Calls for boycott might set off unwanted reactions

By Zhou Liang Source:Global Times Published: 2017/3/6 21:43:39

When the public swarms to participate in whatever boycotts are taking place in the name of justice, things may not develop according to plan.

After one of South Korea's five biggest business giants Lotte approved a land swap with the government that will allow the US deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system in the country, Chinese consumers began boycotting Lotte-brand supermarkets and products.

Meanwhile, voices against buying South Korea's exported products including food, cosmetics, electronics and autos have been heard.

This kind of boycott is no stranger to Chinese society when it comes to issues involving national sovereignty, security and dignity. The action itself, however, is contagious, and could set off a chain reaction.

Thanks to social media, web users can easily post their call for nationalistic actions and could garner many followers in a short time.

A viral appeal reads, "Don't you claim yourself patriots? Then wash away your South Korean-style semi-permanent false eyebrows."

Sounds like someone trying to stir up trouble? Although these kinds of requests seem like a show of patriotism, they are actually diffusing a serious political issue into something trivial. These ridiculous posts, shared on social media, often could set off dangerous chain reactions across the country.

One of the most extreme posts that I saw reads, "As the owner of a Japanese-made car, I have been waiting for five years to smash those South Korean-made cars in revenge." In 2012, the Japanese government nationalized the Diaoyu Islands. Many Japanese-made cars in dozens of Chinese cities were wrecked. Some Japanese restaurants had to cover Japanese characters on their signs or put out Chinese flags to avoid being attacked by aggressive nationalists.

The tourism industry is also a victim of surging boycotts. South Korea is a popular travel destination for many Chinese. Despite that there is no official notice asking travel agencies to stop service, many travel agencies no longer offer arranged tours to South Korea. The number of Chinese tourists bound for South Korea is predicted to decrease by up to 70 percent this year.

Believe it or not, radical actions in the process of boycotting are damaging China's image and the safety of overseas travelers.

Recent reports said that some Chinese tourists have been denied entry and were detained by custom officers in South Korea. Political factors may be involved, but those affected are always ordinary people.

The government-led deal that ratchets up the security tension in the region has made civil boycott easy but mutual trust difficult. If the irrational boycott prevails, exchanges between the two countries would become undesirable.

Zhou Liang, a freelancer based in Nanjing


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