Plunge Pontificates

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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Gulf Between Japan and China Getting Wider

I find the CSMonitor to be one of the better mass media sources. While not perfect by any means, they seem to follow journalistic standards of impartiality better than other of their brethren. Having said that, this article is quite interesting. I might also like it because of the way it agrees with much of what I think.

A year after rocks and bottles peppered Japanese businesses and diplomatic offices in the most public anti-Japanese outbursts in urban China for decades, relations between the two largest Asian powers have, if anything, frozen further.

In a little-noticed development, Chinese leader Hu Jintao appears for the first time to be setting a clear precondition for dialogue between Japanese and Chinese leaders: the cessation of visits by Japanese leaders to Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Japanese war criminals are enshrined. Mr. Hu gave that message to Japanese "friendship" delegations who arrived in Beijing 10 days ago, making it difficult in face-saving Asia for Japan to yield on visiting the controversial shrine. Such a policy could drive Asia's two largest nations further apart amid ever-intensifying competition for influence and resources, experts say.
Little noticed by others, but loudly and fiercely discussed in the blogosphere. A little aside here, but it must really upset the Korean government to be left out of these articles. Also, notice the mistake above, it isn't 14 war criminals, there are thousands of those. It is 14 class "A" war criminals. An important distinction.

Yet a year later, both sides have continued a steady stream of provocative rhetoric and acts. At a rare national press conference last month, Chinese foreign minister Li Zhaoxing quoted a German diplomat who called the Yasukuni Shrine visits "stupid and immoral." When Japan officially summoned Chinese ambassador Wang Yi the next day in Tokyo, Mr. Wang refused to go - a serious diplomatic breach.

Shinzo Abe, Japan's cabinet secretary, told Japanese reporters only last week that "China and Japan have nothing in common." Yet while Mr. Abe, the lead candidate to replace Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in September, may have targeted a home audience, his comments were the lead headline in Cankao Xiaoxi, an influential paper among Beijing elites: "Shinzo Abe dares to defame China as damaging Asia's stability."

"We have a problem, and I don't see a way out of it right now, " argues a Chinese government source.
Yep, the rhetoric is hot and heavy on both sides. The final comment above is the one that is particularly concerning. There is a way out, it just takes one side or the other or both swallowing some pride and backing down.

Both have taken an unusually sharp turn toward nationalist rhetoric. The turn has been especially swift in Japan, which until recently was considered a pacifist nation. The current architecture of relations - powerful economic links but deteriorating political and emotional ties - is unique in geopolitics, sources say.
This is what is the most upsetting and which many in Japan try to deny, nationalism is running hot and heavy in both countries. Unfortunately, in Japan, that nationalism also includes the glorification of the past and the whitewashing of atrocities committed.

China's stance since Koizumi quietly visited Yasukuni shortly after his landslide election last fall appears to be to wait to deal with a successor. One professor here says China is prepared to wait "20 years, or as long as it takes," for a leader who will treat China properly.
China has always had patience, far more than we do in the west. In this instance though it is not only patience but allowing a grudge to grow and fester. If it truly took twenty years, it would be ugly to behold.

The Communist Party under Mao was in no small part formed in opposition to the hated Japanese occupation of China in the mid-20th century. James Mulvenon, deputy director of the Center for Intelligence Research and Analysis in Washington, says that China has too long relied on Japan's lack of historical veracity as a way to cover its own problems, and its own lack of an affirmative strategy for getting along with Japan.

"If Koizumi suddenly stopped visiting the shrine, what would China do?" he asks. "I'm not sure Beijing knows."
I always find this to be a cop out. It goes back to the "we won't do it because it won't make a difference" crowd. You don't know that! Japan has never been willing to face its past so it is disingenuous to say this. Besides that, it doesn't matter anyway. Anyway you look at it, if Japan would face its past and atone for past crimes, it would win. Period. Japan would win. Either other nations would accept the act(s) of contrition and relations would improve or Japan would gain the moral high ground and the rest of the world would condemn the other nations for not accepting Japans acts of remorse and repentance.