Residents of one northeastern Chinese city have struck a blow in the latest spat over Japanese history textbooks by withdrawing Asahi beer from supermarket shelves.
But Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao moved quickly yesterday to play down the protest saying there is no Japan-phobia in China.
However, Japan's equivocal attitude towards its militant past has become a barrier to relations between the two neighbors, he added.
"There is no emotion against Japanese people," Liu said, referring to reports that some supermarkets in Changchun recently removed Japan's Asahi Beer from shelves after hearing the brewery had financed a history textbook which distorts Japan's World War II aggression towards China.
Changchun is capital of Jilin Province, an area Japan colonized during the war. "The main cause of the Chinese public's dissatisfaction is that Japan failed to treat history in a correct, objective and responsible manner," said Liu.
Asahi Beer's China representative released a statement yesterday denying the company had any financial connection to the right-wing Japanese history textbook.
"It is our hope that economic and trade issues are not politicized," said Liu.
Liu also welcomed popular Japanese table tennis star Fukuhara Ai, who has joined a club in the northeastern province of Liaoning for this year's Chinese league. Fukuhara, 17, has many fans in China.
"We hope Miss Fukuhara lives a happy life in China and scores good results in the Chinese league," said Liu.
He said China does not want bilateral ties to be soured by political issues.
"But the barriers stemming from historical issues are ones we cannot skim over," said Liu.
Japan's trade with China reached almost US$170 billion last year, more than that between Japan and the United States. But political ties between the two Asian neighbours have been strained by historical issues.
The two governments are also experiencing friction over oil exploration in a disputed area of the East China Sea.
"We demand Japan not to do anything that will complicate the situation," Liu commented on reports that Japan plans to start oil exploration in the disputed area.
He also challenged Japan's claim to a 200-sea-mile (370-kilometre) extension from Okinotori as its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). China holds that Okinotori is a rock but Japan calls it an island.
The United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea holds that rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life are not eligible for EEZ claims.
"The question shall be solved properly through consultations," Liu said.
Source: China Daily