This week China went after Japan in a big way in the Senkaku Islands. As the world has heard, a Chinese fishing boat rammed Japanese vessels twice in the Senkaku Islands. I'm not going to discuss who owns the Senkakus; study of history adequately answers that question.
Context: China kicked up a massive fuss in the world media and put a on a show for the home crowd. Yet in February Russia sank a Chinese fishing trawler and the Chinese response was muted. Similarly, there've been several clashes in the South China Sea recently which have received no publicity from Beijing. The leadership in Beijing appears to be engaged in two activities: stoking the home front nationalism, and seeing how the US would react when Tokyo was threatened. Japan makes a nifty victim -- imagine if the Chinese had tried this stunt with the Russians. Of course, the Tokyo-Washington alliance is the pillar of US hegemony in East Asia. Beijing is likely to continue to test it....
Petty bullshit from Beijing abounded -- note the class with which Tokyo handled the affair. No bluster, no random arrests of Chinese nationals in China. China arrested four Japanese nationals investigating possible bilking of the government of Japan in a WWII weapons clean-up in China. It was symptomatic that China apparently barred accredited Japanese reporters from the interviews of the fishing boat captain. ESWN has the translation:
According to Fuji TV reporter Fujita Mizumi, she and six other Japanese reporters got in a queue to obtain temporary passes at 7pm on the evening before yesterday. When the workers learned that they were Japanese reporters, they claimed that all temporary passes have been given out. However, the Japanese reporters observed that late-coming mainland reporters continued to receive temporary passes.The cut off of rare earths to Japan was handled, this fantastic blog post on the Senkakus mess from Ampontan says that the cut off did not occur as an administrative order, but as an order not to load them onto ships for transport to Japan. Which is not covered by international trade regulations. This is the same pattern we have seen in other Chinese behavior -- remember the complaints from Thai fruit producers that Chinese shippers left their stuff to rot on Chinese docks rather than ship it inland to compete with Chinese fruit? China also suspended ministerial level exchanges.
At 3am or so, the Japanese reporters made one more attempt to get interviews inside the VIP suite at the airport. Fujita Mizumi asked one of the Fujian Province Publicity Department workers who was handing out passes: "We are Japanese reporters who are approved by the Chinese government to cover news in China. Why doesn't China allow us to gather news?" The other party said bluntly: "We cannot arrange for Japanese reporters to cover this welcoming ceremony. You ought to know the reason why."
Of the calculated humiliations and toddler-spite directed at Tokyo, my favorite was Beijing's demand that Japan apologize for detaining the captain of a fishing boat who rammed Japanese vessels in Japanese waters. Disgusting. And again, look at the class with which the incident was handled in Tokyo.
One interesting wrinkle was the way the incident with Japan brought out the usually veiled anti-Americanism among Deep Blue pro-China KMTers here in Taiwan. Not only were the talk shows full of it, I heard, but this China Times commentary is a priceless display of the abiding contempt for America that resides in the heart of the KMT:
The media in the US and Japan have been speculating about Japan’s recent confrontations with Mainland China over the Diaoyutai Islets (Senkaku for the Japanese). Is Japan hoping to drag the US into the conflict? Or is the US encouraging Japan’s confrontation with Beijing from behind the scenes?The reality is that Japan has become concerned because of Chinese expansionism. That context, along with the behavior of the Chinese in this incident, is entirely missing from the China Times editorial, of course.
Objectively speaking, both scenarios are possible. Without the US as its backup, Japan would never dare to instigate hostilities with Mainland China. The fact that Japan is refusing to back down points to the possibility that it is purposely trying to drag the US into the conflict. Politicians in the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) are not stupid; they know that the most effective way to regain public support is to take voters’ minds off domestic issues by inciting nationalistic sentiments. The DPJ’s need to prevent itself from sinking into obscurity is obvious.
If Sino-US relations are too harmonious, the Japanese government may not be in such an assertive position. However, sensing that the relations between the two great powers are on the rocks, Tokyo knows well that Washington will not completely maintain a hands-off attitude. After all, the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan covers all the territories under Japan’s administration because its current jurisdiction was dictated by the US after WWII. Japan is taking this rare opportunity to test the resolve of the US.
The US apparently put pressure on Japan to hand back the captain and resolve the issue. In other words, again, the opposite of what the China Times article claims.
Welcome to the future, folks.
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