Looking back at the violence that occurred in the anti-Japan protests in September, I’m still baffled at why those regular people got so crazy over a land dispute between two governments in some remote area. Maybe I’m the only one who lacks that patriotic spirit that compels one set fire to a factory over zoning issues.
Or perhaps like almost every world event in history, there are more complex – usually economic – factors at play beneath the surface. At least that’s what a group of Japanese writers and journalists claim. According to them, the stage was set for this explosion of anger years before it happened.
Back in 2010, operations at a Honda parts plant in Foshan city grinded to a halt thanks to a previously unusual phenomenon for the PRC, a strike. Honda was able to end the work stoppage by agreeing to a 30% wage increase.
This was just one example of a recent wave of labor rights in China that have been widely applauded around the world. However, the fatal flaw in it is that the sole reason major companies flocked to China in the first place was its cheap labor.
According to an economic analyst, because of the wage increases labor costs near Shanghai have risen to around three times that of Thailand. While this is great for the people, major corporations immediately began looking into greener pastures.
However, as Japanese companies were reading attractive labor brochures from Vietnam, the Communist Party of China (CPC) was keenly observing. After all, Japan’s US$5.62 billion of direct investment in their country surpasses both those of the United States ($2.37B) and EU ($4.83B), and the flow of Japanese business from China to other Asian countries would be a big hit to China’s economy.
According to a journalist who covers China’s economy closely, Naoto Aoki:
“Japanese companies are retreating from China, which results in a loss of both employment and tax revenue for China’s government, but the CPC has already set up in countermeasures. The Communist Party have installed in these companies what they call “Business Party Members.” These people monitor the inner workings of the companies and, if a business should decide to leave China, the Party Member instigates the workers to mobilize labor disputes.”
Combining already high tensions over the low wages or abandonment of Japanese employers with a little government birdie whispering anti-Japanese factoids, the reason why the working masses exploded into a ball of hate earlier this year becomes a little clearer.
However, the endgame to this scheme remains unclear. Could the CPC simply be trying to save some face by redirecting people’s anger elsewhere as jobs begin to dry up? Or is this mayhem some strange way to mire the business into remaining in China?
Whatever the case may be, writers like Aoki are warning Japanese businesses who remain in China that, although rioting has died down, there are still future threats of occupation-style protests or even abductions of Japanese management.
They also state that pulling business out of a country is a dangerous game. If the timing is bad, then everything can blow up in one’s face. With a change in government going on now in China, everything regarding the economy and relations between them and Japan is up in the air.
It’s certainly not the best time, but with a lot of luck it’s not the worst either.
Source: ZakZak (Japanese)