28 October 2016
Anti-Japan protests erupted in many Chinese cities in 2012 amid the dispute over the Diaoyu islands, known as Senkaku among Japanese. Photo:
Anti-Japan protests erupted in many Chinese cities in 2012 amid the dispute over the Diaoyu islands, known as Senkaku among Japanese. Photo:

How anti-Japan sentiment hurts China’s growth

The Hong Kong government has made a surprise announcement declaring Sept. 3 a statutory holiday to commemorate Japan’s surrender in the Second World War 70 years ago.

As to be expected, the city’s working class welcomed the additional holiday.

However, it triggered a debate between two of my college friends – Ivan Choy Chi-keung, a senior instructor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Andrew Fung Wai-kwong, the information coordinator for the Office of the Chief Executive of Hong Kong.

Choy questioned the rationale behind the sudden decision, noting that the government did not think of making the 50th or 60th anniversary of the event a special holiday before. Fung responded by saying that Choy did not pay due respect to history and “totally ignored the feelings of our ancestors being tortured by Japanese invaders”.

However, the anti-Japan sentiment may have severe economic implications. We’ve heard of the eruption of anti-Japan feelings in China from time to time, and some would even burn the Japanese flag or set fire on Japanese-made cars.

Such an emotional move has reflected the resistance of some Chinese to Japanese goods, and it could lead some to boycott Japanese products and thwart mutually beneficial trading activities.

In addition, anti-Japan protests could scare away Japanese investors.

Some scholars found that the Japanese invasion had had a tremendous impact on China’s economy. Historical data shows that the number of casualties in Jiangsu province, where the infamous Nanjing Massacre occurred, was actually less than in other central and western provinces like Guangxi, Shanxi and Hubei.

Trade and foreign investment statistics from 2001, meanwhile, showed that regions that suffered most from the Japanese invasion also have the lowest investments from Japan.

One possible explanation is that many people in these regions lost family members and hated the Japanese so much because of the miseries caused by the war. Such sentiments were then passed on to their descendants.

By contrast, regions that were less affected by the invasion received 12,244 projects from Japanese investors. Also, consumers in these regions imported US$10 billion more Japanese goods while bilateral trade was US$20 billion more.

I’m not saying we should forget the history, but indeed we should learn lessons from history.

Nevertheless, we should be more tolerant of our mainland counterparts.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 2.

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version中文版]

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Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

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