty on any Filipino killed, whether man, woman or child. We have a great record of tolerance and benevolence in non-white countries. And with the Tea Party about to ascend into power like the Nazis dfid, we can look forward to more bloodshed in the name of American democracy.
on September 16,2012 | 01:12PM
HD36 wrote:
Excellent point, it's easy to see why they're building up ther millitary.
on September 16,2012 | 01:48PM
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