Sunday, April 27, 2008

China - A Political Issue in Japan? What?

Please excuse my sarcasm; anyone who has studied Japan for any length of time probably already knows that Japan and China don't exactly get along. I'd like to talk, therefore, about some recent issues out of China that I have experienced in Japan, and my host family's reaction to them. So, I have a few stories for you...

1)China Airlines
So, when I arrived in Japan back in August last semester and arrived at my home stay, here's what greeted me immediately. My host mother freaked and asked me randomly (or so I thought) if I had flown in on China Airlines. I had not. She was immediately relieved and told me that the news had just recently said that there was an explosion in China from a malfunction in the aircraft. But that's not all. She then said that after she heard this, she wasn't even going to buy food from China (I wonder how she managed that). Because, clearly, food and airplanes are intimately connected.

2)China's Toy Industry
Or, take for instance when we started hearing how lead was found in products sold in the US (and other places) that were made in China. It was the top headline for oh, three or four weeks, and the whole time I had the pleasure of enduring "and why isn't the US outraged about this?" Oh, and once again, our family would be boycotting anything Chinese for the time being.

3)Food Poisoning from China?
So, in January, there was an account near Hirakata of a person who had gotten food poisoning from eating gyoza. This was most disappointing news for me, because it meant yet another boycott of all things Chinese and gyoza is, quite possibly, my favorite food in Japan (we cannot get it where I’m from in Arkansas). To make matters worse, when I went and had made-in-Japan gyoza after a month of being deprived, you would have thought I’d tried to commit suicide by the way the host mother fussed. Just this past week, we finally started to have gyoza in the home stay again. Japan-made only. And oh it was so good.

4)Beijing Olympics
This brings me to the latest topic in Japan-China relations: the Beijing Olympics. Anyone who has been watching the news at all knows that Beijing is certainly under international attention. So it isn’t surprising that this has come up in Japan. What surprises me, however, is that the issue is much less charged within Japan than it is outside of Japan. I guess there are economic reasons for this. The host mother hasn’t yet spoke of boycotting Chinese products again. In fact, Japan’s stance on the issue has so far been much more traditional, meaning that at least in the case of the torch relay, the actual route (citing the probability of riots) is the only thing that will change. Prime Minister Fukuda himself has also said that Japan will not boycott the opening ceremonies either. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t protests in Japan either.

The point is that just in the time that just I have been here, Japan and China haven't exactly been on the best of terms, and that doesn't look likely to change. Please don't take this to mean that I am saying that China=bad and Japan=good; Japan has done its fair share of evils to China. But both sides seem to sensationalize the issue and take it too far (boycotting food months after the poisoning incident was over?). Such, unfortunately, is the nature of Japan-China politics.

1 comment:

visual gonthros said...

You bring up some important issues regarding the problematic relations between Japan and China. I like how you include the opinions of your host family. Useful links as well.

But where are your photos?