China Suspended Operation of a Japanese-themed Complex Just 2 Weeks After It Opened

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The red sun of the Japanese flag flutters alongside the communist Chinese emblem's five stars at a business zone in Dalian. (Image: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

A Japanese-themed cultural and residential project, that recently opened in the city of Dalian in northeast China, has been shuttered just two weeks after it had opened, apparently related to a sensitive date in history that occurred prior to the second Sino-Japanese war. 

The project, named “Tang Dynasty Little Kyoto,” which began construction in 2019, is part of a 600,000-square-meter (6.5 million sq ft.) complex that reportedly cost 6 billion yuan (US$928 million). It’s expected to be completed in 2024. 

On Monday, August 30 the municipal government of Dalian told the Dalian Shuyuan Group — the group responsible for constructing the project — that they had to temporarily halt operations.

Offended netizens made much of the fact that the operation of the Japanese-themed project vaguely coincides with the anniversary of the infamous Manchuria Incident. 

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The Manchuria incident was a false flag operation staged by the Imperial Japanese Army as a pretext for its invasion of northeast China, commonly known as Manchuria at the time. Because it occurred on Sept. 18, 1931, it is called the 918 Incident in China and is considered a key event in the leadup to all-out war between China and Japan in 1937.

A local property agent anonymously told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) that “the Japan-themed shopping street will not reopen until after Sept. 18. The date is very sensitive to some Chinese.”

On Weibo, China’s equivalent of Twitter, some netizens heavily criticized the project, noting that Dalian was at one time under Japanese occupation, calling Little Kyoto” a cultural invasion. Others mocked the project for using the term “Tang Dynasty” in its name — itself a reference to the fact that much of Japan’s cultural heritage originated in China’s Tang Dynasty.

People shop at the “Tang Dynasty Little Kyoto” Japanese-themed complex in Dalian, northeast China. (Image: Screenshot via bilibili)

Reflecting the ultranationalist propaganda that is commonplace under the communist regime, many comments voiced disparaging opinions about Japan and Chinese who like or appear to like Japanese culture, with the latter often being labelled “traitors to the Han [Chinese] race.”

Citizens also cited concerns about crowds of people gathering together during the COVID-19 pandemic were also cited by citizens as a reason to halt operations.

The Dalian municipal government had once fully backed the project and sent officials to attend the signing ceremony for the project in Tokyo in April 2019.