Li Chengpeng, an influential writer and social commentator, has published an article on his blog denouncing the boycott of Japanese goods and the violent anti-Japan sentiment currently sweeping China as the two wrangle over the Diaoyu Islands, called the Senkaku in Japanese. Li made news in 2010 when he ran for political office as a candidate not sponsored by the Communist Party. Despite losing the election, he remains an outspoken advocate and activist with a sharp wit. His latest post, titled “Confessions of a Traitor” (一个卖国贼的自白) has gone viral on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter, with more than 200,000 views and 19,000 comments in less than two days. In particular, Li makes several points:
It’s impossible to completely abstain from using Japanese products.
“One patriot hastened to declare on Weibo yesterday, ‘I haven’t used Japanese goods for more than a decade, it hasn’t impacted my life.’ It was posted using an iPhone. The tragic truth: the iPhone flash memory is from Toshiba, and its image sensor is from Sony. So I decided to buy a Chinese-made Xiaomi phone, but tech aficionados tell me that the display is from SHARP. Some TV stations have stopped broadcasting Japanese car commercials. Well, they should stop broadcasting completely, because their cameras, editing machines, signal transmitters, relays, and satellite receivers are almost all Japanese.”
There’s a kind of hypocrisy in boycotting Japanese goods because the Chinese government and the Chinese people are held to different standards.
“There’s a kind of strange logic. When a [state-owned] TV station uses taxpayers’ money to buy Japanese machinery to report the weather, that counts as being anti-Japan. [Recently, some Chinese stations began reporting the weather over the Diaoyu Islands as part of their domestic weather reports.] But when normal Chinese people use their own money to buy Japanese-branded cars, even when they shout ’I’m anti-Japan too!’ their cars still get smashed. There’s a ‘truth’ here: With these patriots, the government is forever just, while the people are by nature suspect. In the end, all the people view each other with suspicion. That’s what this whole patriotic dispute is about.
A car is a car.
“What kind of brainwashing has made people think that buying a Japanese car is an act of treason? … A car is just something your fellow Chinese people use to get around in, yet you attempt to guess whether or not they have incorrect political opinions or hidden ill-will by what car they use.”
The difficulties of being a writer when anything you say can be taken as traitorous.
“In this country that specializes in producing patriots, the biggest difficulty of a writer isn’t how to make one’s work better or to discover novel things in life, but foremost how not to seem like a traitor. One must be careful, lest a slip of the pen somehow surrender a third of the country. The boundaries of writing more or less coincide with the borders of the nation, and every stroke of a key apparently will incite social unrest… in the end, one is reduced to trying to please people instead of imparting knowledge.”
The boycotts and car-smashing haven’t inconvenienced Japan yet, but they have terrorized Chinese people.
“Some might say that even though it’s difficult, we must still boycott Japan, if only to clarify our stance and frighten the Japanese. But you wouldn’t really believe that a few demonstrations in a few dozen cities would frighten them. No, the Japanese aren’t frightened; you’re the one frightened when you see those wrench- and brick-wielding people coming to smash things.”
Why just boycott Japan? It’s not the only country that’s wronged China.
“Germany, Britain and France were the culprits who burned the Old Summer Palace [in 1860]; Italy was allied with them; the U.S. was the original architect of this whole [Diaoyu/Senkaku] mess … If we refuse to do business with everyone who has ever been our enemy, then because there are so many, we will be reduced in the end to building car factories with the North Koreans.”
Where’s the (self) love?
“The Diaoyu Islands are China’s; China is ours; we are more important than the Diaoyu Islands. To love yourself is to love the country. I see some media talking about nuclear bombs as an option; while some people, their faces full of radiant–or is it radioactive?– pride, say, ‘Even if the mainland is reduced to grass, we must still regain the Diaoyu Islands. It’s not an impossible wish – if you don’t mind life having to evolve all over again from the start.”
Conclusion: the “boycott” is a useless exercise.
“China wants to be f***ing awesome, but some Chinese people always use f***ing awful methods to try to achieve it. … Japanese-branded car owners feel like they’ve wronged China, though next time they still won’t buy bad Chinese cars; some people have burned [automotive service] stores; rumor has it that some stole Rolexes, smashed Austrian pianos, protested Japan in front of Korean restaurants… what an international movement. Yet Japan has not been harmed at all.”
Li finishes with a flourish, “These are the confessions of a traitor.”