If you want to get a feel for the level of popular nationalism in China right now, look no further than statements from executives of the U.S. company which owns KFC and Pizza Hut. Reuters reports:
[Yum Brands Inc.], which will spin off its China business on Oct. 31, said the last quarter started well there, but its restaurants were hit by anti-U.S. protests after an international court in July rejected China’s claim to historic rights in the South China Sea.
Yum Brands on Wednesday reported a surprise 1 percent drop in third-quarter sales at China restaurants open at least one year. The protests reduced the measure by as much as 500 basis points, but the impact has largely eased, executives said on a conference call on Thursday.
Claiming and protecting territory in the South China Sea isn’t just an elite-driven effort. It has deep popular support, and that’s why anyone who thinks Beijing might compromise anytime soon on the issue is being naive. U.S. policymakers and the voters who pressure them need to understand this dynamic, and how difficult it makes securing free movement for the $5 trillion of goods that pass through the South China Sea each year.