After two earthquakes struck the Japanese island of Kyushu on April 15, leaving dozens dead and 200,000 homeless, several Chinese companies have taken advantage of intense anti-Japanese feelings to drive sales.
Hong Kong’s Apple Daily reported April 17 that a southwestern Chinese company specializing in security products offered discounts in order to “celebrate the great Japanese earthquake,” as stated by the firm in a post to Sina Weibo, a microblogging platform.
The company’s statement, now deleted (but preserved by Internet users), continues: “The promotion will go on as long as the aftershock continues. If the earthquake reaches magnitude 9, prices will be lowered again. If all of Japanese perish, we will drop the prices drastically. If Japan sinks to the sea bottom, all of our products are yours!”
Two other companies, in Zhejiang and Shaanxi Provinces, offered similar “celebratory” discounts, according to Apple Daily. The Shaanxi company’s statement was also preserved in a screenshot before it was deleted.
As it turns out, the security company in Kunming, Yunnan Province, was just trying to make money with its provocative statement, it said. In an exploratory post, the company said that “one stone tossed creates a thousand ripples” and that they had “achieved [their] purpose.”
Anti-Japanese feelings in China are borne of the country’s brutal occupation by Imperial Japanese forces in World War II, but propaganda—particularly movies and TV shows, but also textbooks and other educational materials— sponsored by the Chinese regime’s state media has heavily magnified and intensified these sentiments in the name of patriotism.
Fenqing, a term collectively referring to hot-headed youth who demonize Japan online (and sometimes offline), is a prominent manifestation of this propaganda trope. In 2010, a 22-year-old man in China beat the driver of a Japanese-made car with a U-lock, cracking his skull.
Propaganda and hate crimes notwithstanding, many Chinese are sympathetic to the victims of the Japanese earthquakes. A social media post on the official account of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall dated April 15 acknowledges the consistent apologies made by Japan from the region affected by the earthquake. It was shared 30,000 times and has 10,000 comments as of April 18.
“People of all countries are the same in the face of natural disasters, they are all innocent. My prayers,” one social media user wrote.
Another commented, “wish those peace lovers safe and sound. The history cannot be re-written again, but the future can.”
Or, as a comment critical of the ultra-nationalist sentiment common in China puts it:
“A nation that does not dare to scold thieves in the street yet has the gall to shout about ‘exterminating the Japanese’ is a country that does not care about the pain of its living compatriots, let alone remembering the dead ones!”