Chinese Anger at Japan’s Release of Fukushima Wastewater

Chinese Anger at Japan’s Release of Fukushima Wastewater

Fake news and state-backed disinformation are stoking anger in China over Japan’s release of treated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant. This has led to incidents such as rocks and eggs being thrown at Japanese schools, abusive phone calls to Japanese businesses, and social media campaigns calling for a boycott of Japanese products. Japan’s government has summoned the Chinese ambassador and urged caution among its citizens in China.

Japan began releasing over 1 million tonnes of water on August 24th, a process approved by the UN atomic watchdog and similar to actions taken by other countries. However, China and Hong Kong have banned the importation of Japanese seafood, while other countries have expressed concerns or objections.

Anti-Japanese sentiment in China has been fueled by government statements and state media, which have questioned the science behind the wastewater treatment process and accused Japan of endangering the region. Fake videos have circulated, falsely claiming that sea life is dying and that a Japanese official who drank treated water had died.

These disinformation campaigns have resulted in panic buying of salt, as some believe iodine can protect against radiation, and increased sales of Geiger counters to detect radiation.

A study by UK-based data analysis firm Logically found a high volume of state media reports and paid advertisements warning about the risk of the wastewater. This coordinated campaign has spread climate change and health misinformation. Logically also noted similar campaigns in previous instances, including one related to a train derailment in Ohio.

The Chinese government has released videos and hashtags criticizing Japan’s actions, with widespread engagement from the public. The history of tension between China and Japan, combined with Japan’s strengthening ties with the US and Taiwan, has further fueled anti-Japanese sentiment in recent years.

Logically suggests that China’s retaliatory measures may continue, potentially including a ban on Japanese cosmetics and further closures of Japanese restaurants in China and Hong Kong. The situation could escalate tensions between the two countries.

In response to the recent hostility, the Japanese government has warned its citizens to avoid speaking Japanese too loudly in China. Japan’s foreign ministry has also urged China to ensure the safety of Japanese residents and businesses and to disseminate accurate information rather than misinformation.

While China claims that the release of the water is the root cause of the current situation, Japan emphasizes the importance of basing reactions on scientific facts and urges the dissemination of accurate information.