Japan PM shrine visit: Boycott Japanese goods, urge Chinese

Consumers' call via social media comes after Japan PM's visit to controversial Yasukuni shrine

Beijing - Chinese consumers took to social media to call for a boycott of Japanese goods following Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine.

An Internet poll on the Sina Weibo microblog service saw respondents voting about three-to-one in support of a boycott of Japanese products.

User comments include people urging a tougher stance against Japan to owners of Japanese cars musing about the need to put up patriotic slogans to avoid vandalism.

"We have to closely watch his next move," said Mr Du Youmin, 64, a retiree in Beijing, noting the Japanese Premier's Dec 26 visit to the shrine.

"Chinese people must unite together and boycott Japanese goods. We should impose economic sanctions on Japan in some areas."

"I had planned a ski trip to Japan with my son but we don't want to go now," said Mr Greg Cai, 44, who works for a Chinese airline in Beijing. "To postpone the trip is the least we can do to show our attitude to the whole shrine visit."

The Yasukuni shrine, which honours Japan's war dead, including 14 World War II leaders convicted as Class-A war criminals, is seen by China and Korea as a symbol of Japanese militarism.

Japanese automakers, meanwhile, are bracing themselves for a potential consumer backlash should tensions escalate following Mr Abe's move.

Nissan, which sells the most vehicles in China among Japan's automakers, said on the same day that Mr Abe visited the shrine that it was "closely monitoring" developments in Sino-Japanese ties.

Shares of Guangzhou Automobile Group, which has joint ventures with Toyota Motor and Honda Motor, fell 5.2 per cent in Hong Kong, the biggest drop since July 3.

Dongfeng Motor Group, Nissan Motor's Chinese partner, fell 4.4 per cent. Trading resumed last Friday after a two-day public holiday.

There were no protesters outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing at about noon yesterday. A vehicle from the People's Armed Police and about a dozen other police cars and vans were parked around the compound, which occupies half of a block. Uniformed police patrolled the area and a barricade was placed at the entrance to the embassy.

In September last year, thousands of people protested outside the embassy after Japan's Cabinet approved the purchase of islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, from a private owner. China also claims sovereignty over the islands.

A series of street protests last year and attacks on Japanese businesses in China damaged a US$366 billion (S$464 billion) trade relationship.

"I believe the Chinese government will control any illegal activity against Japanese businesses in Shanghai," said Mr Hitoshi Nakamura, secretary-general of the Japanese Commerce and Industry Club in the Chinese city.

Not everyone is in favour of a boycott of Japanese goods.

"It hurts my feelings," Ms Jessie Zhao, 26, a court clerk in Beijing, said, referring to Mr Abe's shrine visit. "But it won't affect whether I buy Japanese products as there's no connection between the two."

"Japan's economy won't collapse just because we boycott its goods," said Mr Chi Zhongli, 40, a businessman in Beijing. "Such an act will only fuel hatred between the peoples of the two countries."

Media executive Lucas Lu, 37, said there are other ways of expressing his patriotism than to stop buying Japanese products.

"Every time China-Japan tensions flare up, my friends talk about boycotting Japanese products, but in reality, it's difficult to do," said Mr Lu, walking out of Fast Retailing Co's Uniqlo store in Shanghai's financial district with a new jacket.

"They still own Toyotas."