Good move on Diaoyu Islands

Updated: 2012-10-26 08:07

By Wang Xingyu (China Daily)

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Since Japan "purchased" China's Diaoyu Islands in September, the Chinese government has taken a series of countermeasures in the economic, legal, diplomatic and military fields, which have helped it to wrest the initiative to resolve the islands dispute.

First, despite China not imposing any economic sanctions, the Japanese economy has been badly hit. The spontaneous anti-Japanese demonstrations in China, the cancellation of visits by Chinese nationals to Japan, and boycott of seminars held by business groups, the media and think tanks have dealt a blow to the Japanese economy. The Daily Yomiuri has reported: "Japan's exports to China have fallen for four consecutive months since June. Previously, declines in exports to China had been explained as part of a chain reaction triggered by falling Chinese exports. Trade statistics for September, however, showed Japanese exports to China plummeted by as much as 14.1 percent from the same month last year, with automobiles down as much as 44.5 percent."

In fact, an increasing number of Japanese media outlets have begun saying that improving ties with China is crucial to Japan's trade balance in the days ahead.

Second, China has completed the legal formalities to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime interests. The announcement of the baselines of the territorial waters of the Diaoyu Islands provides the legal basis for China's jurisdiction over the islands and the surrounding waters in line with domestic and international laws.

In accordance with international law, China submitted a copy of the table of coordinates and charts of the Diaoyu Island and its affiliated islets to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. It has also completed the legal process regarding the announcement of the base points and baselines of the territorial waters of the Diaoyu Islands. These are important steps toward making it clear to the international community that China has indisputable sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands.

Besides, the State Oceanic Administration has taken measures to select and protect areas as the base points of China's territorial sea, which will strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of the protective range. Also, it will enable sea-surveillance institutions at all levels to supervise and monitor the entire protective range and safeguard China's maritime rights and interests.

Third, China has used its diplomatic channels to make it clear to the international community that it wants to resolve the Diaoyu Islands dispute with Japan through diplomatic negotiations. China's State leaders, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government agencies and civil organizations have declared time and again that the so-called nationalization of the Diaoyu Islands by Japan is illegal and China will "make no concession" on issues concerning its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

These steps, as important as they are, will let people in other countries, including Japanese nationals, know how firm China is in safeguarding its territorial sovereignty and maritime interests. They will also send out a clear message that the Diaoyu Islands are an integral part of China's territory.

Fourth, China has taken comprehensive, three-dimensional countermeasures to seize back the initiative in the islands dispute. The SOA has started monitoring the Diaoyu Islands and its surrounding waters, and begun forecasting the weather in and around them. The Chinese government has also started sending regular fishing and surveillance ships to patrol the waters around the Diaoyu Islands to enforce maritime law. Moreover, Chinese navy vessels have carried out routine joint training and navigation activities with fishing and surveillance ships in the East China Sea.

These countermeasures demonstrate the effective coordination among different departments and China's determination and confidence in safeguarding its rights.

Fifth, China has not only canceled many activities to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the normalization of its diplomatic relations with Japan and called off high-level governmental and military reciprocal visits, but also boycotted a series of international conferences and cultural activities in Japan, showing its determination to safeguard national sovereignty and territory.

Of course, territorial disputes between two countries cannot be solved in a short time. But Japan's decision to "nationalize" the Diaoyu Islands challenges China's determination to defend its territory. The Japanese have also refused to "put aside disputes" to concentrate on areas in which the two countries agree. So to end Japan's "actual control" over the Diaoyu Islands and to make the international community fully aware of the facts, China needs to pay attention to three factors.

One, the Diaoyu Islands dispute is a contest of the comprehensive strengths of China and Japan. Whether Sino-Japanese relations will continue to deteriorate depends on whether Japan stops its provocative actions.

But it seems Japan will not change its current tendency and, hence, the islands dispute will continue to be a stumbling block in Sino-Japanese ties for some time to come.

Also, the unstable nature of Japan's domestic politics, the attitudes of different Japanese political forces toward China and their policies toward the Diaoyu Islands remain volatile. Therefore, China should prepare itself strategically and economically for the consequences.

Two, while taking countermeasures, China should exercise prudence and take everything into consideration. The Diaoyu Islands dispute escalated not only because Japan violated the agreement reached between former Chinese and Japanese leaders to "shelve disputes" to concentrate on more pressing issues, but also because of the change in United States' East Asia strategy. The US' eastward shift and the gradual consolidation of the US-Japan alliance is also responsible for the escalation in the dispute.

Three, the Diaoyu Islands issue is typical of maritime territorial disputes. The temporary but dynamic policy balance might change with the development and use of marine resources.

But the potential danger of a conflict over maritime rights and interests between the two sides still looms.

Hence, China should gradually change its countermeasures into a normal marine and maritime management mechanism, highlighting the sense of crisis in daily management in order to safeguard its maritime rights and interests.

The author is an associate professor of Japan studies at the Renmin University of China.

(China Daily 10/26/2012 page9)