History lessons beckon Japan
Updated: 2012-10-31 07:50
By Zhou Yongsheng (China Daily)
On Oct 26, Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun briefed Chinese and foreign journalists on the Diaoyu Islands issue. Zhang said Japan asking China to choose between the Japanese government and the right-wing forces "purchasing" the islands was like giving a choice between two kinds of poison. It is absurd, and China will never accept any option that undermines its territorial sovereignty.
But the Japanese government went on to "purchased" the Diaoyu Islands and violate China's territorial sovereignty. Can China swallow this poison?
China has been committed to good-neighborly and friendly foreign policies. It has always advocated peaceful settlement of regional and international disputes through dialogue and negotiations. But China will never accept any interference in its territorial sovereignty.
Japan seems agog with the results of a war simulation that it carried out a few days ago. The war simulation reportedly showed Japan winning a battle in the East China Sea with China. China's Ministry of Defense has responded by advising Japan to reflect on the reasons that have soured Sino-Japanese relations rather than flexing its muscles in a simulated war.
War is a complex issue full of uncertain factors. Japan's simulated war is more like a "psychological war" against China. Given the respective strengths of the Chinese and Japanese navies and air forces, a war, with the odds stacked in favor of China, would be impossible for Japan to sustain.
That Japan assumes itself the winner even in a real war with China reflects its poor strategic thinking. Why? During World War II, Japan carefully planned and launched a blitzkrieg air attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii to gain a grand military victory.
Since countries in the Asia-Pacific region invaded or occupied by Japan during World War II were too weak and poor to take on the Japanese, Tokyo overestimated its strength and attacked the United States and, in the process, invited Washington to join the war and cause its own downfall. It was tactically a very smart move but a complete strategic failure -a typical case of shooting oneself in the foot. Besides, aggression and fascism cannot last long.
Now Japan has "purchased" the Diaoyu Islands to strengthen its control in the region, and drawn the ire of Chinese people and revived their hatred for Japanese aggressors. By doing so, Japan may have got temporary control of the Diaoyu Islands, but it has ruined its already bleak future.
Of course, the Chinese government and people still want to resolve the Diaoyu Islands issue through peaceful negotiations, but Japan is not even ready to admit that there is a dispute over the islands. Japan, it seems, will not give up its skewed interests and the war simulation is a proof of that.
Japan should realize that its victory over China in the simulated war could be the temporary thrill that it experienced after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, for it knows attacking China could turn into its worst nightmare.
Japan's immediate tactical "victory" is not a real victory. In fact, it's only a small tactical victory for a handful of leaders, politicians and right-wing forces that are interested only in votes and power, not diplomacy, good governance and the fundamental interests of Japan. This small victory could very well be the beginning of Japan's slide into trouble from which it may not be able to extricate itself.
The US may be playing a double game of declaring its neutrality in the Diaoyu Islands issue and, at the same time, emphasizing that the US-Japan security treaty covers the Diaoyu Islands. But will the US really confront China over a group of uninhabited islands seized by Japan?
China and the US are each other's second largest trading partners. Their bilateral trade volume reached $446.7 billion in 2011 with US exports to China exceeding $100 billion. Compared with this, the US-Japan trade in 2011 was worth only $194.6 billion, and US exports to Japan $65.7 billion. It's clear that, despite the US' desperation to contain China (in alliance with Japan), economically China is more important than Japan for the US.
If Japan tries to free itself of US constraints and embrace a militarist policy, it will revive Asian people's memories of Japanese aggression before and during World War II. In such a case, Japan would surely be a great threat to China, but it would be a greater threat to the US. If American strategists can see through Japan's designs, they will stop Japanese right-wing forces from stoking more trouble.
China doesn't want to stir trouble or intensify contradictions. But if Japan refuses to admit that there is a dispute over the Diaoyu Islands' sovereignty, China will be forced to take long-term countermeasures to deal with it.
That's why Japan's temporary gain of controlling the Diaoyu Islands will be detrimental to its overall development. We hope Japan doesn't forget the profound lessons of history and gets back on the right track.
The author is a professor at the Institute of International Relations, China Foreign Affairs University.
(China Daily 10/31/2012 page9)