Some advice for Japan

Updated: 2010-11-04 07

By Jiang Lifeng (China Daily)

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Some advice for Japan

Japan should sit down with China to find a long-lasting and peaceful solution to Diaoyu Islands dispute

China and Japan failed to hold a separate meeting at the Oct 30 East Asia Summit.

Prior to the summit, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan had irresponsibly described China's actions as "a big problem", and Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara had termed China's responses to the Diaoyu incident "hysterical".

However, it was Japan's reaction to the collisions between a Chinese trawler and two Japan Coast Guard vessels on Sept 7 that led Sino-Japanese relations to deteriorate so badly.

There are three reasons why Japan has indulged in these wrongdoings.

First, a political crisis broke out soon after the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) came to power. Social problems, such as economic troubles, high unemployment and corrupt politicians have disappointed the Japanese people and sent the DPJ's popularity ratings plummeting.

Second, since the 1990s, conservatism has developed as Japan's mainstream ideological trend. This trend is reflected in expansionism and its pursuit of so-called "national interests". When it became impossible to display this national conservatism by visiting the Yasukuni shrine, DPJ leaders took advantage of the collision between the Chinese trawler and the Japanese vessels to increase its popularity rating.

Third, the present DPJ leadership has modified the policies formulated by its predecessor in trying to cement the alliance between Japan and the United States. As a result, Japan has adopted a jingoistic stance on the collisions to conform to the US' policy of containing China.

But even though the US said the Diaoyu Islands were in the range of the US-Japan Security Treaty, it also said it hoped the question of sovereignty would be decided by negotiations between China and Japan, ending Tokyo's hope of getting absolute support from Washington.

Since negotiations on the East China Sea dispute are not expected to end any time soon, the huge benefits Japan might have hoped to gain will vanish, meaning the DPJ government will face strong opposition at home.

Since the Sept 7 incident, Chinese fishing boats have been fishing in the waters off the Diaoyu Islands to safeguard China's territorial sovereignty. Hence, China should no longer rely solely on diplomatic measures to declare its sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands. Instead, it should take real action, such as patrolling the waters off the Diaoyu Islands.

Japan is sure to continue its "management" measures, and possibly even further action. As a result, frictions are likely to increase, so it is necessary to establish a crisis prevention mechanism through Sino-Japanese negotiations.

When Tokyo proposed to regulate Sino-Japanese relations through strategic reciprocity, it tried to get huge benefits, especially in the East China Sea, from the framework. If China does not keep a clear head, it will be Japan alone, rather than both countries, that will reap the benefits.

It is of great importance for China to develop Sino-Japanese relations and create neighborly relations in East Asia. But China should ensure that any such move is based on the precondition of firmly safeguarding its core national and long-term interests.

At present and for some time to come, the most crucial thing is for China to handle the territorial disputes properly. Obviously these conflicts will center on issues related to the Diaoyu Islands and the East China Sea.

Resolving the Diaoyu Islands issue is the precondition for resolving the continental shelf issue and demarcation of the exclusive economic zone in the East China Sea. Therefore, the move to stabilize and develop Sino-Japanese relations should focus on how to resolve the Diaoyu Islands issue a soon as possible.

There are two ways of solving such problems: peaceful means and force. And there can be no doubt peaceful negotiations are the preferred way.

But for that, Japan first has to change its aggressive marine policy and admit that there are territorial disputes over the Diaoyu Islands. And if Japan assumes that it can continue to avoid the issue because of its illegal control of the islands, it only shows its lack of confidence on the issue.

The recent demonstrations staged by Chinese people in some cities reflect public opposition to Japan's wrongdoings in the aftermath of the collisions near the Diaoyu Islands as well as its illegal possession of the islands. So the measures the Chinese government needs to take will be based on the support of its people.

Since Chinese people pay great attention to Sino-Japanese relations and hope that they can proceed in the right direction, they are angered by Japan's rather irrational actions. What is important is not the demonstrations, or what kind of slogans the protestors used, but why they took to the streets in the first place.

Hopefully, the Japanese government will consider the overall interests of Sino-Japan relations, realize the importance of the prevailing situation and work with China to find a long-lasting solution to the Diaoyu Islands problems.

The author is former director of the Institute of Japanese Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

(China Daily 11/04/2010 page8)

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