Politics and the corner store

Yesterday was the 81st anniversary of the Japanese invasion of China and the corner store was shut.

It is owned buy a Japanese company.

Japanese owned shops and restaurants across China closed their doors yesterday as things got very tense between the two countries. A few days ago the Japanese government paid a Japanese family a lot of money for some unremarkable islands in the East China Sea. The Japanese call them Senkaku, China calls them Diaoyu. China claims the islands are theirs, Japan says this family had the deeds to them and now they have bought them.

There is no resort on the island, no massage parlour, hell, there’s not even a tiki bar, but there are large oil reserves underneath them, which one can only assume is some sort of new spa treatment.

In China people are very upset about Japan claiming these islands which they consider themselves the rightful, and historic, owners of. So upset, that as the day of the anniversary of the invasion drew near, compounding anti-Japanese sentiment, the Japanese department store around the corner from me closed it’s doors and the 7/11 across the road did the same and plastered their windows with pro-China slogans. There were also protests across the country outside Japanese embassies and Toyotas were being overturned in the streets.

Japanese restaurants, even Chinese owned ones, were forced to shut their doors.

Even in my own workplace the Chinese staff were muttering about why the Japanese were “stirring all this stuff up.”

This would never happen in Australia, mainly because the Japanese own all the breweries and the Australian public would never get worked up enough to close the pubs. If Japan ever made a claim for Tasmania, we’d probably let ’em have it for a couple of cartons.*

But in all seriousness, what surprises me is the Chinese public seem actually very upset about this. There seems to be genuine and deep feeling among individuals about these islands that are uninhabited and largely unvisited, spare the odd fisherman.┬áIt’s not as if people spent their childhood holidays on them, or have relatives who live on them.

But in China I am quickly beginning to realise that people are genuinely tied to a sense of being Chinese. Being of this country, and part of it’s history, it’s culture, it’s politics, is something that every individual carries with them.

I am Australian, and I am proud to be, but I, like many Australians, carry my nationality lightly. My accent is soft, the food I eat is varied. I don’t personally feel the weight of my country’s history. Physically I could come from Croatia or Canada, Scotland or Sweden. My governments battles are not my own.

But this is China, and the political is personal, even at the corner store.


*That said, anyone remember when the French conducted nuclear testing at Mururoa atoll? 1995 was a tough year for creperies in Oz.


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