August 19: Tang Weijiang is an angry man. He is suing the famous Japanese company Canon for causing him mental distress! Reason – Tang, a Chinese, was furious that the company making a particular brand of printer, in its publicity video, had given the impression that China, Hong Kong and Taiwan were three separate countries.

He is demanding $12 million in compensation.

Three Nations or One?
Three Nations or One? [Illustration by Sudheer Nath]
While the island of Hong Kong has come back to China after being under British control for almost 100 years, Taiwan broke away from China more than 50 years ago to declare independence. But China continues to state that Taiwan is a part of it.

Many Chinese think that 29-year-old Tang has done right by taking the Japanese company to court, says a report in ‘The Deccan Chronicle’. There is a deeper reason for Tang’s reaction and for the support of his action by other Chinese. It has to do with the history of relations between the two countries.

Many Chinese say that they have not forgotten the cruel acts committed on their ancestors by the Imperial Japanese Army when it seized control of parts of China during the 1930s and the 1940s. China claims that over 35 million people died during the Japanese occupation.

But there are Chinese who hold a different view. For example, film director Jiang Wen, who depicted the Japanese sympathetically in his film ‘Devils in the Doorstep’, the word ‘Devils’ referring to the Japanese of that period.

The film won the Grand Prize at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, in France, in May this year. But the film was banned by the Chinese government, which accused Jiang of being unpatriotic.

That is why the China is very touchy about any remarks made on them by Japan. And that is the reason why Tang saw red the minute he watched the Japanese giant company Canon’s promotional CD which referred to Hong Kong, China and Taiwan as three countries.

But why should a casual mention cause so much anger?

To know why, the history of China and its territories must be recounted. The territory of Hong Kong had been forcibly captured from China by Britain after fiercely fought wars in the 1840s. The British ruled Hong Kong for 156 years and handed over the prosperous island territory to China in the year 1997, when its lease to run it, expired.

The case of Taiwan is different. In 1950, Chinese leader, Chiang Kai-shek declared the formation of the Nationalist Republic of China with Taiwan as the headquarters. He fought tooth and nail against the formation of a Communist state in 1949 by the powerful leader Mao Zedong.

Initially recognised in the United Nations, Taiwan lost its membership to China in 1971, when the Communist government decided to establish relations with the outside world. But the government of Taiwan grew economically and continues to see itself as a separate nation. It received valuable support from the United States of America (USA) for opposing China.

As far as China is concerned, Taiwan is part of its territory. So their reaction to any remark that suggesting otherwise, is very sharp. It is much sharper in this case when the company in question is a Japanese one.

Don’t mess with us, Tang’s lawsuit seems to be saying to them, though it is also true that China and Japan have strong trading links. Strange are the ways and memories of nations…