February 07, 2013

Tensions between China and Japan Continue to Escalate

Or, China continues to exasperate Japan. How far can Japan be pushed?

Senkaku IslandsAll the Chinese I know personally are wonderful—kind, gentle, intelligent—people (who are mostly scholars or friends of scholars), and I have great respect for the history, art, and culture of China.

But seriously, what is up with that country?! With the most recent incident, a Chinese warship locking missile-guidance radar onto a Japanese naval ship, I think Japan showed amazing restraint. Had it been a Chinese ship locking radar on an American ship, would the American ship had returned fire in retaliation? Would the US have declared war with China? Even if not, I feel certain there would have been a far greater reaction than the Japanese response of merely lodging a formal protest with China.

Nobody here (very few) really wants to go to war with China; we have enough domestic problems of our own, and what would happen with the Tokyo Olympics?—that we will no doubt lose anyway over fears of radiation, and fear of perceived support for Japan over the Senkaku islands.

I also find it hard to believe that China really wants to go to war with Japan. The two countries are mutually very important economic partners, and Japan has a number of foundries and industries in China contributing to a higher standard of living there. However, after the recent anti-Japanese riots in China, Japanese companies have started to look elsewhere to locate their overseas operations. If, as it is purported (see below), that to some extent the incitement of Japan by China is due to power juggling inside Chinese domestic politics, maybe Chinese politicians should be more concerned about the long range economic ramifications of their actions against Japan. Just a thought…

See the issues, read the background below…

The Japan Times
Nationalism and its discontents
by Jeff Kingston

(Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian Studies at Temple University Japan, on his experiences speaking about Japan at universities in China)

“What you must understand is we Chinese all hate Japanese.”

So began the Q&A at Sichuan University in Chengdu following my talk there about Sino-Japanese relations and my new book, “Contemporary Japan” (Wiley, 2011). …

… We also had a lively discussion about the Diaoyu/Senkaku island group and the “unjust” actions of the Japanese government. When I explained that the Japanese government claims that there is no territorial dispute because its sovereignty over the disputed islands is indisputable, I hit a raw nerve. Readers need to understand that the Chinese government also asserts that its claims to the islands are indisputable.

It is not surprising that many Chinese are anti-Japanese because they are exposed to so much damning information on a daily basis. The sentiments expressed by university students are a testimony to the government’s powerful influence over how people view and act in the world through its control of education and the media.

Channel-surfing in the evening, virtually every night I found a drama or movie depicting scenes of Japanese wartime brutality. Students told me that from middle school on they learn a great deal about the atrocities committed by Japanese in China. This focus on Japanese aggression overshadows all other narratives and there seems little appreciation of Japan’s contributions to China’s economic development since the 1980s. (MORE)

The recent tensions escalated from the dispute (mostly on China’s side) over the Senkaku Islands. Previously it had not been uncommon for the Japanese coast guard to arrest Chinese fishermen trawling in the waters near the Senkaku Islands, but then in the Fall of 2010, a Chinese trawler aggressively rammed a Japanese patrol boat.

Senkaku Footage Leaked on to Internet: Shows Chinese Trawler Ramming Japanese Patrol Boat
Japan Probe

The DPJ government’s efforts to appease Chinese anger by refusing to release the video footage of the Sept. 7 collisions between a Chinese trawler and Japanese patrol boats near the Senkaku Islands have failed. Somebody has apparently gone behind their backs and leaked the videos to YouTube.

... the video does not show Japanese patrol boats ramming a Chinese ship. Instead, we can see the Chinese trawler turning into the side of the Japanese vessel. I think it would be safe to say that the Chinese state media’s “attacked by Japanese boats” version of the story (pictured above), was complete bullshit. The Chinese trawler looks to be the one doing the ramming.

After watching an edited version of the Sept. 7 collisions near the Senkaku Islands, Toranosuke Katayama, a House of Councillors member of the Sunrise Party of Japan, said, “The Chinese boat, which I think should have fled the scene, intentionally came straight toward [the Japanese patrol boat]. It was very provocative.”

While the lawmakers felt the Chinese trawler captain warranted arrest, most of them questioned why the government waited more than 50 days to release footage of the collisions that chilled diplomatic ties between Tokyo and Beijing–and why the video was shown only to a select group. (MORE)

Skipping a few steps, then in August of 2012 a group of Chinese protestors landed on one of the islands in question…

Japan deporting Chinese held over island landing
August 17, 2012|By Elizabeth Yuan, CNN

Japan is deporting the 14 Chinese nationals arrested over a disputed island chain in the East China Sea, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Friday, in a resolution aimed at ending a diplomatic incident between the two nations.

Five of the men landed on the island Wednesday and were photographed carrying Chinese and Taiwan flags before their arrest by Okinawa police. The nine others who remained on the vessel were later detained by the Japan Coast Guard.

The group behind the effort is the Hong Kong-based Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands. Its fishing vessel departed for the controversial islands Sunday from Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China. (MORE)

Next, (again omitting a few steps), the Japanese government purchases the islands from a private Japanese citizen who held ownership.

China enraged, sends ships -- ¥2 billion deal nationalizes the Senkakus
Japan Times Online Wednesday, Sep. 12, 2012
By MASAMI ITO Staff writer

The government signed a ¥2.05 billion contract Tuesday with the owner of three of the five Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, effectively nationalizing the territory and immediately drawing a strong protest from Beijing, which sent surveillance ships to the area.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry was quick to blast the nationalization as "totally illegal and invalid" and "a gross violation of China's sovereignty over its own territory." (MORE via cache on this AF's blog)

Then anti-Japanese riots erupt in China, encouraged by the Chinese government

Japan dispute sparks protests across China
The Hindu August 19, 2012
Ananth Krishnan

Tens of thousands of Chinese took to the streets in at least a dozen cities on Sunday in what appeared to be coordinated anti-Japan protests that saw Japanese cars smashed and restaurants attacked in several areas. The widespread protests — a rare occurrence in China — were sparked by news on Sunday that 10 Japanese activists had raised their flag on the disputed Diaoyu or Senkaku islands in the East China Sea.

The protests appeared to have taken place with the permission of the authorities. Protests are usually disallowed by the government. Police forces in the cities where gatherings took place appeared not to disperse the protesters. (MORE)

Chinese government both encourages and reins in anti-Japan protests, analysts say
The Washington Post
By William Wan,
Sep 17, 2012

Experts point to signs that Chinese authorities have cleared the way and, in some cases, even fueled some of the protests that have erupted in recent days. At the same time, officials have been careful to keep control over the masses, leery that gatherings of malcontents could easily turn against China’s government.

China analysts say that the two-pronged approach is carefully calibrated to increase pressure on Japan, but that it is also driven by domestic politics, as officials jockey for position ahead of the approaching, once-in-a-decade leadership transition.

“The party is skilled at manipulating such public opinion . . . and the signs that these demonstrations were organized by the government is very high,” said Liu Junning, a former researcher at a government-related think tank and now an independent political analyst. “The protests come when the leaders need one to come, and the protests will stop when they want them to stop.” (MORE)

In the most recent skirmish, a Chinese military ship locked missile-guiding radar on a Japanese naval vessel, not long after a similar incident in January, when a Chinese military ship locked radar on a Japanese military helicopter.

Japan protests to China after radar pointed at vessel
By Linda Sieg and Kiyoshi Takenaka
Tue Feb 5, 2013 5:08pm EST

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Chinese navy vessel aimed a type of radar normally used to aim weapons at a target at a Japanese navy ship in the East China Sea, prompting Japan to protest, Japan's defense minister said on Tuesday, an action that could complicate efforts to cool tension in a territorial row between the rivals.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, told [Japanese Defense Minister] Onodera it was important to respond calmly and not meet provocation with provocation, Kyodo news agency reported.

Onodera said a similar incident may have occurred on January 19, when a Chinese naval ship may have directed so-called fire control radar at a Japanese navy helicopter.

The United States has viewed rising tensions between the world's second and third biggest economies with increasing concern - not least because a 50-year-old U.S.-Japan security treaty obliges Washington to come to Tokyo's defense if territories under Japan's administration are attacked. (MORE)

See also:
* Tensions Flare as Japan Says China Threatened Its Forces (Wall Street Journal February 5, 2013)
* Tension between China and Japan escalates over Island Dispute (The Global Panorama Monday, January 14th, 2013)

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