(CNN) -- China's top banker has pulled out of the International Monetary Fund meetings in Tokyo Wednesday in a move widely seen as a protest for the ongoing dispute between Japan and China over islands in the East China Sea.
Zhou Xiaochuan, the governor of the People's Bank of China, was scheduled to give the Per Jacobsson lecture at the IMF-World Bank annual meetings being held this year through Sunday in Tokyo.
A spokesperson for the IMF said they were told two days ago that Zhou's schedule might require him to cancel his lecture in Tokyo. "His deputy Yi Gang will represent him at the IMF-World Bank Annual Meetings and will deliver his Per Jacobsson Lecture," the spokesperson said.
Past speakers for the lecture have included U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and Mohamed A. El-Erian, CEO of PIMCO.
Zhou's decision not to attend follows news earlier this week that representatives from China's four major banks -- the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, Bank of China, China Construction Bank and Agricultural Bank of China -- would not be attending the IMF meetings in protest of the territorial dispute.
Last month the Japanese government bought the disputed islands from the Japanese family that privately owned the islands for 2.05 billion yen (US$26.2 million). That move brought already rising tensions to a boil in China, where often violent protests broke out in dozens of Chinese cities -- from Guangzhou in the south to Qingdao in the north. Japanese cars, stores and factories were damaged in many areas.
Japan's largest automakers said Tuesday that sales in China nosedived in September in the face of Japanese product boycotts. Toyota sales in China dropped 48.9% compared to a year ago. Honda sales were down 40.5% from 2011, and Nissan reported a 35.3% decline in sales.
CNN's Pamela Boykoff and CNNMoney's Charles Riley contributed to this report