For the Sake of Balance: some Nice Cups of Wine

While the storm about the collisions between a Chinese trawler and two Japanese coast guard vessels had abated, this wasn’t the case in Sino-Japanese relations, writes Liu Gang (刘刚) of Huanqiu Shibao. Japanese foreign minister Seiji Maehara (前原誠司) had recently testified in parliament that no territorial problems existed between Japan and China, as the Senkaku Islands – referred to by Huanqiu Shibao as Diaoyu Islands (钓鱼岛), were innate Japanese territory. Huanqiu also refers to resolutions by the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly against Chinese infringements and the Japanese government’s weak stance in the brawl with China. Moreover, prominent Democratic Party members of parliament demanded to permanently station military forces on the Senkaku Islands. Osaka governor Tōru Hashimoto (橋下 徹) had also critized the Japanese cabinet, saying that to win against an adversary, one needed to be well-prepared (为了赢得对手,必须得准备出一千套方案方能奏效).

There were guesses, Liu writes, that although neither the Chinese nor the Japanese military really wanted to resort to armed force, if Japan really wanted to link the Self-Defense Forces to the Senkaku Islands (如果日本硬要把自卫队与钓鱼岛扯上关系), could it be that Japan hadn’t thought well enough about the chain reaction this could lead to (日本难道没有想过会产生更大的连锁反应吗)? As much as the incident appeared to be accidental, it had in fact been inevitable, writes Liu. It had been the result of long-term unbalanced Sino-Japanese relations. Japan had seen China’s, the great-power’s, mentality clearly (日本看透中国的大国心态) – attaching importance to friendship, not to hurt feelings, the mentality of face and giving face, and Japan was only waiting for an opportunity to poke China, just to tell its citizens then: “Look, China is that easily agitated, not like a great country.” Then Japan would retreat one step without benefit, leaving China’s power mentality satisfied, just to – maybe, who knows – bide another chance (伺机 sìjī – to wait for an opportunity).

The Japanese prosecutors had come to the conclusion that further detaining the trawler’s captain wasn’t worth it, given the worsening of Japanese-Chinese relations. However, writes Liu, while on surface, Japan had left the impression of admitting defeat (服软 fúruǎn), its step actually showed Japan’s particular cultural flexibility:

Just think of Emperor Hirohitho who didn’t hesitate to stoop to paying respect to allied forces’ commander General McArthur every day, in order to obtain the preservation of the Japanese state.

According to Liu, the Japanese peoples’ view on the Senkaku issue is one-sided. Besides,

[t]hey also mistakenly believe that the Chinese side (mainland China and Taiwan) only began to claim sovereignty again in the early 1970s because they knew that there could be oil and gas resources under the seabed. Therefore, the best thing to do would be to permanently station troops on the Diaoyu Islands, to completely finish the Chinese peoples’ hope to enter them. Such a misconception can lead to the issue becoming a problem that would defy solution. If this continues for the long term, the platform for any mutual understanding or communication will most likely be lost.

Japan needed to show or develop a basic perception for international risks, writes Liu, but China also needed to take precautions (未雨绸缪 wèi yǔ chóu móu ). The Chinese foreign ministry had often hard [literally: to talk over cups of wine – 折冲樽俎 zhé chōng zūn zǔ] to achieve balanced relations with Japan, to achieve a peaceful neighborhood. China should work for friendly relations with Japan in general, while still clearly communicating its positions to Japan, dealing with the Senkaku issue in a project-oriented manner. Through all diplomatic means and nongovernmental channels (通过所有外交手段和民间管道), the Japanese people could be informed about the truth behind the Senkaku issue, achieving more clarity through talks (通过所有外交手段和民间管道,让日本国民知道中日间有钓鱼岛争执及其事实真相,与对方把话说清楚).

China had always been on the right side, and Japan on the other hand, in manipulative ways, had strenthened its position all the same [or gained the higher ground all the same – 琢磨及积极操弄,一直在加强实际控制], writes Liu. This situation had to change. Through consultation and discussions [this is how I understand the last paragraph – JR], China and Japan could avoid the worst possible outcome.


Senkakus “covered by the Japan-U.S. security pact”, The Japan Times, Sept 30, 2010
Wikipedia: Senkaku Islands, an Article and a Letter, September 26, 2010

Update / Related
“An integral part of our country”, BBC News, October 1, 2010

6 Responses to “For the Sake of Balance: some Nice Cups of Wine”

  1. “China had always been on the right side, and Japan on the other hand, in manipulative ways, had strengthened its position all the same”

    Really? It seems like that China is manipulating its ways into every dispute for the sake of other’s sacrifice. Or even they are sacrificing their own people to solidify their position.


  2. I agree that much of what Chinese media and government officials wrote or said are articles and speeches to their public at home, as much as to people abroad. The article I translated here, too. No matter if Japan gave in or insisted on rightful procedures in the matter, it would be blamed by Beijing, either way.
    However, I do think that China has, in this controversy, tarnished its own image among people who are or were inclined to believe in the CCP’s narrative of a peaceful Chinese rise.


  3. You have a good point, justrecently. I think we should see how China’s image changes in the world. Last month, money changed its flow to financial markets in India from China due to the perceived risk of China’s arrogance and aggressiveness. India’s share price rose more than China’s.

    Japanese people are now blaming Prime Minister Kan for the mishandling of dispute. So, his approval rating has “just recently” dropped sharply. But, despite Japanese grudge over the dispute, it looks like that the world sees China disapprovingly.

    One more comment. I’m a little bit concerned about the falling approval rating due to Kan’s response. Politicians might see it as a green light for “Get tough” approach in any situation over the future territorial dispute, which could be bereft of flexible policy. It seems that China has already been lack of flexibility especially toward Japan, which is also a big concern.


  4. I think we basically agree, with one exception, though. You suggest that more investment is going to India, rather than China, for political reasons now. Of course, political decisions can destabilize a country as an investment environment, but I believe that most investors don’t base their decisions on political considerations such as the Senkaku incident. It would be for governments to create a framework where business would follow such considerations.
    Rather, I believe there are a lot of economic factors that speak for India, more than for China. The – still coming – population bulge is such a factor. China is an ageing society, even as it is still developing.
    And as Huang Yasheng (MIT) pointed out in an interview with Nanfang Daily in February 2009, India’s investment only amounts to 50% of China’s, but still creates still economic growth that amounts to 80% of China’s economic growth. That would make investment in India appear to be quite an attractive option – in general terms, anyway.



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