China is whipping up public anger against South Korea

THE aisles at Lotte Mart in Beijing’s Wangjing district were strangely quiet early this week. A few elderly shoppers pushed trolleys; shop assistants tidied the supermarket’s shelves. Customers have been scarce since “something happened” a few weeks ago, says one cashier. That event was a deal signed on February 28th by Lotte, a South Korean firm, allowing America to build an anti-missile system on land the company owns in South Korea. China’s government has responded by encouraging an outpouring of public anger directed not just at Lotte, whose shops in China are now being boycotted, but almost anything South Korean.

Nationalism is a familiar weapon in China’s diplomatic armoury. The last time the government made such a sustained effort to whip it up was in 2012, shortly before Xi Jinping came to power, when officials encouraged protests against Japan’s nationalisation of islands it controls in the East China Sea that are also claimed by China. South Korea is not a usual target. But China is furious at its decision to deploy the missile-defence system, known as THAAD (the first components of which arrived in South Korea on March 6th)….Continue reading

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