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Chinese Tourists Shun Japan over Islands Dispute

More bad signs in the ongoing China-Japan spat: Chinese tourists are staying away from Japan, which has become a popular tourist destination over the years. Big-spending Chinese have been canceling their trips en masse since early September, when the Japanese government bought the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Besides leading to angry demonstrations and vandalism against Japanese cars, factories and stores across the country, many Chinese don’t want to be seen as traitors by visiting and spending their money in Japan. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Japan National Tourist Organization figures show the number of Chinese tourists in October totaled 71,000 people. That was down 33.1% from October 2011. The drop reverses a trend in the number of Chinese tourists coming to Japan, which has grown sharply in recent years, the result of concerted public-private effort. […]

“We all saw bookings from China being canceled from mid-September through October. We normally get January through February bookings now, but that’s also been very quiet,” said Malcolm Thompson, general manager of Peninsula Hotel Tokyo. “We hope this China business doesn’t go on for much longer as it’s far too damaging.”

Unfortunately, this “China business” doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon.  Nationalism is on the rise in both Japan and China. Japan is expanding its military role and seeking out allies to balance against China. Tourism had been one of the few growth industries in the stagnant Japanese economy. Angering the Chinese seems to have put an end to that, and the tension is damaging hurting Japan’s exports to China as well.

Both sides are likely to sustain more economic damage from the dispute than the worth of the islands and their surrounding seas. History would be a very dull subject if human beings made rational decisions about conflicts like this, but neither China nor Japan seems ready to consider the issue in a calm and dispassionate way. The Pacific Century will be many things; boring will not be one of them.

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