The Economist, in the midst of an otherwise sturdy Establishment-style article on the entirely artificial spat over the Senkakus, suddenly belched up:
China maintains that the uninhabited islands were seized by Japan when it took over Taiwan at the end of a war between the two countries in 1895. Taiwan was handed back to China at the end of the second world war, but the islands remained under the control of the Americans, who administered them as part of the Okinawa island chain. America handed Okinawa back to Japan in 1972, including the Senkakus. Japan says the islands have always been Japanese. America takes no position on the rival sovereignty claims. But it has said that its defence treaty with Japan applies to the islands.Wow is this ever awful. I noted some of this in a comment I left there and a complaint on the site, but I am placing it here as well.
1. Taiwan was not "handed back" to China at the end of WWII. The San Francisco Peace Treaty does not name a recipient of Taiwan's sovereignty precisely because the Powers did not want either Chinese government to have the island. To this day it is the policy of the US and Japan that the status of Taiwan is undetermined. In fact a representative of Japan to Taiwan was expelled last year after reminding the KMT government of that fact. This is all available online and should be second nature. As an aside, it is astounding the number of media reps out here who do not bother to look this stuff up.
2. Taiwan was not "handed back" to China because it had never been part of any ethnic Chinese emperor's China, but had only been a colony of the Qing empire (and only part of it, at that). Until the late 1930s Taiwan was generally considered not part of China by the Chinese themselves -- just as the Senkakus were not considered part of China. By writing like this, the media abets China's drive to inflate itself out to the old Qing borders. Imagine how everyone would laugh if Ankara suddenly started to claim Jordan because both belonged to the Ottoman Empire. But that is exactly what is happening here.
3. History: Japan took the Senkakus in January of 1895 after about a decade of considering it. The treaty ending the Sino-Japanese War and conceding Taiwan was not signed until April. The Japanese did not completely occupy Taiwan for many months afterward. The seizure of the Senkakus had nothing to do with the seizure of Taiwan. It is irrelevant "what China maintains" since that is false. The media cannot strike a balance between truth and lies; no such balance exists. By repeating this falsehood without identifying it as such, and presenting it as if readers should consider it seriously, The Economist merely enhances it.
4. History: Japan does not say the islands "have always been Japanese." That is totally wrong. Japan's position is that when they were occupied in 1895, no one claimed them. See their response to Kristof, especially point 1.
5. History: until 1968 both the PRC and ROC considered the Senkakus to be Japanese and all their maps and documents said so. Suddenly, when oil was announced beneath the Senkakus in 1968, both Chinese governments manufactured a claim to them. It would be great if someone somewhere in the media actually mentioned this history aloud.
It is one thing to attempt to find a balance between Tokyo and Beijing, but it is quite another to act as though there is a balance midway between fact and fiction. There isn't one. The Economist owes it to its readers to correct Beijing's false claims, especially those made in the context of its burgeoning expansionism. What a massive fail.
The media presentations, which focus on Beijing's ire, are by default, Beijing-centric -- because Beijing is the actor that is flailing about, making noise and cutting off heads. Japan's quiet, classy response isn't presented as a positive policy, but merely means that Japan's response gets fewer mentions and less emphasis. Worse, the media acts as though "tensions" are like gravity, without human agency behind them.
In recent days tensions have risen to a point where China’s leaders refuse even to meet their Japanese counterparts and are threatening worse to come.Imagine if The Economist had written the facts instead of giving a "balanced" presentation -- that tension occurs because human beings choose for it to occur:
In recent days Beijing has ramped up tensions a point where China’s leaders refuse even to meet their Japanese counterparts and are threatening worse to come....because Japan has done absolutely nothing to increase tensions. Arresting a fishing boat captain for twice ramming Japanese vessels in Japanese waters is perfectly legal.
And recall that Chinese fishing boats have been subjected to far worse by other countries, but Beijing did not put on a show like this. This is all about abusing Japan to test its relationship with the US and to score points with nationalist crowd at home, as well as perfect tactics for use in other disputes.
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