BEIJING - A senior Chinese official on Tuesday brushed off calls for a boycott of the Philippines after an international arbitration court found for Manila in its dispute with Beijing over the South China Sea.
China angrily rejected the verdict last week by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, describing the case as illegal and farcical. It has repeatedly said it will not change its approach or its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.
Some Chinese have reacted by calling for boycotts on products from the Philippines and the United States, which many in China blame for pushing the case. So far, there has been only sporadic evidence of these calls being heeded.
Asked if China would take retaliatory trade measures against the Philippines because of the ruling, China's vice minister of commerce Gao Yan told reporters that trade relations with Manila were developing smoothly. "In recent years, the development of China's trade relations with the Philippines overall has been smooth and stable. China is willing to develop mutually beneficial and diverse trade relations with the Philippines," she said. "I should say that though some internet users have called for boycotts on products from the Philippines, in actuality this situation has not occurred." Total two-way trade between China and the Philippines rose 5.7 per cent in the first six months of the year to $22.3 billion (S$30.1 billion), according to Chinese customs figures.
Calls for boycotts of countries deemed to have offended China are not uncommon.
Disputes with Japan over the country's painful shared history and contested ownership of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea have in recent years bubbled over into anti-Japanese violence, and destruction of Japanese goods and restaurants.
There has been no evidence of such widespread anger in China this time, though some reports have surfaced of people in generally third tier cities holding up banners in front of US fast food restaurants including Yum! Brands Inc-owned KFC asking people not to eat there.
State media has called on people to oppose "irrational patriotism" over the case. "Other net users have levelled false accusations against public figures and have started to mislead people into blindly boycotting foreign products and brands such as Philippine bananas, iPhones and KFC," the influential tabloid the Global Times said on Tuesday.
The government also appears to have no intention of allowing protests, as it has done in the past against Japan.
On Monday, police in Siyang in the eastern province of Jiangsu said on their microblog it was aware of calls for protests against KFC but said protests needed approval, and suggested they would be a waste of time. "Love your country, but please don't take out your anger on its territory," Siyang police said.