Some major Japanese firms announced factory shutdowns in China on Monday 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 on Tuesday, 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 born by Japan,” he told a daily news briefing.
China and Japan, which generated two-way trade of $345 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.
The weekend protests not only 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 over the weekend.
Toyota said its factories and offices were operating normally.
Honda said it would suspend production in China starting on Tuesday for two days. Mazda Motor Corp will halt production at its Nanjing factory for four days. Nissan Motor Co suspended production for two days, starting Monday.
Panasonic said one of its plants had been sabotaged by Chinese workers and would remain closed through Tuesday. Canon Inc too will stop production at three of its four Chinese factories on Tuesday.
Japan also warned its citizens about large-scale protests in China.
Japanese PM Yoshihiko Noda, who met visiting US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta on Monday, urged Beijing to ensure Japan’s people and property were protected.
Dispute over uninhabited islets in East China sea
What is the dispute about? Asia’s two biggest economies are fighting over a group of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea. The current unrest is over the