China-Japan tussle up close

I received a really interesting email yesterday from a friend of mine (who wishes to remain anonymous... I wouldn't own up to being a friend of Ari's either) who is an American working in Shanghai. It follows on from the angry protests in the city on Saturday in opposition to Japan, particularly the representation in Japanese textbooks of Japan's control of China last century. It was interesting to see the first public protest in China in 6 years, and the passive support given to the rally by the government.

Hey Ari,

You know, I can't tell you too much, as I didn't go. Reports were only counting 10 or 20 thousand, which really is low frankly, compared to the overall population. When people really get excited about something then you could see a hundred thousand plus, what would that be, maybe 2 percent of the overall population? But that is also reflective of the Shanghai mindset, which is laid-back and cooperative.

So it didn't have any big impact. Everyone was out with their kids or friends like it was nothing. Traffic was awful was the only problem, and yes there were a decent number of cops about, but nothing draconian.

It was a big topic of conversation all this past week though. At work people were sending emails back and forth about the protest. There is talk of a boycott also, which could hurt lower-end Japanese goods. According to my sources, high-end Japanese good are just too attractive to consumers to sustain an effective boycott for long.

Personally I am just glad no one got hurt. It is too bad that some restaurants were damaged, but that is a minor matter. And I am also concerned about how this
issue can lead to a different environment vis a vis foreigners. In one case, a simple miscommunication somehow changed an otherwise typical friendly chat into a situation where the driver (who mistakenly thought both that I was rich and also that I was taking the subway to my final destination rather than taking his cab)ends up muttering about 'cheap Americans'!! Very, very not normal in Shanghai. Another guy selling vegetables told me if there was war he'd be the first to sign up. He was cool towards me, just passionate.

Other than that not much to report. This will be interesting because it is the first time the young'uns have seen this kind of thing. Watch to see if the boycott materializes, that could put strains on the nations' relationship if it were to be effective.

While I don't buy the simplistic malarky that the mainstream media produces about how the whole thing is directed like a play by the state, China needs to be careful. The lousy economy in Japan (for what seems like 15 years now) puts pressure on Japanese politicians to play their own nationalist cards, and if both sides do that the situation could sour. As we all know, nationalism dies hard.

Anyway that's what I got for you for now. Take it easy and hit me up when you got time.


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