Japanese, Chinese speakers clash at Hong Kong forum

According to the SCMP, Japan’s top foreign policy minister had a speech delivered (not in person) at an annual regional forum which was met with outrage with a Chinese participant. The speech was penned by Yachi Shotaro, who is understood to be the architect of the new Japanese prime minister’s more nationalist foreign policy. Retired PLA major general Pan Zhenqiang refuted the premise of the speech, which he described as “very rude and arrogant.”

Basically, Yachi made the point that China had not contested the ownership of the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands after WWII or in 1997 when China and Japan normalised ties. Yachi’s speech went on to say China is “asserting claim by force.” Essentially, Yachi has charged China with revisionism about their territorial claims.

“One must say that the act alone is breaching the rule of international order,” he said. “I should like to ask you: is this a China you want to show to the world? Is this a China that your children will be proud of?

(An aside: China “resents” the current global order created by Allies after WWII, according to ex-PM of Australia Kevin Rudd.)

General Pan drew a parallel between Japan’s attitude today and when Japan invaded China. “this was the kind of attitude they showed to Chinese people: you can only enjoy peace and prosperity if you listen to our command. Do they still want to send that message to [the] Chinese today?”

From the article:

Pan called Japan Asia’s revisionist power, as Abe’s government was trying to change the international order established after the second world war, which imposed a peaceful constitution on Japan and banned it from full-fledged militarisation.

So there you have it, on full display. Both sides accuse the other of revisionism with history, which points to a competing, conflicting view of history, around the islands, from both nations. But it’s emblematic difference in how they view themselves and history.

It’s almost like two tectonic plates rubbing up against each other. Physics dictate that the space can only be occupied by one.

But it’s worth noting that only 25-30 years ago, fears of an ascendant Japan dominated thinking in the US. Then for reasons that had a lot to do with the very specific cultural, societal and economic realities of Japan, it began to recede to the point it finds itself today.

The US, with its problems, is largely in the same spot as it was back then. It’s still the undisputed superpower of the world in part because it doesn’t seek to be a superpower.

The political history of the US aligns with the modern world. It has a mutable strength and can achieve change as it does today. But I believe the deeper integration of China’s culture, history and society with modernity will result in a country that is unable to achieve its ambitions both at home and abroad. I don’t know if the historical power structures of China that remain in place today can cope with modernity. And perhaps in the numerous island disputes we’re seeing examples of that.

China sends ships to Senkaku-Diaoyu after US comments

The Chinese send ships around the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands in response to Clinton’s statement, according to The Times of India.

China is upset with a statement by United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who said on Friday that her government was opposed to “any unilateral actions” to undermine Japanese authority over the islands.

 Here’s my favorite part.

The Chinese action comes amid new Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s South East Asia tour. Beijing views this as an attempt to build up anti-China sentiment in ASEAN, which includes countries like Vietnam and Philippines who have territorial disputes with China in the region.

You see, Japan, which, whether they will call it one or not, has a dispute with China but is not allowed to make diplomatic overtures to Vietnam and the Philippines, which also have disputes with China. Countries that have a common cause in opposing China should not be allowed to fraternise with each other. Personally, I don’t think Japan needs to do much coaxing to bring Vietnam and the Philippines to shared perspective on China.

Obviously, I am focusing on the wording of this particular article. But it does hint at this particular Chinese delusion that they seem to be feeding themselves. China is automatically correct about all disputes and for any country in the region to the do the natural thing, the expected thing in response, is itself an affront to China. China recognises its own unfliching righteousness and any country that doesn’t do the same is a scheming devil. There is a certifiable realism deficit here.

NYTimes has a piece on China’s response to Clinton. Jane Perlez notes that the leader of the Japanese coalition partner New Komeito Party is due in Beijing. Natsuo Yamaguchi is aiming to ease China-Japan tensions.

The New Komeito Party has been involved in previous reconciliation efforts with China, most notably in 1972 when China and Japan resumed normal diplomatic relations with each other.

No negotiations on Senkakus: Abe

But what else is new?

The Japanese PM Shinzo Abe reaffirms the unmoved position of the Japanese government regarding the Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands – but frankly this is nothing new. It doesn’t help the tensions between China and Japan. But in keeping with the contradictions (from both Japan and China) between nationalists and the need for a strong economic relations between the nations, Abe also (according to JiJi Press)

stressed his government’s willingness to refocus on the policy of building a mutually beneficial, strategic partnership between Japan and China to mend the bilateral relationship, which has worsened rapidly over the islands.

You could almost compare the contradiction to newly ensconced Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s words about China following a peaceful path and the PLA Navy’s posture in the East China and South China Seas.

Waking Ultraman


(Ultraman, left, faces the other guy)

Japan is going to have to go for radical in reviving its once heroic economy. If Shinzo Abe is successful, it could alter a lot of long-held assumptions about Japanese assets in financial markets. Some well-known investment banks today are also predicting stocks in Japan will rally by 20 % as the central bank works hand-in-glove with the government to bring the economy back to life in 2013. But as we know, economics and politics are linked. If Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party, along with the New Komeito party, have any success, the Japanese sense of vulnerability towards China may diminish and some measure of confidence can creep back into Japan’s foreign policy. If the experiment in reviving Japan fails, you can almost bet on more trouble over the islands, even if China’s most recent stunts prove only a temporary campaign.