A public campaign to boycott the Lotte Group and sanction South Korea is beginning in China. It's common practice for one country to impose sanctions on another for geopolitical reasons in today's world. For Chinese society, whether sanctioning South Korea can be carried out effectively and in an orderly way while avoiding illegal attacks and personal humiliation on any Korean enterprises and people in China is a test for us.
On Thursday, photos of a smashed-up Hyundai car with a license plate from Nantong, East China's Jiangsu Province was circulated online. Suppose it is the worst case that this is related to resistance over South Korea's deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system, this act of vandalism is shameful. Local police should immediately investigate and punish the vandal.
If it is proved to be related to THAAD, such illegal behavior is a smear on the public boycott campaign. It does not matter if the act of vandalism came out of anger toward the South Korean government or making trouble to vent dissatisfaction, it should not be condoned. The perpetrator won't win the support of mainstream public opinion.
If it is unrelated to THAAD, it must be clarified as soon as possible. China has become a geopolitical power. To sanction or be sanctioned are inevitable for it in the complicated domain of international politicial contention. If illegal acts such as smashing up foreign vehicles or attacking foreign-invested stores occur right after we launch a sanctions campaign, we will lose the moral high ground and this will give external forces new excuses to slam China.
These incidents may also undermine public support for the sanctions and make other people reluctant to participate. The cost of this negative effect can't be calculated.
In another incident, an online video on Thursday shows South Korean customers seemingly being turned away from a barbecue restaurant in the area said to be Wangjing area of Beijing, where a large number of South Korean people live and work. We also oppose this behavior. THAAD-related sanctions should target the government and related enterprises to hit the South Korean economy, not ordinary South Koreans in China.
We have to sanction South Korea, but we shouldn't humiliate its national dignity and ordinary people. We need to teach South Korea and its public a lesson, but no physical attacks or face-to-face abuses are allowed.
But we must point out that these incidents, if true, don't represent today's Chinese people. A majority of netizens oppose such violent ways, and many netizens are actively proving the car smashing is unrelated to the boycott. The car-vandalism photos will make people feel uncomfortable and confused. But a small number of people exaggerated the incident, using it to defame the whole sanctions campaign. This is also wrong.
It's not easy to avoid extreme words and acts in any public campaign. In this sense, sanctioning South Korea because of THAAD is also a test to Chinese society's progress.