Chain stores boycott Japanese goods
Chow Chung-yan and Vivian Wu
Firms are accused of backing books that whitewash war atrocities
Anti-Japanese sentiments on the mainland have shown signs of escalating as a number of supermarkets and bars in major cities have begun boycotting products of Japanese companies.
The firms are seen as supportive of Japan's plans to revise history textbooks to play down atrocities committed during the second world war.
About 30 chain stores in Shenyang , in Liaoning , have pulled Japanese products, including the popular brand of Asahi beer, off their shelves in protest, according to mainland media.
There have also been reports that shops in Changchun , in Jilin province, and bars in Guangzhou and Shenzhen have refused to sell Asahi beer and other Japanese-made products.
A spokeswoman for the Xinmeng supermarket chain in Shenyang said yesterday it would boycott products made by Japanese companies supporting revisionist textbooks, which blame the Chinese for the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war.
At least 10 brands of Japanese goods, including Asahi beer, beauty products, shampoo and noodles have been taken off the shelves.
She said most customers and suppliers supported their decision, which was aimed at 'defending Chinese people's dignity'. Asahi Breweries denied media reports that it provided financial support to the commission that rewrote the textbooks.
On Thursday Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao expressed concern about the boycott but said the root cause of the problem was Japan's attitude towards history.
'We hope economic issues will not be politicised. At the same time, we hope Japan in various respects can have a correct attitude towards history, be responsible and correctly acknowledge history.'
The boycotts came after a grass roots campaign opposing Japan's attempt to secure a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council gathered more than 22 million signatures.
The petition - launched by several overseas websites about a week ago - picked up momentum on the mainland with the participation of leading mainland portals including Sina, Sohu and Netease.
The participants said they were angered by Japan's claim to the Diaoyu Islands, which are also claimed by China, and by its denial of its aggression in the second world war.
Tong Zeng , a well-known anti-Japanese activist, described the recent campaigns as 'the final outbreak of Chinese people's resentment towards Japanese'.
Mr Tong believed that the campaigns would continue for another month or two as the central government showed no intention of reining in the effort.
Mainland officials have largely remained silent on the issue, but many have seen the comprehensive reports on the official media as tacit official support.
Jin Canrong , a professor of international relations at Renmin University, said the central government was eager to resolve disputes with Japan and develop a good bilateral relationship. But he said the government might have to bow to public pressure.
'Japan should take the larger share of blame for the setback in the bilateral relationship. It has been pursuing a hardline foreign policy for some time. Not only Chinese, but Koreans and Russians are also peeved by its territorial claims,' said Professor Jin.
He said Japan was worried by the rise of China.