In September, anti-Japan protests erupted in major cities in China in response to a dispute over territorial rights to the Senkaku islands (known as Diaoyu in China).  Mobs angry protesters took to the streets and sought to destroy all Japanese products.  Rioting protesters in Shenzen, China caused US $15,724 worth of property damage to a Japanese restaurant owned and operated by a Chinese man.  Anti-Japan protesters also targeted Japanese-made cars, bashing and overturning Nissans and even senselessly beating a man for driving a Toyota during the protests.

China has seen its share of brutal attacks and acts of vandalism in the name of “patriotism.”  However, one Chinese entrepreneur has found a peaceful way to express his patriotism by giving away over 5 million yuan (US $797,855) in domestically produced cars to the victims of the anti-Japan protests, complete with a gaudy, lime green presentation ceremony.

The generous gift was presented by one of China’s top 400 richest people and CEO of Huangpu Renewable Resources Utilization Group, Chen Guangbiao.  Known for his showy acts of philanthropy, Chen has been called the “charity monster” because of his attention-seeking antics.  In 2008, Chen gave away 3,000 pigs and sheep to the victims of the Sichuan Earthquake at a free concert.  He also visited Japan to help with relief efforts after the Tohoku Earthquake in March 2011.

In his most recent charitable act, Chen sang and danced on the rooftops of the 43 Chinese-made Geely brand replacement cars that he would later give to the owners of Japanese cars that were destroyed during the anti-Japan protests.  Wearing a bright green suit and matching emerald green tie, Chen leapt from the rooftops of each car waving the flag of China and singing a popular Chinese song.  “I launched this event to remind people that patriotic behavior should be conducted with rationality, wisdom and discipline,” commented Chen.

Although Chen allegedly gave away 43 Geely cars worth 128,000 yuan each (US $20,425), many are skeptical of his motives.  Near the ceremony location, many new products created by Chen’s company were on display as well as oversized billboards advertising his products.

In the crowd of “victims” clad in green shirts stood a few women in high heels that looked like models.  When asked by reporters what kind of Japanese car they previously owned and where they came from, one woman couldn’t answer the questions, adding, “Don’t put me on the spot like that.  Why don’t you ask someone else.”

In response to Chen’s questionable presentation ceremony, some Chinese citizens are calling foul.  “Charity and advertising should be separate” says one internet user.  However, despite Chen’s over the top event, many Chinese show support for their showy philanthropist.  “Even if he is doing a bit of self-promotion, he’s still giving cars away for free and he’s not hurting anyone” comments one Chen supporter.  “Self-advertisement charity is much better than the destruction of the anti-Japan demonstrations” says another.  A few even praise Chen as “a model of Chinese charity.”

Setting aside the flashy ceremony and car jumping antics of Chen, there’s one particular aspect of the ceremony that has us feeling a little uncomfortable.  In China, the term “wearing a green hat” means that the wearer’s wife is unfaithful.  In the past, the families of prostitutes were even forced to wear green hats as a mark of shame.  In modern day China, a man who wears a green hat is openly describing himself as a cuckold and may be met with snickers as he passes people on the street.  What is Chen, a native Chinese man who is sure to be aware of the negative connotations that come with wearing a green hat, trying to tell us?

[ Read in Japanese ]