I'll tell you what: a new government comes to power in Japan and immediately looks into the prospect of heaving US bases off Okinawa, where they have long been controversial. That new government is weakly pro-US and far more willing to be nice to China. The people of Japan are even viewing China with less suspicion. What could be better?
Now imagine that Hu Jin-tao, in a burst of imagination, appoints YOU czar of China's East Asian political and military strategy amidst this situation of great potential for China. Do you:
(a) send your businessmen on buying trips to Tokyo, purchase Japanese politicians, woo Japanese sentiment with cultural programs, reduce your military presence in Japanese waters, tone down anti-Japanese rhetoric at home, and in general, work hard on better relations with Japan to weaken its annoying attachment to the Yankee imperialists.If you answered C, there's a job in politico-military strategy in Beijing with your name on it. Because that's just what the Chinese have been doing recently. SCMP reports in an article entitled Get Used to PLA Navy on China's kindness in reminding Japanese just what Beijing's foreign policy is really all about:
(b) bide your time, knowing that the Japanese will cause problems for US basing arrangements, knowing that the US presence in Asia is in long-term decline and the military and political trends favor you.
(c) immediately send a Chinese flotilla on an unnecessary voyage through Japanese waters, buzz Japanese vessels with your helicopters, and chase Japanese vessels out of disputed waters while threatening to sink them, and in general, behave like aggressive, expansionist bully.
You catch more flies with honey.... a timely reminder from Beijing on what its true goals are, and why the US blue water Navy and the presence of US bases, are so important to regional stability.
China's neighbours should get used to the presence of the Chinese navy in Asian waters, a retired People's Liberation Army general said in response to Tokyo's protest over a vessel chasing one of its surveying ships out of an area under dispute - which has caused an uproar in Japan.
"China's long absence in its exclusive economic waters over the past decades was an abnormal historical accident and now it is just advancing to normal operations," Xu Guangyu said in response to Japan's protest over the latest incident earlier this week.
Tokyo reacted angrily to one of its oceanographic survey vessels being chased by a Chinese vessel on Monday and lodged a formal complaint with Beijing.
The incident occurred in the East China Sea about 320 kilometres northwest of Japan's Amami Oshima Island. A Chinese vessel identified as the Haijian 51 allegedly interfered with the work of the Japanese ship the Shoyo, according to the Japanese coastguard.
Coastguard officials claimed the Chinese ship had chased the Shoyo for hours, demanding that it halt its research and leave China's exclusive economic zone.
The exact line of the maritime boundary between China and Japan is in dispute - partly because of vast deposits of natural gas that are believed to lie beneath the seabed in the region - and never before had a Chinese vessel forced a Japanese ship to leave the area.
Coming so soon after a series of incidents involving the Chinese navy and their Japanese counterparts, there is concern that Tokyo is facing a more aggressive and determined policy in the region from Beijing.
"This is a surprise," said Jun Okumura, a senior adviser with the Eurasia Group, adding that while he would have been inclined to write off incidents last month - the buzzing of a Japanese warship by Chinese navy helicopters and a fleet of 10 Chinese naval vessels found operating in international waters close to the islands of Okinawa - this latest confrontation raises the stakes.
"It is hard not to see a pattern now because this involves two different institutions of the Chinese government, the military and a civilian surveying vessel," Jun said.
"It is even more surprising given that there is such an unprovocative regime in Japan at present."
Some Japanese media outlets said the incidents "call into question the value of the diplomatic stance toward China taken by the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama".
Those of you out there nursing fantasies that China will turn up sweet once ECFA is inked should study China's propensity to behave this way toward its friends and potential friends.
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