China is currently witnessing increasing public anger against Japan after Tokyo released treated radioactive waste water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant last Thursday (24/8). After Beijing banned imports of seafood from Japan, netizens in China are now calling for a boycott of a number of Japanese products.
Analysts say Beijing is trying to send a message to Tokyo through this rising anti-Japanese sentiment.
“Japan has released wastewater and it can’t be undone, so (allowing nationalist sentiment to develop) is China’s way of showing its anger,” Ian Chong, a political scientist at the National University of Singapore told VOA in a telephone interview.
Beijing itself is currently facing a series of domestic problems, including an economic slowdown, record-breaking unemployment rates and a sudden reshuffle of personnel in foreign policy and military. Some observers say the Chinese government is trying to control the situation by shifting focus from domestic discussions to public health issues that are of concern to Chinese citizens.
“Nationalism is the easiest tool for Beijing to unite society, and public health issues such as the invisible threat of radiation originating from abroad can be exploited because it is accepted across class, geography and ethnicity,” said Wen-Ti Sung, a science expert. politics at the Australian National University to VOA in a telephone interview.
Since Japan began disposing of the wastewater, netizens in China have warned the public against buying a number of Japanese products, including cosmetics, baby and pet products, and some foods. They assume these products contain contaminated ingredients.
“Instead of having to avoid some Japanese brands, it’s better for me not to buy all products with the word ‘Japan’ in them,” wrote one netizen on China’s popular social media site, Weibo. Several netizens encouraged the public to support local products from China.
In addition to the push for a boycott of Japanese products that is endemic on social media, Chinese media reports that a number of Chinese tourists are now discouraged from visiting Japan, which has become one of the main tourist destinations for Chinese citizens.
The push for a boycott of Japanese products has led Chinese consumers to stockpile salt for fear that the wastewater released into the sea could affect product quality and make salt scarce for the foreseeable future. (hr/f/rs)