Firms in China anxious about prolonged anti-Japan protests

September 19, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Japanese companies shuttered stores and closed factories across China on Sept. 18 as anti-Japan protests swept the country.

Toyota Motor Corp., Sony Corp. and Fast Retailing Co., operator of casual clothing chain Uniqlo, were among firms that closed up shop amid fears of a surge in violence.

Many feared that the 81st anniversary of an incident that led to Japan's occupation of Manchuria could inflame an already tense situation triggered by the dispute over sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Although some Japanese companies have already moved to restore operations in some areas, many others are worried that prolonged protests could affect their operations in one of the world's most important production bases and largest markets.

The decision to suspend business operations was to ensure the safety of employees and protect customers, company representatives said.

Casio Computer Co., which closed its factories, including one for electronic dictionaries and electronic calculators in Guangdong province, may suspend operations “for at least a few more days,” a public relations official said.

Many companies have covered up billboards and backed off making sales promotion pitches in cities across China.

According to Chinese media, some television networks are gearing up to scrap the airing of commercials by Japanese companies. That could deal a big blow to consumer product firms, such as automakers and cosmetics companies.

Still, many companies believed the worst was probably over, viewing Sept. 18 as a "special day," as a Mitsubishi Electric Corp. official put it.

A number of companies said they will ease back into operations in coming days.

Sony, Nissan Motor Co. and Hitachi Ltd. were expected to resume factory operations on Sept. 19.

Izumiya Co., a supermarket chain operator, said it would reopen its store in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, on Sept. 19, except for the first floor. The outlet was temporarily closed.

Electronics giant Panasonic Corp., which was targeted for attacks on its factories, partially restored operations on Sept. 17 at its electronic component plant in Jiangsu province, which sustained relatively less damage.

Mazda Motor Corp., which previously planned to suspend its vehicle assembly plant in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, until Sept. 21, was also expected to restart operations Sept. 19, ahead of the schedule.

But many Japanese companies still worry that anti-Japan sentiment will make itself felt even after they resume operations.

As of now, Japanese companies have shown no signs that they will reconsider their investments in China. However, they could be dealt a serious blow if their products are shunned or a boycott campaign spreads.

An executive of Toto Ltd., a leading manufacturer of toilets, expressed concern about the impact of the latest protests on the company's sales in China, which account for 54 percent of its overseas operations.

"China is our top overseas market," said Kenji Ito, Toto executive vice president. "While we mostly sell expensive products, I am concerned how the latest turmoil (over the disputed Senkaku Islands) will affect consumption among the wealthy class."

A senior official at an electronics manufacturer shared Ito's concerns.

"I am worried that it might lead to a boycott campaign because electric appliances sell well around China's National Day on Oct. 1," the official said.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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A shuttered Uniqlo clothing store in Beijing on Sept. 18 with its logos covered (The Asahi Shimbun)

A shuttered Uniqlo clothing store in Beijing on Sept. 18 with its logos covered (The Asahi Shimbun)

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  • A shuttered Uniqlo clothing store in Beijing on Sept. 18 with its logos covered (The Asahi Shimbun)
  • The Jusco Huangdao supermarket store in Qingdao, Shandong province, was ransacked by anti-Japan demonstrators. (The Asahi Shimbun)

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