Two of My Friends Are Fighting

This weekend, violent protests broke out against Japan and Japanese businesses in dozens of cities in China. People are furious that Japan’s central government bought the Senkaku (Japan’s name)/Daiyu (China’s name) Islands. China’s State newspapers are fanning the flames and Japan’s newspapers are acting the innocent victim. Japan’s claim is that its purchase was to calm rather than foment concerns, to prevent the Tokyo government from buying and developing it, as had been the impending plan. China claims that this is a slap in the face, coming just before the September 18 anniversary of the 1931 Mukden Incident, which Japan’s army staged as a pretext for invading and occupying Manchuria.

I am heading on a business trip to Europe tomorrow, and then to Shanghai next weekend.

I wonder what it will be like this trip to China as an American representing a Japanese company. Already, I frequently get, “Why are you wasting your talents with a Japanese company? Come work in China!” I imagine that will get worse now.

Shanghai will most likely be much milder than Beijing. It’s more a commercial than a political metropolis, and there are many Japanese ties. And I’ll be traveling with a Chinese coworker most of the week, not any Japanese coworkers except for one day, so it’s unlikely that we’ll be targets.

My main objective this year is in China, though, and I wonder how this will be affected. My mission this trip is to sell our project to students for the upcoming academic year. Will any students want to be associated with a Japanese sponsor now? We will talk about our founder’s meeting with Deng Xiaoping in the 70s, and how our company has become essentially a local entity for 35 years, with locally owned and run design and manufacturing. I don’t know if that will be enough, or if my Chinese coworker will simply come across as a traitor.

Another of my coworkers, a Japanese-American, is in Beijing right now, and our Chinese colleagues shielded him every moment of his time there. He was tucked in bed by 9 every night…and this is a fellow known for near nightly drinking parties, never heading home before midnight, no matter what country’s he’s in. He declared he’s having the safest, healthiest time of his life.

He said that Chinese news was emphasizing the illegality and invalidity of the purchase, and minimizing news of attacks on Japanese entities, while Japanese news (available in his hotel) emphasized the violent attacks above all else.

CCTV headlines from today:

  • Chinese army remains tough on Diaoyu Islands
  • Diaoyu Islands coordinates released
  • Rights of Japanese citizens protected
  • China´s historic links to Diaoyu Islands

Japan Times headlines from today:

  • Anti-Japan protests spread across China, turn violent
  • Six Chinese ships crowd Senkakus
  • Candidate Ishihara talks tough on Senkakus
  • U.S. return of Senkakus in ’72 upset Beijing, Taipei

Apparently, the U.S. “returned” the islands to Japan in 1971 as part of Okinawa, but said that Japan, China, and Taiwan (which also claims them) had to figure out the sovereignty issue on their own.

I know people in China still burn with resentment at Japan. My Chinese ex-husband seethes with it, even though he loved his time actually living in Japan, and he was moved by the kindness he was shown by friends and clients and the occasional remorseful war veteran. He’s threatened to disown our daughter if she ever shows up with a Japanese boyfriend. (Which, naturally, provokes her to consider a Japanese boyfriend.)

Meanwhile, my company’s sales have dropped by 50% in China.

About July McAtee

American gal turned Japanese "salaryman" for a while. I'm blogging my experiences as my daughter and I move from Silicon Valley to Japan and beyond.
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