Japanese intransigence blocks progress
Updated: 2013-09-11 07:54
By Cai Hong (China Daily)
Barring a change of mind on the part of the Japanese government, the territorial issue surrounding China's Diaoyu Islands seems unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.
Both China and Japan insist that they will not compromise, and it seems clear that neither will be the first to back down.
Leaders of the two nations have not had a formal meeting since the Japanese government illegally "nationalized" parts of the Diaoyu Islands last year.
President Xi Jinping's unscheduled five-minute chat with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the G20 summit in Russia last week did not usher in an immediate end to the thorny issue.
Beijing expects that Tokyo will reaffirm the consensus reached by the two countries' previous leaders - by shelving the issue until a final solution can be found.
A group of the Japan Restoration Party's members has planned to start their China trip on Wednesday to improve strained bilateral ties. The party's co-leader, Shintaro Ishihara, chilled the bilateral relationship last April by suggesting that Japan would be willing to purchase the Diaoyu Islands from China.
During a 15-minute talk at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vladivostok on Sept 9, 2012, then-Chinese President Hu Jintao sternly warned then-Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda about his Cabinet's plan to nationalize the islands.
"The Japanese side must fully understand the serious situation and not make any wrong decisions," Hu said.
In the following incident, Noda turned a deaf ear to Hu's warning, and two days later, his Cabinet approved the proposal to bring the Diaoyu Islands under Japanese government control.
The ostensibly provocative move has left China-Japan relations in gridlock. China has no other option but to take countermeasures by leaving the Japanese leaders in the cold. Meanwhile, China hopes that Japan will reverse course.
Furthermore, Japan has been strengthening its efforts to internationalize the issue.
Japan has been lobbying for international support by sending its Foreign Ministry officials overseas to win sympathy for its stance on the issue.
Also, the country has been wooing more than a dozen well-known international bloggers to visit Japan. These micro blog writers are brainwashed by the Japanese Foreign Ministry's briefings during the well-tailored tours. They are expected to use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to garner more international support for Japan's territorial claims.
Among the big shots is former editor of Time International, Jim Frederick. He toured Japan in July and posted 41 updates on his Tweeter and Facebook accounts, according to Japan's Kyodo News.
Meanwhile, the lack of any meaningful dialogue to resolve the impasse continues.
The territorial issue has ruined bilateral ties between Japan and China that were nurtured over many years, hampering economic cooperation in particular.
Data from the Japan External Trade Organization, also known as Jetro, published in August, showed that Japan's exports to China during the first half of the year fell to the lowest level in four years. The pace of year-on-year declines in Japanese exports to China accelerated to 16.7 percent for January to June, from 14.8 percent in July-December.
And Japan's imports of Chinese goods also fell, but at a much slower rate of 6.1 percent to $86 billion. The country's investment in China in the first six months of this year dropped 31.1 percent from a year earlier to $4.9 billion. Jetro predicts that Japanese exports to China will continue to decline.
Figures from China's Commerce Ministry corroborated the decline in trade between the two countries. In the first seven months, China-Japan trade fell 8.8 percent year-on-year to $174 billion, with China's imports of Japanese goods sinking 13.2 percent to $90.81 billion, and exports to Japan diving 3.5 percent to $83.19 billion.
Last year, swarms of Japanese political heavyweights and members of Parliament visited China. However, no breakthroughs are possible so long as the Abe Cabinet is determined to make no concessions on the territorial issue with China.