* China warns of damage to economic ties
* China hints that it see nothing wrong with boycott of
* Protesters outside Japanese embassy in Beijing
By Ben Blanchard and Xiaoyi Shao
BEIJING, Sept 13 China warned Japan on Thursday
that trade could be hurt by the flare-up in tension over a group
of disputed islands that is fraying ties between Asia's two
The latest warnings from China brought a call for restraint
from Japan, which on Tuesday announced it had bought the
disputed islands in the East China Sea from a private Japanese
owner, an act Beijing called a violation of its sovereignty.
"With Japan's so-called purchase of the islands, it will be
hard to avoid negative consequences for Sino-Japanese economic
and trade ties," Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Jiang Zengwei
told a news briefing.
The islands were at the centre of a chill in 2010 after
Japan arrested a Chinese trawler captain whose boat collided
with Japanese Coast Guard vessels near the disputed area.
The United States this week urged both sides to tone down
increasingly impassioned exchanges over the longstanding row.
China is Japan's largest trading partner. In 2011, their
bilateral trade grew 14.3 percent in value to a record $345
Jiang hinted that his government saw nothing wrong with
peaceful boycotts of Japanese goods. China is a major market for
Japanese cars and electronics, and China's National Business
Daily newspaper said that travel agents had reported cancelled
bookings for tours to Japan.
"I still haven't seen any actions by Chinese consumers in
response to the Japanese violation of Chinese territorial
sovereignty, but if we do see them expressing their stance and
views in a reasonable way, I think that would be their right,"
Speaking in Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba
called for both sides to keep the broader picture of their
relationship in mind when dealing with the spat.
"It is important that both Japan and China respond calmly
with a broad picture in mind. I believe stable progress in
Sino-Japanese relations should not be hindered by this
development, and would like to ask China to take calm and
appropriate steps," he told reporters following Jiang's
A Nissan Motor Co Ltd executive said last week that
the tensions were affecting business with China.
The row is the latest episode in troubled relations between
the neighbours. The dispute erupted again last month when Japan
detained a group of Chinese activists who had landed on the
islands, known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu in Chinese.
China's Foreign Ministry on Thursday repeated its
condemnation of the Japanese purchase of the islands.
"People from all walks of life in China are greatly
indignant at Japan's act, and China will continue to take
decisive measures," ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.
COMPOUNDED BY DOMESTIC POLITICS
The row has been compounded by domestic political concerns
on both sides, with China's ruling Communist Party preoccupied
with a looming leadership handover, while Japan's ruling
Democrats struggle with poor poll figures ahead of elections
expected late this year.
Those complications could make it even harder for the two
governments to find a quiet way to back down.
"The Diaoyu Islands dispute is pushing China and Japan
towards confrontation, and Japan has chosen the wrong opponent
at the wrong time and in the wrong place," said a commentary in
the Global Times, a popular Chinese tabloid.
"The Diaoyu Islands conflict is a new turning point in the
deterioration of Sino-Japanese relations."
On Thursday, protesters gathered at the Japanese embassy in
Beijing, waving banners and the Chinese national flag while
singing the country's national anthem and shouting slogans.
Police allowed them to take turns standing in front of the
embassy in groups of 40 or so. A few demonstrators tossed water
bottles over the gates and into the compound.
"Down with Japanese imperialism! Get the hell out of the
Diaoyu Islands! Boycott Japanese goods! Declare war on Japan!"
some of them shouted.
Japan's Foreign Ministry on Wednesday issued an advisory for
Japanese nationals in China, urging them to stay away from
rallies and refrain from behaviour that might attract attention.
In 2005, a surge of anti-Japanese resentment spilled over
into sometimes violent protests in Chinese cities, and
demonstrators trashed Japanese-owned shops.
One demonstrator said bitter memories of Japan's wartime
occupation of China and other Asian neighbours continued to
stoke public anger. China's official memorial day for the war on
Sept. 18 could act as another focus for that ire.
"It's more than about the Diaoyu Islands," said Han Xue, an
office worker holding a small Chinese flag. "It's about wanting
to avenge all the millions of Chinese the Japanese killed in the
war. We can never forget that."