Some Chinese shops have stopped selling selected Japanese goods in protest against Tokyo's approval of a school history book they say whitewashes Japan's militaristic past, an industry official said on Wednesday.
A customer walks into a supermarket in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province in this March 31, 2005 photo. The supermarket, which has about 30 stores in the city, has taken all Japanese goods off shelves to protest Japan's whitewash of its militaristic past by distorting historical facts. [newsphoto]
Many Chinese fume at what they see as Japan's failure to own up to atrocities committed during its occupation of China from 1931 to 1945. Beijing estimated that up to 35 million Chinese were killed or wounded by invading Japanese troops.
The China Chain Store & Franchise Association, the largest retail group in the country, had urged members to take products made by Asahi Breweries Ltd. and MSG maker Ajinomoto Co. Inc. off the shelves, the association said in a statement.
"Any Chinese customers with patriotic spirit and morality will understand and support us. Let's take action for our dignity and for our descendants," the association said in a statement published on its website ( http://www.ccfa.org.cn).
The statement, adopted at a meeting of its board of directors on Friday, named 10 Japanese companies that supported the textbook. They include Asashi Brewery, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Nissan Motors, Suzuki, Sumitomo Life Insurance Company, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi Ltd and Ajinomoto.
Ajinomoto said on its website it had not had anything to do with compiling the textbook. Asahi was not immediately available for comment.
The Chinese association has about 650 members in the country with retail sales last year at 400 billion yuan ($48.33 billion), accounting for 10 percent of the country's total retail sales of consumer goods.
An original version of the history book, written by nationalist scholars for junior high schools, was first approved in 2001 despite strong protests from China and South Korea, both victims of Japan's military aggression.
But hardly any school boards adopted the book, which critics lambasted for playing down the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in China and the forced sexual slavery of women for Japanese soldiers, and for depicting Japanese actions as aimed at liberating other Asian countries.
This time, the textbook's proponents hope a change in the national mood and backing from ruling party lawmakers will persuade more school boards to adopt the new edition.
It was not clear how many Chinese stores had stopped selling Japanese products, but one association official told Reuters that the boycott campaign had begun in Shanghai, the country's financial hub, and the northeast city of Shenyang.
The Chinese foreign ministry summoned the Japanese ambassador on Tuesday and lodged a solemn objection to Japan's approval of the textbook, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Seoul was also upset that the textbook reiterated Japan's claim to disputed islands. Many South Koreans feel Japan has not sincerely repented for its harsh 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula.
Chinese protests against Japan's bid for a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council turned nasty at the weekend with vandalism at two Japanese department stores and a supermarket and millions of Chinese have already signed an online petition against giving Japan a permanent seat.