China protests hit Japan firms
Honda, Mazda, Nissan, Panasonic and Canon among those stopping production
Some major Japanese brand name firms announced factory shutdowns in China yesterday and urged expatriates to stay indoors ahead of what could be more angry protests over a territorial dispute between Asia’s two biggest economies.
China’s worst outbreak of anti-Japan sentiment in decades led to weekend demonstrations and violent attacks on well-known Japanese businesses such as car makers Toyota and Honda, forcing frightened Japanese into hiding and prompting Chinese state media to warn that trade relations could now be in jeopardy.
Another outbreak of anti-Japan sentiment is expected across China today, the anniversary of Japan’s 1931 occupation of parts of mainland China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said the government would protect Japanese firms and citizens and called for protesters to obey the law.
“The gravely destructive consequences of Japan’s illegal purchase of the Diaoyu Islands are steadily emerging, and the responsibility for this should be borne by Japan,” he told a daily news briefing.
China and Japan, which generated two-way trade of €262 billion last year, are arguing over the uninhabited islets in the East China Sea, a long-standing dispute that erupted last week when the Japanese Government decided to buy some of them from a private Japanese owner.
In response, China sent six surveillance ships to the area, which contains potentially large gas reserves. Yesterday, a flotilla of around 1,000 Chinese fishing boats was sailing for the islands.
The weekend protests mainly targeted Japanese diplomatic missions but also shops, restaurants and car dealerships in at least five cities. Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. said arsonists had badly damaged their stores in the eastern port city of Qingdao at the weekend.
Toyota said its factories and offices were operating as normal yesterday and that it had not ordered its Japanese employees home.
Honda said it would suspend production in China starting today for two days. Fast Retailing Co., Asia’s largest apparel retailer, said it had closed some of its Uniqlo outlets in China and may close yet more.
Japan’s top general retailer, Seven & I Holdings, said it would close 13 Ito Yokado supermarkets and 198 “7-11” convenience stores in China today, while Sony Corp. is discouraging non-essential travel to China.
Mazda Motor Corp. will halt production at its Nanjing factory, which it jointly operates with Chongqing Changan Automobile C. Ltd and Ford Motor Co., for four days. Nissan Motor Co. suspended China production for two days, starting yesterday, sources said.
Electronics group Panasonic said one of its plants had been sabotaged by Chinese workers and would remain closed through today.
Canon Inc. will stop production at three of its four Chinese factories today, while All Nippon Airways Co. reported a rise in cancellations on Japan-bound flights from China. The dispute also hit the shares of Hong Kong-listed Japanese retailers yesterday with department store operator Aeon Stores (Hong Kong) Co. Ltd falling to a seven-month low.
Japan warned its citizens about large-scale protests in China today. Many Japanese schools across China, including in Beijing and Shanghai, have cancelled classes this week.