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Another Dispute...this one in the East China Sea
Large, anti-Japanese demonstrations broke out in several Chinese cities on Sunday (Aug. 19) as 10 Japanese nationalists raised flags on the disputed Diaoyu Islands (known as the Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China). The islands in the East China Sea lie on a vital shipping lane and are surrounded by suspected large deposits of oil and gas. They are also claimed by Taiwan. A few days earlier, 14 Chinese activists sailed to the islands from Hong Kong, were arrested by Japanese authorities, but then deported to diffuse tensions, though only, it turned out, for a few days.
The demonstration in Shenzhen on Sunday was the largest and turned ugly when some in the crowd estimated at 20,000 threw rocks and bottles at Japanese restaurants and overturned dozens of Japanese brand cars. The police did not intervene until the cars were being overturned.
The Japanese coast guard confirmed that at least nine Japanese activists landed on Diaoyu Islands. They arrived at the waters near the Diaoyu with a group of 150 Japanese activists on 21 vessels. The group plans to hold a ceremony for people who died in 1945 during World War II.
The activists, no parliamentarians, swam to the Diaoyu Islands from the fleet and remained there for about two hours and unfurled several Japanese flags. All of them left the island and swam back to their boats.
But one of the parliamentarians on the flotilla, Kenichi Kojima, told AFP: “I want to show the international community that these islands are ours. It is Japan’s future at stake.”
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman strongly opposed the Japanese landing. China has claimed the islands have been a part of its territory since ancient times, but Japan says it took control of the archipelago in the late 1890s after making sure they were uninhabited.
Both China’s government, which is going through a once-in-a-decade leadership change later in the year, and Japan’s Prime Minister Noda, whose ratings have plummeted since taking office last September, face domestic pressures to take a tough stance over the islands.
“Japan has made a series of mistakes in the Diaoyu Island issue and has hurt the Chinese people’s feelings. The young people’s patriotism is laudable…but for a selected number of those who are smashing their fellows’ vehicles, damaging public property, that shows foolishness. This severely disrupts social order, injures the cities’ image, and furthermore, affects China’s image.”
The danger is if the Chinese government feels it has to play the nationalism card which would risk escalating the crisis. The Japanese government faces similar pressures from its far right, though not to the extent China does.
Editorial / Global Times…Chinese government mouthpiece
China will definitely take further steps regarding Diaoyu. This is a shared goal of both the government and the public, and also a trend given China’s continuous development.
This round of conflict may be a turning point in the Diaoyu issue. Japan should stop using Diaoyu as an excuse to vent its anger against China.
Chinese worldwide have a growing awareness of the issue. With the public’s deepening interest and influence, official efforts will also increase, making it more difficult for Japan to withstand the pressure.
China has no intention of engaging in a military clash with Japan over Diaoyu. But China can suppress Japan’s control gradually until the trend reverses.
If Japan continues its confrontational stance, in the future, China may detain Japanese who land on Diaoyu and repatriate them later.
The contest over Diaoyu tests China’s will and wisdom, but the result ultimately depends on strength, and not only Japan’s strength. The support the U.S. lends to Tokyo should also be taken into consideration. The national strength of China, as long as its growth continues, will become the bargaining chip that forces Japan to back off.
The reluctance to resort to military means doesn’t mean China is afraid of war.
China will launch a reciprocal competition with Japan over Diaoyu. For example, if Japan sends Self-Defense Forces, it should expect the participation of China’s navy ships.
Luo Yuan, major general of the PLA Academy of Military Sciences
The dispute over the Diaoyu Islands between China and Japan has evolved into a real test of the two countries’ determination and wisdom.
In terms of determination, China should make red lines for Japan. For example, we should not allow Japanese to land on the islands or station its army there.
Meanwhile, China must have countermeasures prepared if Japan insists on doing so. We can also turn the Diaoyu Islands into a shooting range for the navy force.
In terms of wisdom, China should have a national marine strategy for the East China Sea and South China Sea, for example, by setting up a marine committee.
China can consider cooperation with Russia and South Korea. Both countries have claims over disputed islands with Japan.
Meanwhile, a group can be set up to explore the economic potential in the Diaoyu Islands, and a national coast guard team would be established as soon as possible.
Now we are in a passive position in dealing with Japan’s provocations. Why can’t we take the initiative?
Sources: South China Morning Post, Financial Times, BBC News, People’s Daily and Global Times
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