Monday, May 23, 2005

China and Japan Suffer Severe Strain of the Bilateral Relation

First there is this.

TOKYO (AP) - China abruptly canceled a meeting Monday between China's vice premier and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, cutting short a visit aimed at repairing severely strained relations.

China's Foreign Ministry said Vice Premier Wu Yi had to return to Beijing for urgent but unspecified matters at home. Japanese officials said they had no further details and expected a full explanation.

And then they go and do this.

The Chinese government has banned restaurants from serving food on the bodies of naked women. The practice was condemned as a violation of common decency by the commerce department.

In April 2004, Chinese media said that a Japanese restaurant in south-west China was fined 2,000 yuan ($240; £130) after it offered to serve "body sushi".

The practice of eating sushi off naked or nearly-naked women has long been popular with a certain clientele in Japan. But the authorities in the Chinese city of Kunming criticised it at the time of the fine as both unhygienic and an infringement of women's rights.

The Beijing Times newspaper said the new ban was introduced because serving food on women "insults people's moral quality".

Here at the Institute we are well aware that women are more than just serving platters, but we are also open minded and tolerant of other cultures and traditions. Clearly eating sushi in this traditional manner is an important part of Japanese culture. I think what is needed here is dialogue between the two countries, to seek understanding and promote conditions that are conducive to sustainable and peaceful coexistence in Asia.

In the interest of peace, the Chinese need to scrutinize how they view the Japanese and identify stereotypes and preconceptions. They must examine the process of labeling and understand why they feel the urge to label.

Once they understand the consequences of intolerance they can move beyond their limited perspective. A good meal is a great place to start.