Beijing-Tokyo dispute affects ASEAN

Updated: 2013-08-15 07:35

By Kavi Chongkittavorn (China Daily)

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The intensifying hostility between China and Japan and the increasing mutual distrust between their people will have serious ramifications on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

For the past three decades, the two Asian giants' stable relations have helped generate huge volumes of trade and investment and propelled the region's economic progress. So if the current trend in East Asia continues, ASEAN's ambitious plan to build a community of 630 million people with a single production base will suffer.

A recent survey conducted by China Daily and Genron NPO, a Japanese think tank, shows an unhealthy trend of growing mutual distrust among Chinese and Japanese. It showed that 92.8 percent of the Chinese polled disliked Japan - up from 64.8 percent last year - while 90.1 percent of the Japanese had the same feeling toward China, up from 84.3 percent in 2012. Their attitude, fuelled by growing nationalist sentiments on both sides, could be attributed to the China-Japan dispute over the Diaoyu Islands and other historical issues.

With no resolution to the island dispute in sight, the efforts of ASEAN to create a more encompassing community with three East Asian countries - China, Japan and Republic of Korea (ASEAN+3) - will be hampered. The negotiation over ASEAN-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership has just begun and could be delayed.

The China-Japan row has already caused a policy dilemma for ASEAN and driven a wedge among its member states. In the past, ASEAN took for granted that China-Japan differences were temporary and could be resolved because of the interdependence of their economies and because both countries wanted a peaceful regional environment to ensure their economic success.

Of late, however, this pattern has changed. Increased nationalism and domestic dynamics have compelled the Japanese and Chinese governments to toughen their respective positions.

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