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Diaoyu Islands rift takes economic toll, with Japanese companies absent from int'l fair

(Xinhua)

08:35, September 27, 2012

In a bustling exhibition area in western China, the empty booths of several Japanese companies stand in stark contrast to their lively surroundings at the 13th Western China International Fair (WCIF) being held in Chengdu.

A bilateral rift over Japan's unilateral move to "purchase" the Diaoyu Islands, which are Chinese territories, two weeks ago has already taken an economic toll.

"Given the difficult time that Sino-Japan relations are in right now, for which the Japanese government should be blamed, the organizing committee of the fair kindly reminded the Japanese companies that wanted to attend the fair to think twice about their decision," said Zhang Weili, vice director of the Sichuan Bureau of Expo Affairs as well as the deputy secretary-general of the secretariat of the fair's organizing committee.

Last year's fair saw the attendance of 80 Japanese companies. More than 120 Japanese companies wanted to attend the fair this year, which would have marked the highest number of companies from Japan to attend the fair if their trips had materialized, Zhang said.

"It can be seen that Japanese companies are keen on exploring business opportunities in western China, so it is a pity that they cannot come," Zhang said.

The adverse impact of the Diaoyu Islands rift is not just confined to the WCIF, though.

Chinese citizens hoping to travel to Japan have seen their plans dissolve. Heavyweight travel agencies, including China International Travel Service Limited, China Comfort Travel and China CYTS Tours Holding Co., Ltd., have put a halt to trips to Japan.

On Tuesday, the Chinese government issued a white paper on Diaoyu Island, titled "Diaoyu Island, an Inherent Territory of China," asserting the country's indisputable sovereignty over the island and its affiliated islets.

Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islets are an inseparable part of the Chinese territory. The Diaoyu Islands are China's inherent territory in all historical, geographical and legal terms, and China enjoys indisputable sovereignty over the islands, according to the white paper.

Contrary to the illegal craving of the Japanese government, what Japanese companies really want is to benefit from the bountiful opportunities that a fast-growing western China provides.

Ito Yokado, a Japanese department store, entered Chengdu 15 years ago and has become a leader in the local retail business. The chain has five stores in Chengdu alone, and the average annual revenue exceeds 1 billion yuan (159 million US dollars), according to its staff.

"Our company executives attach great importance to China, and, as an important city in western China, Chengdu is a focus of our overseas expansion," said a staff member who refused to be named.

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