Japan has to change attitude
Updated: 2012-09-19 08:09
By Sun Cheng (China Daily)
Japan has abandoned reason and ignored China's protests to "nationalize" the Diaoyu Islands, which are an integral part of Chinese territory. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has defended his government's decision, saying the move is aimed at "long-term", steady and effective management" of the islands which he claims to be Japanese territory.
Japan has also said that there is no territorial dispute with China over the islands' sovereignty and that the "nationalization" is Japan's internal affair and only a transfer of the islands' ownership from their "private owner" to the government. This is Japan's blatant attempt to deny the agreement with China over the Diaoyu Islands and a concrete step toward reinforcing its illegal occupation of the islands.
Japan changed its attitude toward the islands when a Chinese fishing trawler collided with two Japanese coast guard vessels in the waters off the Diaoyu Islands in September 2010. This change in Japan's attitude came amid rising nationalism in Japan and at a time when the country's post-World War II politicians were struggling to adapt to China's increasing influence in the world without any idea of how to establish a stable relationship with Beijing.
The two countries had a tacit agreement on "shelving the dispute" over the Diaoyu Islands when bilateral diplomatic relations were normalized in 1972, which Japan violated by saying that there is no dispute with China over the Islands.
Historical documents prove that the Diaoyu Islands have been Chinese territory for at least 600 years. Japan occupied the islands when it launched its expansionist war in East Asia more than a century ago. After losing the Sino-Japanese War in 1894-95, the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) ceded Taiwan, including its subsidiary Diaoyu Islands, to Japan.
That was reversed by the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Proclamation, according to which Taiwan and its affiliated Diaoyu Islands were returned to China at the end of World War II. Japan accepted the terms of these documents, including the stipulation that "all the territories Japan has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa (as Taiwan was called before 1945) and the Pescadores, shall be returned to the Republic of China".
The Diaoyu Islands became a complicated issue after the United States and Japan signed a treaty in San Francisco in 1951, which China was not made a party to and which China condemns as illegal. The treaty grouped the Diaoyu Islands and other islets illegally with the Ryukyu Islands (called Okinawa in Japan), which was then under the US' control. The Okinawa Reversion Agreement the US and Japan signed in 1972 reverted the control of the Diaoyu Islands, as part of the Ryukyu Islands, to Japan.
The US handed over the Ryukyu Islands to Japan to ensure that Washington got Tokyo's long-term economic and military support to maintain its permanent presence in East Asia and further its Asia-Pacific strategy.
But the US-Japan deal violated many post-World War II international institutional arrangements and was an attempt to reverse the global development trends. Also, it has left Sino-Japanese relations with a complicated problem.
Some people in Japan and even the rest of the world with little knowledge of the Diaoyu Islands' history believe that China's claim is based mainly on historical documents. But the Diaoyu Islands issue, from Japan's occupation more than 100 years ago to the US takeover to the illegal handing back to Japan, is the result of Japan's invasion of China and US hegemony, as well as American-Japanese attempt to partly overturn the results of Word War II. It is also another attempt by Japan to re-occupy Chinese territory and infringe on China's sovereignty.
Instead of correcting its wrongs, Japan has chosen to deny the existence of a dispute over the Diaoyu Islands by "nationalizing" them. This is a farce played out to mislead international opinion and change the fact that the islands have been a part of China's territory for centuries. Such attempts are doomed to fail.
In response to the "nationalization" of the Diaoyu Islands by Japan, China has announced the delineation of the marine baselines of the islands and their affiliated islets. Beijing has taken other countermeasures to make people across the world know its principled stance on the Diaoyu Islands and its indisputable sovereignty over them.
Japan's latest move on the Diaoyu Islands has angered the Chinese public. The antagonistic sentiments among Chinese and Japanese peoples are harming Sino-Japanese ties, which could freeze completely if Japan does not change its attitude and repeal the "nationalization" of the Diaoyu Islands.
The Japanese government's wrong decision and Japanese right-wingers' provocative actions have jeopardized the friendly exchanges and cooperation that China and Japan enjoyed since normalization of their diplomatic ties. Japan should remember that China and Japan "shelved disputes" four decades ago, which enabled them to normalize their diplomatic ties. Though it is impossible to resolve the Diaoyu Islands dispute overnight, China will never step back from the challenge. Given their economic interdependence, China and Japan have the common responsibility of maintaining stability and promoting development in East Asia. In 2011, China-Japan trade reached $344.9 billion. A trade war between the world's second largest and third largest economies will not only create more uncertainties for the two countries' economies, but also deal a blow to global economy that is striving to avoid double recession.
The Chinese people are justified in expressing their patriotism in response to the Japanese right-wringers' and government's provocations over the Diaoyu Islands. But during protests in some cities in China over the past week, some people turned violent and damaged some Japanese factories and supermarkets, and broke Japanese brand cars that belonged to other Chinese citizens. These acts are criminal and must be stopped. Patriotism is no excuse for criminal offenses. Worse, such violence also hurts Chinese people. If the factories and shops are closed, the sales of the goods, most of which are made in China, will slump, and the tax revenue of the central and local governments in China will also fall. More importantly, many Chinese employees may lose jobs.
Only by expressing patriotism in a rational way can China get an upper hand in the Diaoyu Islands dispute.
Japan will only harm itself by not following the agreement to "shelve disputes" to work for a better future and not taking corrective measures to prevent the crisis from spiraling out of control. It's high time the Japanese government stopped provocations and returned to the negotiation table.
The author is a professor with China University of Political Science and Law.
(China Daily 09/19/2012 page9)