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Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts

Monday, April 9, 2018

Political Art: Trump Gives Orders to Japan's Prime Minister at an Aircraft Carrier Restaurant in Jiangmen, China

While looking across the street at the Rongji Plaza shopping center in Jiangmen, Guangdong province, one of the signs perched on its roof especially caught my attention. I soon felt compelled to check out the Jin Li Ao Aircraft Carrier Restaurant (金利奥航母主题西餐厅). A dining experience with aircraft carrier ambience could be something to behold.

The 3rd-floor restaurant features Western-style food with a heavy emphasis on steaks. I assume this is not standard fare on China's single combat-ready aircraft carrier, but admittedly I have never eaten there.

In addition to a variety of steaks, the restaurant in Jiangmen includes a large structure with features similar to a miniature aircraft carrier. At the ship's bow sits a jet.

mock fighter jet with child inside


And a helicopter is ready for takeoff on the stern.

mock aircraft carrier helicopter


Both the jet and helicopter are open to visitors. Set between the two on the aircraft carrier's flight deck is seating for diners. There is also seating next to the carrier and in another section of the restaurant with a tropical theme. The servers and hosts all wear sailor uniforms.

To me, the most remarkable aspect of the restaurant isn't the aircraft carrier or the two vehicles on it. Or even the extensive variety of steaks on the menu. Instead, that honor belongs to some artwork in the restaurant's lobby area.

mural of Donald Trump pointing from a ship and Shinzo Abe made to look like a shrimp


After pondering the piece a couple of times, I asked a host who had earlier invited me to take photos about the intended meaning. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: What is happening here?
Host: Oh, it's just a picture. There's no meaning.
Me: Is that Trump?
Host: It's just a picture. It could be anybody.
Me: Um, how about the other person. Is that Japan's leader?
Host: Nobody in particular. It could be anybody. It's just a picture.
At this point, I figured the conversation wasn't going anywhere. I strongly suspected he was deliberately avoiding an explanation and appreciated that this was far more than "just a picture".

A minute or so later he asked, "Oh, do you think that looks like Trump?".

After I confirmed I did he replied, "Well, it could be anybody."

He smiled throughout our conversation.

Good times.

So my best current take on what is going on here. . . Well, it sure looks like a deliberate depiction of President of the U.S. Donald Trump and Prime Minister of Japan Shinzō Abe. Abe's appearance as a shrimp may be connected to a politically provocative meal served to Trump during his visit to South Korea last November:
The menu at South Korea’s state banquet for Donald Trump has left a nasty taste in Japan, after the president was served seafood caught off islands at the centre of a long-running territorial dispute between Seoul and Tokyo.

Japanese officials have also complained about the decision to invite a former wartime sex slave to the event, held earlier this week during the second leg of Trump’s five-nation tour of Asia.

Conservative media in Japan labeled the banquet “anti-Japanese” for featuring shrimp from near Dokdo – a rocky outcrop known in Japan as Takeshima. Both countries claim sovereignty over the islands, which are administered by Seoul.
China makes no claim regarding these islands, but it does have a similar dispute over the Senkaku Islands, known as the Diaoyu Islands in China, currently controlled by Japan. Many in China would applaud the meal served to Trump in Seoul.

The island in the background looks like a possible match to the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands (would be easier to confirm if Trump weren't blocking a portion of it). Perhaps Trump is ordering Abe to deliver an apology (big in China) and hand over the islands. Although I wouldn't bet on this scenario happening, even forgetting the shrimp part, many Chinese probably find it far more plausible. At the very least, Trump would certainly gain a huge number of fans in China if he achieved something like this or even tried.

So perhaps the restaurant dreams of a visit by Trump. Maybe that is why they feature steak. It is one of his favorite foods after all. They better have some ketchup though.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Bowing and Waving: Contrasting Statues of Japanese Prime Ministers in China

Steve George, a journalist for CNN International, recently commented on a photo of a statue at a mall in Northeast China.

statue of Abe Shinzo with a Hitler-style mustache and bowing

I wasn't surprised to see how Shinzo was depicted or to later discover that the mall is in Shenyang, where six years ago I saw rows of statues depicting the "disgraceful end of the Japanese aggressors" — all in a similar pose — at a museum.

However, the photo also reminded me of a contrasting set of statues I saw several weeks ago between a Starbucks and a Burger King at the ICITY shopping center in Dalian, another city in Liaoning province.



The statues of five world leaders, past and present, were all clearly labeled.

statue of Barack Obama in Dalian, China
"President of the U.S.: Barack Obama"


statue of Nicolas Sarkozy in Dalian, China
"President of France: Nicolas Sarkozy"


statue of Vladimir Putin in Dalian, China
"Prime Minister of Russia: Vladimir Putin"


statue of Bill Clinton in Dalian, China
"President of the U.S.: Bill Clinton"


statue of Junichiro Koizumi in Dalian, China
"Prime Minister of Japan: Junichiro Koizumi"


Obama and Putin were the only current leaders of the set, and Putin is now the President of Russia. It was the statue of the previous Prime Minister of Japan which most caught my eye. Unlike the statue in Shenyang, the design showed no sign of humiliation or apology. Or even a Hitler mustache. Instead, the statue of Koizumi was on equal footing with the others and greeted shoppers as they exited one of the two facing elevators.


elevator doors at the ICITY shopping center in Dalian, China


The statue in Shenyang reflects the anti-Japanese sentiment common in China. But as Chinese traveling to Japan during a Victory Over Japan holiday last year indicated, the full story of Chinese attitudes towards the country and its people is complicated. The statue of the Japanese prime minister in Dalian appears to be representative of a more positive side.

Koizumi did have some small scruff marks though.

statues of world leaders at a mall in Dalian, China

Friday, September 23, 2016

Chinese Man Unleashes the Great Running Faucet in Japan

Although anti-Japanese attitudes are common in China, many Chinese travel to Japan every year for tourism or business. Some will even go there during a Victory Over Japan holiday.

But who knows how many people do this:
Chinese pingpong champion Wang Nan says her husband was right to leave the faucet running in a Japanese hotel to waste water as revenge over Japan for invading China 85 years ago.

“It was really satisfying to keep the water running in a Japanese hotel,” the husband gleefully posted on the Chinese microblog Weibo.
In response, Adam Minter went with "Revenge just isn't what it used to be ...". Read the full article on The Asahi Shimbun for the reactions that show not everybody in China was impressed with this act of water either.

No word yet if the man also left the mini fridge door open.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Stars and Stripes Hello Kitty Tissues in Taipei

Signs of Japanese and American culture are easy to spot in Taiwan. Why not combine them?

Hello Kitty facial tissues with a U.S. flag design
Tissues for sale at a Taipei convenience store

Sunday, May 8, 2016

When the U.S. Bombed Tainan, Taiwan: Signs of the Past at the Hayashi Department Store

Hayashi Department Store in Tainan, Taiwan


The Hayashi Department store in Tainan, Taiwan, has several floors filled with a variety of goods for sale. The most recent renovations were completed two years ago, but on the 5th and 6th floors several signs suggest not everything was fixed.

chipped bricks in a wall


damage at the Hayashi Department Store in Tainan, Taiwan


On the top floors, the store provides an explanation (quoted "as is"*):
During the Pacific Wars in WWII, Taiwan was bombed by American's air raid. On March 1st, 1945, the Allied Forces conducted the biggest air raid to Tainan in Taiwan's history, bombing massively around Honcchou (Now Minquan Road) and Suehirochou (Now Zhongzheng Road). The roof and part of the floors were destroyed and government agencies nearby such like Tainan Prefecture Office suffered severe damage. The marks and bullets holes left on the façade of Hayashi Department Store were already repaired during the restoration, but on the top floor visitors can still see the evidence of that ferocious attack.
For those wondering why the U.S. felt inclined to bomb Taiwan during World War II, the last three words of the store's history provided on a lower level are a big hint (quoted "as is"*):
Hayashi Department store was opened on 1932 (year 7 of the Showa Era) and located in West Central District of Tainan. It was known to the Tainan people as "The Five-Stories-House" (Gō-chàn-lâu-á). Upon completion, the building was the second large department store in Taiwan and also the highest in Tainan. Hayashi was the first department store in Tainan with internal lift and other modern equipment. It was also a symbol of Tainan's prosperity and progress milestones during the Japanese colonial period.
The store's website has more details about its history.

I wouldn't have been at all surprised to hear this morning I would soon see an example of how the U.S. has left its mark in Tainan. This isn't what I would have expected though.

hole in a wall at the Hayashi Department Store in Tainan, Taiwan





* I did fix two punctuation mistakes and added a needed space. Click the links for photos of the original texts which also include Chinese and Japanese versions.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Beer and Patriotic Shorts on the 2nd Day of the Victory Over Japan Holiday in China

Yesterday after the “Commemoration of 70th Anniversary of Victory of Chinese People's Resistance against Japanese Aggression and World Anti-Fascist War” military parade had finished, I saw people eating Japanese food during the Victory Over Japan holiday. Today is also a day off for many due to the holiday. But again I didn't see anything which specifically mentioned the holiday. But also again, I saw something which may be a sign of people celebrating.

Tonight in the new Walmart in Zhuhai's Gongbei subdristrict, two young women discussed which beer to purchase. One of them even wore shorts with a patriotic design. I am not sure if they were looking for a Japanese brand, but I didn't see any. Interestingly, their final choice was a beer from Germany, another country which came out on the losing end of World War II.

two young women, one wearing shirts with a U.S. flag design, selecting a German beer from a selection in Walmart

Or maybe, like with the Japanese food, it had nothing to do with the holiday. Hard to say.

Chinese Traveling to Japan During the Victory Over Japan Holiday

Chinese are spending their time during the Victory Over Japan holiday in a variety of ways, including watching the "Commemoration of 70th Anniversary of Victory of Chinese People's Resistance against Japanese Aggression and World Anti-Fascist War" military parade or eating Japanese food in China. Takuya Karube reported for Kyodo on another way which presumably involves Japanese food:
Japan was one of the most popular overseas destinations for Chinese tourists during a three-day national holiday through Saturday, travel agencies said. . . .

“I chose this time to visit, because the government suddenly announced (in May) this special holiday,” Yu Yong, a 40-year-old employee of an information-technology company, said. “I heard that Japan is a very good place and recently it’s a hot tourist destination.” . . .

Yu said he made a good decision to leave Beijing around the time of the parade and it has been worth seeing the many differences between the two countries with his own eyes, although he thinks the 70th anniversary should be observed at a state level and by the rest of the world.
As Liz Flora noted in Jing Daily, the increase of Chinese travelers to Japan, not only during the current holiday, is remarkable:
After seeing a dramatic downturn in the number of Chinese tourists in the wake of China’s fall 2012 anti-Japanese riots, Japan’s rebound has been swift. Buoyed by price-conscious Chinese shoppers chasing a weaker yen and no sales tax for foreigners, the country is expected to see 4 million Chinese tourists by the end of 2015, a two-thirds increase from last year. . . .

Despite an onslaught of anti-Japanese propaganda TV shows and films in the lead-up to the parade, this summer saw especially high Chinese traveler growth numbers in Japan as many Chinese tourists opted to skip South Korea due to the MERS outbreak and Hong Kong due to increased travel restrictions and anti-mainland sentiment.
So while Beijing has been loudly displaying its growing military power, Japan may be more quietly building its soft power.

Eating Japanese Food on the Victory Over Japan Holiday

Signs of some national holidays in China, especially Chinese New Year, can be easy to see, even if just through store promotions. For example, around Labor Day earlier this year I saw a patriotic image used for a Labor Day sale in Shaoyang, Hunan.


Commemoration of 70th Anniversary of Victory of Chinese People's Resistance against Japanese Aggression and World Anti-Fascist War” events no doubt left their mark in China today, especially in Beijing. But although the crowds were noticeably larger in shopping districts in Zhuhai's Gongbei subdistrict, an area which sees a large number of tourists, I didn't see a single thing specifically referencing today's Victory over Japan holiday.

Perhaps people were quietly feeling patriotic as they shopped. And maybe it was no coincidence one person I saw wore a "VICTORY OR NOTHING" shirt today. Maybe it was also no coincidence she made an order at a small establishment serving Japanese-style food.

young woman wearing a "Victory or Nothing" shirt at a Japanese take-out restaurant in Zhuhai

Or maybe not.

Whatever the case, anti-Japanese sentiments in China weren't stopping her or others from eating Japanese food today.

Maybe that is a small positive sign.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Why Does the U.S. Support Japan?: Questions at a Restaurant in Changsha, China

Yesterday for dinner I enjoyed a dish of spicy and garlicky Shaoyang-style fish at a restaurant in Changsha, Hunan province. As I paid the bill, I chatted with three of the staff working there--females I would guess to be between 25-40 years old. At first, the discussion focused on light topics such as our hometowns and how to pronounce my English name. But then out of nowhere, one of the women asked me if I knew about Diaoyu--the Chinese name of the islands at the center of a territory dispute between China and Japan. I said that I did, and she then sternly asked me, "Why does the U.S. support Japan?"

Not wanting to open up the topic of what would happen if China took military action (it's not clear, see here and here), I explained that the U.S. does not particularly care who controls the islands. It just wants to see China and Japan peacefully resolve the issue.

She then had some negative words to say about Japanese people. The other women agreed. I told them that if they met some of my Japanese friends they would surely find them to be good people. "No," the one woman said. "Japanese are bad people." Again, the other staff readily agreed with her.

The woman then mentioned that Japan had done bad things to China in the past. I replied that most of today's Japanese people had nothing to do with what happened many decades ago. Appearing to believe that making it more personal would change my mind, she mentioned the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Again, I said it had little to do with Japan today and now Japan and America are on excellent terms. Later, they looked at me in disbelief when I claimed that many Japanese are peaceful. A woman pointed to the TV and asked, "Have you not watched the shows about the war with Japan?"

Often, they tried to establish that I supported China more than Japan. For example, a woman asked if I have more Chinese or Japanese friends. I explained that the numbers are meaningless. I have friends from many places around the world, and I do not choose them based on their nationalities. She then asked me if I could speak Japanese. I cannot. As if she had proven a key point she said, "But you learned Chinese!"

I think my face clearly expressed "So what?"

She then asked, "Why did you choose to learn Chinese?" Not wanting to get into a lengthy explanation, I just said that I found the language fascinating and it is spoken by many people. She again mentioned that I had not bothered to study Japanese. I pointed out that I have also not learned many other languages and it has nothing to do with whether I think certain countries are "better".

As we were wrapping up the discussion, I thought about the bar in Changsha that openly forbids Japanese from entering and the cafe owner who believes that Chinese and Japanese people are friends. So I asked the staff whether Japanese could eat in their restaurant.

They could. In fact, the previous day two Japanese customers had eaten there.

But then one of the women proudly stated, "We didn't behave warmly towards them!". I suspect the staff's attitude reflects what could be found in many other restaurants in Changsha--something in between the bar and cafe. As I tried to imagine the experience of the Japanese customers, she added, "But you see, we're very open with you! You are American." Indeed, they had been very kind and friendly towards me that night and the previous two times I had eaten there.

Although it could be easy to be discouraged by the conversation, I believe it also represented something positive. I do not expect to quickly change people's mind on a topic that can be deeply emotional and has been likely guided by years of "education" with little or no presentation of alternative viewpoints. As with a young waitress in China who asked an important question about censorship in China, there can be great value found in encouraging or allowing people to ask questions. Many of the staff's questions seem to have been intended to make a point and not to better understand my views, yet it was still much better than if they had not asked any questions at all. A person's questions can say as much about their thoughts as their replies to your own questions. And a person may be more likely to consider what you have to say if it is in response to a question they have asked.

I don't know if the conversation will have a lasting impression on any of the restaurant staff. But it certainly made an impression on me and gives me something to consider for possible future conversations. On that note, I would not mind returning to the restaurant for another chat, especially if I could bring one or two Japanese friends. Under the right conditions, I believe the restaurant staff would be interested to ask questions. There is a reasonable chance they would be surprised by some of the answers.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Signs of Hate and a Japanese Mother Ready to Leave China

At a bar street in Changsha, Hunan province, one of the bars was not remarkable to me in any way except one:

sign forbidding Japanese from entering a bar in Changsha, China, with the words 驱逐倭寇 保卫河山 日本人or猪不得入内

The strong Chinese words on the sign next to the bar's entrance tell a disturbing story. A rough translation:
Expel the "Japanese".
Defend the rivers and mountains.
Japanese or pigs will not be admitted.
The Chinese word used for "Japanese" is extremely derogatory (as described by a Chinese friend) and references pirates common hundreds of years ago. The image appears to be the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the source of a key dispute between China and Japan.

I did not see any similar signs on the many other nearby bars. But although discriminatory signs may not be typical at bars in central Changsha, I have heard anti-Japanese sentiment expressed in Changsha. For example, during a friendly discussion some high school students felt compelled to tell me that "Japanese are bad" without me mentioning any Japan-related topic. So I asked them whether they would be friends with a Japanese person. One 15 year old girl said with a skeptical expression, "Well, they could be my friend, but they need to show they are a good person." Her statement was striking given how excited she had been to meet me, obviously realizing I was a foreigner. She did not appear to negatively prejudge me and need to check to see if I was "good".

In the post "Chinese Being Friendly to a Foreigner in China" I wrote:
To be clear, I would not claim that [all of these experiences] occurred only because I am a foreigner. Nor would I claim that all foreigners would have had the same experience. Again, there are many complexities.
Anti-Japanese sentiment was one of the many "complexities" I had in mind.

But not every person in China harbors strong negative feelings for Japanese people. For example, in Changsha I met a Chinese student who said that the anti-Japan and anti-Japanese sentiment in China was ridiculous and that the island dispute should be an issue the governments can resolve without needing to rally any citizens. She did not care who controlled the islands.

She knows her Japanese classmates are now careful not to speak Japanese in public, but she says she has rarely seen anti-Japanese sentiments openly expressed in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, where she studies at a university. But while recently visiting a friend in Wuhan, Hubei province, she was shocked to see a large number of restaurants with signs forbidding Japanese from entering.

Regardless of whether the student's and my observations are representative for Changsha, Guangzhou, and Wuhan, they are at least symbolic of the variations that can be found between different people and regions of China.

Although the anti-Japan protest marches seem to have subsided, it is hard to believe much anti-Japanese sentiment does not remain. It is also hard not to wonder what messages many Chinese take from the Chinese government's continued behavior, such as not sending its finance chiefs to important meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank apparently because they are being held in Japan.

The effects of the anti-Japan protests continue to be felt in a variety of respects, such as rapidly declining sales in China for Japanese automakers. Like before, I would like to share a relevant perspective that has not received significant attention elsewhere. The Japanese mother living in Shanghai who shared her thoughts and experiences (here and here) regarding the anti-Japan protests recently wrote more and after some consideration agreed to let me share it. Again, she is someone who was once very positive about her experiences in China, and she sought ways to immerse herself in its culture, including learning Chinese. To say the least, her perspective has changed:
I've done a lot of thinking, and it made me want to stop thinking about it all together. But I still continue to. As for the Island dispute, it's just too bad it had to happen this way. I personally feel (as many Japanese do) that [the Japanese government] shouldn't have nationalized the islands the way they did at the timing they did. But that is all now left for the goverments to deal with.

One thing I can tell is that I'm more aware now of what this country holds inside itself. I've come to realize that patriotic or non-patriotic, rich or poor, most Chinese do have anti-Japanese sentiment deep down, and that it will not change unless the communist government falls apart, and God knows if that would ever happen. I've lost every bit of confidence and positive curiosity that is necessary in order to keep on living in this country. Daily life seems back to normal, but to me it will never be the same. I used to think it would be nice if we could stay here until my daughter finishes high school, but now am ready to get packed any day. I'm just tired of telling my kids to not speak Japanese in public, or getting nervous every time I catch a taxi. Just as simple as that.

I know that there must be much more to this country and that it could be very appealing to certain types of people, but I just can't see any hopes of Chinese and Japanese people ever building a relationship based on real trust. I don't understand those people who come to this country seeking business opportunities, just to have everything destroyed every several years.

My husband says I'm a bit extreme, and I probably am. But like I said, I'm just tired of this whole thing. I want to live in a normal country...

I'm just a tai-tai [wife] who is only here to be with my husband. I was never prepared to embrace, in the true sense, all that comes with living in China. I am free to leave if I wanted and therefore could easily be saying things about this country in a seemingly irresponsible way. But I also know there are loads of Japanese people who live here with a very strong determination and, regardless of all the absurdity, still love the people of this country. I truly respect all the efforts they must have made to build relationships on a personal level. I just know that for myself, in this lifetime at least, this isn't where I wish to put my energy...
I wonder what I would do if I had to be concerned about speaking English in public and was forbidden from entering some bars, restaurants, and shops in China because of my nationality. Would I stay?

I will not attempt to predict the future of either China or the Japanese mother. But I hope the island dispute will be resolved peacefully. I hope the peak of anti-Japanese sentiment in China is now in the past. I hope more people will be able to distinguish a government's decisions from its people. I hope the Japanese mother and others like her will be able to lead a more open and less fearful life.

And I hope a bar I saw in Changsha is not a sign of things to come.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Self-Inflicted Wounds in China

The Japanese woman who shared with me her thoughts and experiences regarding China's recent anti-Japan protests was fearful of something she described as "unknown" and "completely irrational". She also believed that in some ways Chinese people were being more negatively impacted by the protests than herself. A mob's actions, described by Colum Murphy in the China Real Time Report, serves as a particularly disturbing example of why her concerns were not unfounded:
The beating took place on the afternoon of Sept. 15 in the central Chinese city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province. Mr. Li, his wife, one of his son’s and the son’s fiancée, were on their way back from a shopping trip when Mr. Li’s white Toyota Corolla was set upon by an agitated anti-Japanese mob brandishing sticks, bricks and steel implements, according to the Beijing Youth Daily.

Mr. Li’s wife urged the demonstrators not to damage the vehicle. “It was wrong of us to buy a Japanese car. We won’t buy one ever again, OK?” she was reported as saying by Beijing Youth Daily.

But the gang beat Mr. Li anyway, striking him on the head with a steel shackle and causing him to lose consciousness. Later, he was rushed to hospital where he was treated for open brain injury and then moved to an intensive care unit. He remained there until he regained consciousness three days later.

Mr. Li can now move the left-hand side of his body but the right side continues to be partially paralyzed.
For me it sounds like another world from many of my own experiences in China. Nevertheless, I feel this story is important for several reasons.

One, it is an example of the violence recently expressed in China. Whether or not most Chinese support the protests, there is genuine reason for concern.

Also, is it is an example of pain that China is inflicting upon itself. It makes it seem all the more reasonable to wonder if the anti-Japan protests are indicative of deeper problems that are not only about Japan's past actions.

Finally, as a Chinese reader wrote before:
People need to understand the effects of their actions.
The violent acts in Xi'an did not spring out of nowhere. Even if a protestor's words are not reflective of deeper beliefs and are a result of being "caught up in the moment", they can fan the flames of hate in others and even themselves.

To the reader's words I would add that people also need to understand the effects of their inaction. Or in other words, even doing nothing can be an action with visible effects.

When stores and restaurants refuse to serve Japanese because of their nationality, how many Chinese still walk through their doors? When relatives, friends, or coworkers speak hate, how many don't reply? When mobs carry out violent acts against people and property, how many don't intervene in any fashion?

In his article, Murphy reported that many users of Sina Weibo, a popular online social networking service in China, have not been silent and have expressed their criticisms of the protests (some other examples here). But it is important to note that Sina Weibo is not representative of China's full online world, and the online world is certainly not all of life in China.

I don't know the answers to the questions I asked. But considering such questions is important for both Chinese and foreigners who wish to better understand what is happening in China now and what might happen in the future.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Japanese Mother in China During an Occupation Anniversary

Tuesday, September 18, was a national day of remembrance in China marking the Japanese occupation many decades ago. For that reason, there were strong expectations for increased anti-Japan protests regarding China's dispute with Japan over some islands in the East China Sea. For one report on the day's protests see ABC News here and for some photos see The Guardian here. There is much more that can be found elsewhere online.

Since it was a day of heightened concern, I asked my Japanese acquaintance in Shanghai if she could share her experiences to follow up her earlier account. Here is some of what she wrote:
We stayed in all day yesterday [September 18]. I was afraid "the Red People" would come to the area where I live again, but they didn't this time. Whew. A friend of mine who lives in a high-rise apartment building right by the Embassy where they all gathered said she could see a crowd of people shouting for several hours, but it seems that it was rather strictly controlled by the armed police officers. The entire area was closed down and alongside the street there was a parade of police cars and maybe military cars parked throughout the entire block. My poor friend had to spend all day hearing the chorus of voices. Good thing her Chinese wasn't good enought to understand what they were saying.

I figured I need do some studying and for a start tried watching China Central TV's English channel. Well, I chose the worst day of the year for my CCTV debut. All they showed were images of the Japanese army from the war, the memorial ceremony held at the 9.18 Historical Museum, and some professor explaining how the islands belonged to China because of such and such reasons. A Chinese teenage girl was being interviewed and was asked about her impression of the museum. She said, "We must all learn from the history. China must get stronger!!"

If it were any Japanese teenager coming out of any war-related history museum, the first thing they learn from the "history" would be to not ever have another war and to keep peace.

What this Chinese girl meant was, "If we get into another war against Japan, big China will defeat them." I couldn't help but to think about what the Chinese education has done to this young girl's mind...

sigh, sigh, sigh.

Well, we're all safe. Some are still worried that there might be another protest this coming weekend, but overall the Japanese community is feeling a bit relieved that the 18th is over. And, what was the cause of all this??? Has the issue been solved????
That the day has passed must indeed be a relief. But her questions make it clear that much uncertainty remains.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Being Nice Enough and Brainwashing: Two Chinese Responses About a Japanese Mother and Anti-Japan Protests in China

The post about the recent experiences of a Japanese mother in Shanghai during a period of anti-Japan protests in China has received a number of responses. I will now share two of them. They are both from Chinese citizens yet express rather different perspectives.

The first is from a Shanghainese reader who has spent some time living in Australia:
You need to understand the war between Japan and China was serious, people like our parents' grandparents were living in FEAR as well. They [Japanese] CAME to OUR country and did stupid dirty things and currently Chinese are doing things IN our country so it's none of anyone's business. If they [Japanese] don't like it they could leave. I said that [about what Japanese people did in the past] because it's a very important part of why those older Chinese people (like the doorman) act very weird and sensitive on this issue. Also, allow me to remind Americans or Japanese or people from anywhere else that YOU used to say Chinese don't express what they think or what they want to say in the public. Now they did it, you think they are scary. Why has everyone been so harsh to Chinese? Chinese are exactly the same as your people. Don't forget Japan also had anti-Chinese protests lately, and don't forget in America there's a bunch of Muslim issues waiting to be solved. Honestly, Chinese don't need any of those foreigners who provide a good voice for China. And you certainly can't judge if any of these Chinese people are wealthy or educated because of their opinions on DiaoYu island issue or any China Vs Japan issue. Unfortunately, heaps of people who are well educated and wealthy dislike the history thanks to Japan. They have been nice enough living with the history and treating Japanese in a friendly manner. Because we know that the [Japanese] government is the government and that it is different from the Japanese people. Btw, especially in Shanghai those people who attended protests were not local Shanghainese (maybe only tiny little bit). On Weibo heaps of Chinese are more positive on this political issue and asking for the violent protests to be stopped. WHY CAN'T YOU SEE THAT???
I want to first respond to the question at the end of her comments. The main goal of the earlier post was not to provide a comprehensive overview of the island dispute or of the recent protests but instead to share a single person's experience that provided an important perspective on the protests' impact. So my answer to the question is "I can." I did not mention online examples of Chinese showing their disapproval of the violent protests* because they did not appear to be relevant to the Japanese woman's experiences.

The reader's comments reflect several important issues, and I have no doubt that a conversation with her would enable a deeper understanding of her viewpoints. There is much more I want to say, but I feel I could do it more effectively through some separate posts later. Also, I think it is best to simply follow her thoughts with those of another Chinese reader. He lived in the U.S. for a period of time and now works at a multi-national company in Shanghai. His comments were not written in response to the other reader's comments, but they can almost be read as one:
Thanks for writing up the article on the anti-Japan protests in China. People need to understand the effects of their actions. As a Chinese, I'm sad to see all the violence that's been going on, even in a modern city like Shanghai. I know that most Chinese don't agree with this, but 60+ years of anti-Japan brainwashing propaganda is hard to simply ignore. I think that China is setting itself back 10 years in the world's eye and has squandered away the positive image it built up through the 2008 Olympics and 2010 Expo. Chinese always think they're the victims. Historically that was true at times. What Chinese fail to appreciate is that if they want to be considered as equal or better than the West, they also need to act responsibly. The Sino-Japan relationship is difficult due to the Japanese occupation of course, but that war ended almost 70 years ago. China needs to learn how to forgive but not forget if it wants to become "superior". Otherwise it's no better.
And with that I conclude this post. More is on the way...



*Regarding a main claim of the linked-to-post, "On Weibo, Japanophobic mobsters are far from the majority", it would be helpful to see findings from a more rigorous analysis. Additionally, it is worth noting that Weibo users are certainly not a representative slice of all China. Nonetheless, the examples provided are striking. And they show that the Hongkonger I met is not the only one in China who thinks that bombing the islands might be a good way to resolve the current dispute.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Hongkonger's Solution for some Disputed Islands

I have received and seen a variety of responses to yesterday's post "The Impact of China's Anti-Japan Protests on a Japanese Mother in Shanghai". I would like to wait another day before sharing and commenting on some of the responses since they are still coming in. Today, I will instead share a related experience I had in Hong Kong, which has recently had a small anti-Japan protest of its own.

This past weekend at a waterfall on Hong Kong's Lantau Island a couple asked me if I could help them by taking their photograph. Given what was in the back of my mind due to a disturbing news report I had briefly seen at a ferry dock, after a couple photographs and some chitchat I could not resist asking them for their thoughts about the disputed islands in the East China Sea.

The young man from Hong Kong said he did not think the dispute between China and Japan was particularly important and labeled it as "just a political matter". Unlike some others in China, it did not at all appear to be an emotional issue for him.

I refrained from asking many questions since I wanted to let them get back to enjoying their weekend nature hike. But as I was about to walk away the young man said, "Actually, I was talking about this with my girlfriend the other day. And I said I thought they should just bomb the islands so nobody could have or want them."

Even though bombing the islands into oblivion for this purpose does not seem likely to happen, his proposal says much about how he views the dispute. But if this Hongkonger's solution could be effectively applied, I bet I know a Japanese mother in Shanghai who would not object.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Impact of China's Anti-Japan Protests on a Japanese Mother in Shanghai

There has been a growing clamor in China about some small islands in the East China Sea -- in China they are named Diaoyu and in Japan they are named Senkaku. Strong feelings pervade in China that it, and not Japan, is the righteous owner of these islands. If you are not familiar with the competing claims see an overview of the dispute's history by Scott Neuman on NPR.

There have been numerous protests in China during recent days, seemingly in response to the Japanese government purchasing the islands from a private owner. As summed up by Richard Burger:
We always knew the Diaoyu islands were a tinder box; now it’s exploded.
Disputes over land are one thing, but the anti-Japanese sentiment now being expressed in China is disturbing to say the least. One sign held by people proclaimed (as translated by Charlie Custer):
Even if China becomes nothing but tombstones, we must exterminate the Japanese; even if we have to destroy our own country, we must take back the Diaoyu Islands.
For more about the protests I recommend several recent pieces for an assortment of perspectives: "The Anti-Japanese Eruptions" by James Fallows, "Anti-Japan Protests Erupt In China Over Disputed Islands" by Louisa Lim, "On Beijing’s Anti-Japan Protests" by Eric Fish, "China’s Anti-Japan Riots Are State-Sponsored. Period." by Charlie Custer, and "Anti-Japan protests a double-edged sword" by Ko Hirano. Some of the titles on their own say so much.

Although the dispute has received attention in Western media, earlier I noticed a relative silence about one key aspect. Emily Parker summed it up in a tweet:


So before sharing one Chinese perspective and some of my own, I first want to share the thoughts and experiences of a female Japanese acquaintance who is now living in Shanghai, China. They highlight some of the protests' effects, intended or not, on Japanese in China.

Today I asked her if she had been impacted by the recent demonstrations in any way. She has (italics for emphasis are mine):
Things have been a bit tense... Yesterday I could see "the Red People" marching right through the street in front of our apartment. Hearing the news and actually seeing them was quite different. I actually felt fear, though I've heard some of those people are getting paid to participate in the march, without really knowing what for.

My daughter's soccer team's practice was cancelled and my husband was refused by 2 taxi drivers. I intend not to go out except to pick up my kids from the school bus for the next few days or however long it may take to calm down. Tomorrow there's supposed to be another big one.

In the Japanese news, they tell about many small clashes that have happened in towns, such as a Japanese civilian getting soup noodles thrown into his face, another had his glasses taken away and broken, etc., none of which is told in the Chinese news. Obviously the Western world doesn't care much about the situation.

I personally don't care to whom the island belongs, I just want everyday security. A lot of the educated, wealthy Chinese people don't care either, they know it's just another camouflage. They're probably bummed that their shopping trip to Japan on October holiday week may be cancelled. :(

This is all just too frustrating...
I followed up with some questions. Her reply:
Many of the weekend events are cancelled among the Japanese community, because the protesting and demonstration marching get really big on weekends. We think we need to be extra cautious and keep a low profile. The Japanese school in Shanghai decided to cancel all classes for at least next two days, and depending on how the situation turns out after the 18th (supposed to be the big anti-Japan day for Chinese people). There was supposed to be a big sporting event held this weekend, where all the parents and friends get to go watch, but it got postponed 'till next Tuesday, for the time being. There's a big chance it may get cancelled altogether.

Shanghai has quite a few soccer teams which are coached in Japanese by Japanese coaches, where naturally most kids are Japanese, though my daughter's team actually has a few Chinese kids and a Chinese coach, too. The practice was cancelled over the weekend for the same reason as above. The team uses the field that belongs to a Chinese school and there are many other people using the track, the basketball court, and other facilities. We want to avoid any kind of situation that may cause "clashes" between Chinese and Japanese.

I don't think the kids have had first hand experience of such anti-Japanese sentiments yet. In a way they are the least exposed to the real Chinese community, as they take the school bus to and from the Japanese school and don't get a chance to mingle with local kids much, which I personally feel that they are missing out on an opportunity, but living in a country like China, it can't be helped. (Americans or Europeans who send their kids to American, British, or International schools may think they're a bit more "Internationally" exposed, but I don't see much difference in terms of being cut off from the Chinese community.)

Today I had to go to the shop across the street to get enough groceries to last for the next few days. I was quite nervous just to cross the street and was hoping people woudn't be able to tell that I was Japanese (though I think they could).

I felt the same as I was walking back with my kids from the school bus stop back to our building. I figured as long as we stay withing the compound, there shouldn't be a big problem since most people living here are wealthy, educated Chinese along with other foreigners. But as I was entering the door, I heard a voice coming out of the doorman's walkie-talkie, and it completely freaked me out. It supposedly was a voice of another doorman who could see us from a distance saying, "Are they Japanese?". I know my Chinese isn't perfect, but I heard it clearly. I couldn't believe my ears. I just pretended I didn't hear it and walked right into the building, saying "Xie xie" ["Thank you"] to the doorman as usual. This doorman usually says "Bu yong xie" ["You're welcome"] back to me, but today he didn't. Believe it or not, this little incident gave me the biggest FEAR in these past few days. Much more so than seeing the protest marching outside my window.

Having lived in the US as a minority, I've had people say discriminatory words towards me, or look down on me. But this is nothing of that sort. This is a simple, but very strong FEAR towards the unknown, something completely irrational.

As for my husband, he was told to get off after he got onto the taxi once. I think they could tell from his accent.

3 Panasonic factories have been severely destroyed and also a Toyota dealer was burned down, as well as many Japan-related shops and restaurants having been attacked and plundered. The thing is that most of the workers at these factories are Chinese, and they'll be without jobs for the next however many weeks or months until these factories are restored. Also, most of the shops and restaurants are owned by Chinese.

OK, I still have to cook dinner. We still get hungry.
Based on earlier conversations, I know she appreciates much about her life in China and has found living there to be a special experience. She is someone who could potentially be a positive voice for China in Japan. But now, despite not caring who owns some small islands, doing her best to avoid any potential "clashes", and recognizing that in some ways the protests have hurt Chinese people more than herself, she is living in China with her husband and children in fear.

To the Chinese people who have been expressing anti-Japanese sentiment, whether through words or actions, I have one question:

Mission accomplished?