Some background: if you've scanned news headlines over the past few weeks, you've probably come across mentions of a spat between China and Japan over some islands in the East China Sea. The territorial controversy isn't new, as both countries have claimed ownership of the group of uninhabited islands – which the Chinese call Diaoyu and the Japanese call Senkaku – for a while. The tension has been climbing recently, however, because the owner of the islands sold them to Japan, after which various groups of Chinese and Japanese nationals have been alternately heading to the islands and planting their country's flag, each incident provoking a more vocal response.
The Chinese man-in-the-street takes the issue so seriously that there have been regular, and large, demonstrations over the matter, and even retailers are getting into it. An Audi dealer in China posted the photo above with employees posing under a banner that reports say reads, "Even if China becomes nothing but tombstones, we must exterminate the Japanese; even if we have to destroy our own country, we must take back the Diaoyu Islands," or an alternate translation (there are a few), "We will kill every Japanese person even if it means death for our own; even poverty will not deter us from reclaiming the Diayou Islands." You get the point.
Audi, naturally, has released a statement to "categorically distance ourselves from this action" and say that it had no place in the discussion of political matters. Although Audi isn't the only car company to have been pulled into the fracas – Volkswagen and Ford dealers have made banners of their own – it looks like Audi has become the face of it because that particular banner happens to have been the most extreme that anyone's reported on so far. Japanese bloggers and even a Taiwanese humor site have wondered if Audi should do more to apologize. Meanwhile, Japanese carmakers have stopped production in China while the looting, smashing and burning of Japanese cars and stores – and a Rolex boutique – and the hanging of a lot of other eye-popping banners at other Chinese retailers continues in the People's Republic.