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Boycotts of Japanese products have been conducted by numerous Chinese civilian and governmental organisations, always in response to real or perceived Japanese aggression, whether military, political or economic.
The first boycott of Japanese products in China was started 1915 as a result of public indignation at the Twenty-One Demands which Japan threatened China to accept. In 1919, the students and intellectuals involved in the May Fourth Movement called for another boycott of Japanese products, to which the public responded enthusiastically. Local chambers of commerce decided to sever economic ties with Japan, workers refused to work in Japanese-funded factories, consumers refused to buy Japanese goods, and students mobilised to punish those found selling, buying or using Japanese products.
The Jinan Incident of 1928 prompted a new boycott, this time the KMT government mobilised the population to cease economic dealings with Japan. From then on, anti-Japanese protests in China would always be accompanied with boycotts of Japanese products.
After World War II, the Chinese community, upset over various issues such as the sovereignty of Diaoyutai Islands, the Japanese history textbook controversies and Japanese leaders’ visits to Yasukuni Shrine, would launch boycotts of Japanese products. Republic of China citizens started a boycott in September 1972 to protest Japan’s diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China, and twice burned Japanese products in front of the Taipei City Hall, ironically of Japanese construction.
In 2005 a new wave of boycotts were started in mainland China, concurrent with the anti-Japanese demonstrations in major Chinese cities at the time. However, this boycott was at best a fringe attempt, and was denounced by the mainstream population, citing that China was integrated into the world economy and a boycott of one of China’s biggest trading partners would cause as much harm to China as it would to Japan. Most people were more concerned over their standards of living than redressing old grievances. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Relations gave a similar view: That “Sino-Japanese economic cooperation developed significantly over the past decade and brought real benefits to both the people of nations. We do not wish for economic issues to be politicised.” As with the anti-Japanese demonstrations, these activists began organising boycotts using the internet and cellphones. One such website, for example, gives a list of Japanese aggressions against China in the past, current incidents straining Sino-Japanese relations, as well as a breakdown of how much money consumers supposedly give to the Japanese government and military for every 100 yuan they spend on Japanese products (“10 bullets for the so-called Self-Defense Forces”; “6 to 8 pages of anti-Chinese textbooks and documents”, etc.).
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