Chinese fishermen look with suspicion and disbelief at the plans of neighboring Japan. “If Japan discharges nuclear waste water into the ocean, all Chinese coastal cities will suffer from it,” says fish distributor Liu.
Liu is in his boots early in the morning at the largest fish market in Beijing, the Jingshen Seafood Market south of the Forbidden City. “No one in the fish industry will be spared: consumers will no longer want to eat products from the sea, it will not be cooked in restaurants, and we will certainly no longer be able to sell seafood,” says Liu.
He comes from the coastal city of Yantai in eastern China, but his mussels, oysters and other seafood are caught at Dalian, in the northeast of the country. Liu has all its products tested: “If it is even a little different from the standard, we will not sell it. We cannot poison our compatriots!”
The Japanese Government has recently announced plans to drain over 1 million litres of polluted cooling water into the sea. Experts argue that it does not pose a risk to humans and marine life; the radioactivity of this waste water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is even within the WHO limits for drinking water. However, the Chinese government has made a fierce move to Japan and speaks of “very irresponsible behaviour.” Zhao Lijian of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs adds another step on Twitter: “Japanese politicians call the waste water innocent. Why dont they use the water first to drink, cook and wash their clothes?”
The negative news reports in the Chinese media in themselves are already harmful, believes a seller on the fish market in Beijing. “When people hear about Japanese plans on television, its a reason for some to stop buying fish.” He pays close attention to the fact that all his products are supplied with the necessary test reports. “If the results are not good or if there is no report, I will not buy it.”
Sea Cucumber Sellers Wang and Liu believe that the Chinese government will do everything in its power to prevent Japan from dumping radioactive water into the ocean. “Japan wants to do this in two years time, but that does not mean that China agrees,” says Liu, who thinks he will be out of work in the worst case.
His colleague Wang outlines a much dark doom scenario: “Some Chinese think Japan is announcing this to threaten other countries. Im afraid to say nothing about whether these rumors are true. But if the sewage is dumped in the ocean, doesnt that mean the end of the world? Radioactivity will mutate the human genes!”
Not everyone on the Jhchen Seafood Market in Beijing is worried. Visser Chen remembers the time of the Fukushima nuclear disaster: “That had little impact on the Chinese fishing industry at the time. People continued to eat seafood and will continue to eat seafood in the future.”