China's 'foolish row' with Japan
Sep 20, 2012
An outbreak of anti-Japan protests in China has spread further. Thousands in Chinese cities have demonstrated against Japan’s nationalisation of a chain of islands in the East China Sea that both countries claim sovereignty over. Angry citizens threw rocks at the Japanese embassy in Beijing and called for a boycott of Japanese brands. Several Japanese firms closed facilities in China to avoid having their premises vandalised.
What the commentators said
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta is worried that this could develop into a military “blow-up”, said William Pesek on Bloomberg.com. “That isn’t as hyperbolic as it sounds.” It’s easy to imagine Japanese businessmen being dragged from their offices and beaten or killed. Meanwhile, Chinese coast guard and fishing boats have confronted Japanese forces around the islands, which increases the risk of “an armed skirmish”, said The Wall Street Journal.
Both sides risk considerable economic damage if this dispute escalates, said Lex in the FT. Japan is China’s biggest foreign direct investor and a key source of technology and capital. Nissan has 25% of its global workforce in China. For Japan, China is a cheap manufacturing hub and buys a fifth of its exports. Trade between the two is worth $340bn a year.
Increasingly close economic ties have always been a key reason that previous stand-offs have ended. But “this time may be different”, said Simon Tisdall in The Guardian. Under pressure from nationalists, Japan’s prime minister has been “surprisingly inflexible”. China, meanwhile, “wants to deflect attention from scandals” and a stuttering economy, said Pesek. The state of domestic politics in both countries makes this “foolish row” more dangerous than previous ones.
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