Wednesday, October 31, 2012

This Senkakus Thing Is Not Getting Any Better, Folks

For all those those who have told me, in communications public or private, for weeks now that the government of China, after a period of bluster, is ready, if only the Government of Japan were not so stubborn, to resume the fostering of a relationship of increasing trust, stability and reasonableness, a message:

Please...stop.

China raises stakes over disputed islands *
Financial Times

China has started making concerted efforts to chase Japanese ships out of waters surrounding the disputed Senkaku islands in the East China Sea, ratcheting up tensions between Asia's two largest economies.

The Chinese State Oceanic Administration – which enforces the nation's maritime interests – said four of its ships on Tuesday tried to expel Japanese vessels out of waters where they were operating "illegally".

[Snip]

This move by China could change the status quo in a dispute that has escalated in recent years, Chinese analysts said. Last month, Beijing announced a territorial baseline for the disputed islands that defined the exact geographical location of its claimed territory to back its long-standing claim.

"Chinese government vessels did not chase Japanese boats out of the islands' territorial waters in the past, as these waters were an area controlled by the Japanese coastguard," said Li Guoqiang, an expert on border issues at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "But the situation changed when we created a legal basis for enforcing our claim by announcing the territorial baseline for the islands in September."


(Link)
Of course the assertion that State Oceanic Administration ships chased out JCG vessels is a falsehood promoted solely for Chinese domestic consumption. However, that China's government and news agencies are collaborating in the promulgation of this false narrative should worry anyone with the least sense of how countries march into wars.

As for the theory behind the actions, The New York Times reported that former Ambassador Chen Jian yesterday gave a presentation to the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong that could singe one's ears off.

Ex-Envoy Says U.S. Stirs China-Japan Tensions
The New York Times

HONG KONG — A longtime Chinese diplomat warned Tuesday that the United States is using Japan as a strategic tool in its effort to mount a comeback in Asia, a policy that he said is serving to heighten tensions between China and Japan.

The retired diplomat, Chen Jian, who served as an under secretary general of the United Nations and as China's ambassador to Japan, said the United States should restrain Tokyo and should focus its diplomatic efforts on bringing about negotiations between China and Japan over the disputed islands in the East China Sea known as the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan.

In an unusually biting assessment of the United States, Mr. Chen said: "It is in the U.S. interest to quarrel with China, but not to fight with China." [This is not what Chen said – MTC]

While Mr. Chen has retired from China's diplomatic service, his remarks were particularly significant because they represent the most detailed public exposition of China’s views at a time when Chinese officials have been wary of making comments because of the approaching Communist Party Congress, which is scheduled to begin in Beijing on Nov. 8.

In the speech, which was organized by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was attended by half a dozen Chinese diplomats, Mr. Chen held out an olive branch by urging that discussions between Japan and China should start on ways to reduce the risk of clashes between Chinese and Japanese patrol vessels that have gotten perilously close off the islands in the last month.

But the thrust of his speech was more hard-hitting, particularly regarding the United States. Some in China and Japan see the issue of the islands "as a time bomb planted by the U.S. between China and Japan," he said. "That time bomb is now exploding or about to explode."

Mr. Chen accused the United States of encouraging the right wing in Japan, and fanning a rise of militarism...


(Link)

Being the skeptical soul that I am, I wondered what Chen really said. Luckily, the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Hong Kong is tech savvy and already has Ambassador Chen's address up on its website. (Link- scroll down)

For those without 26 minutes to spend listening to an inadvertently comic (albeit not Monty Pythonesque comic) view of history and international politics, some of the choicer bits, with commentary:

"Where there is oil, there is always trouble."

No comment necessary here.

"That happened at a time [1968] when China was busily engaged in what is called Cultural Revolution" {my underline – MTC}

Quick, someone call the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Dump the stale "Japanese armed forces 'advanced into' (shinpo) China" versus "Japanese armed forces 'invaded' (shinryaku) China" debate. It was never either. Textbooks and government documents should not equivocate: Japanese armed forces were "busily engaged (ii kagen ni shiro) in China."

"I have a story to tell here. I recall at one stage that the then president of Philippines visited China and met Deng Xiaoping. And that former president raised the question of some of the [Nansha] islands, saying that they are so close to the Philippines, why don’t let Philippines hold on to them? And what was Deng's reply? He said, 'For that matter, the Philippines is not that far from China.' (Laughter) Of course what Deng means is not the Philippines is part of China. What he meant is that geographical proximity should not be taken as the solution over sovereignty over islands."

Ha, ha, ha. Funny. They are rolling in the aisles in Manila.

"We are living in a globalized world and an information age. These two factors have changed everybody’s life as well as relations between states. They have quickened the space of changes in the pattern of international relations. So now we say today the world is undergoing a major transformation and adjustment. They have given rise to what is called popularism and nationalism, both of which are on the rise."

Retranslation: "Sorry, when we let our citizens torch your facilities, loot your stores and assault your diplomatic missions, it's not us, it's globalization and silicon chips/glass fiber/signal multiplexing/html that are to blame."

"The interaction of the media, politicians and the general public is far greater than before. The result of that interaction is…often leads to the escalation of tension, whether domestic or between states."

Of course, we are not talking about China here. In China, the government exerts benign control over the media, to promote peace and respect for law, both domestically and in between states.

"While most of China's neighbors regard China's rise as an opportunity, for opportunity I mean closer cooperation to achieve mutual development and prosperity, some of our neighbors regard it as a mixed blessing: opportunity in economic terms and challenge in security terms. As China is in the process of rising, and it will take years for China to be really strong, economically and militarily, some countries that have territorial disputes with China regard these years, I mean now and the coming years, as their last opportunity to take hold of what they believe belongs to them."{my underline - MTC}

Do the smart cookies understand now why I have been such a stick in the mud over the Government of Japan’s never admitting the existence of a territorial dispute over the Senkakus? Or be cajoled into attempting to deploy cute sophistry? (Link)

"What is 'smart power'? As I see it, smart power is combination of two mutually reinforcing means...mechanisms. One, making use of outside force or outside countries. Two, exploiting contradiction among countries of the region."

Outside force or outside countries? The inside being...where? Let me guess: Japan is "outside" and ASEAN is "inside."

As for the second point, someone needs to email Hun Sen and tell him the bad news that from now on, China is relying on dumb power alone. No more mon, no more fun.

"U.S. is urging Japan to play a greater role in the region -- in security terms, not just in the economic terms -- which suits the purpose of the right wing in Japan more than perfectly."

Though not nearly so perfectly as Chinese government-abetted anti-Japan rioting, the promotion of anti-Japanese feelings through education, the boycotts of Japanese products, the cut-offs of the exports of materials vital to Japanese industry, the dispatch of Chinese government vessels into Japanese territorial waters and attacks on Japanese diplomats and diplomatic missions. So suck on that America!

"But, are there guarantees that Japan and the Philippines...and other countries for that matter, will not misjudge U.S. intentions, and carry their quarrel with China too far, and draw United States and China into a confrontation? The danger is apparent and China needs to be alert to that."

"Too far"...What a concept! China asserts that the Senkakus are theirs and the area within the nine-dash line is at the very least a core interest. By definition, Japan claiming sovereignty over the Senkakus and the Philippines having facilities in the Spratlys – i.e., the status quo – is too far.

"No, what are China's policy options? [snip] I see two major determinants: protection of sovereignty and preservation of stability, both at home and abroad. The first is the responsibility of any national state, that is to protect national sovereignty. The latter is the prerequisite of development. China's option must be something less than perfect; it has to be between these two considerations."

A less-than perfect world for China. Oh boo-hoo-hoo.

For Amaterasu's sake, grow up.

"That explains why, so far, the Chinese government has not taken any pro-active action to initiate changes in the status quo, wherever the dispute lies. China only respond to what it sees as provocation. The only question one can raise is whether the response is commensurate."

No, one can also ask the question whether what China sees as provocation is in fact provocation, or merely a pretext for China to leap down from its Olympian foregoing of "proactive action to initiate changes" to a grubby initiation of changes in the status quo.

The above, minus the snarky MTC commentary, is only a taste of what is available. There is a stunningly weird attempt to explain Japanese domestic politics. The conclusion features a ridiculous set of principles for China to follow in its grinding acquisition of territories – a set of principles which, sorry to tell those enamored of the concept of submitting territorial disputes to the International Court of Justice, never once invokes international law. Indeed, Chen explains at the beginning of his presentation that international law is a root cause of the current territorial disputes.

Peace should be the ultimate goal of all actors in the East Asian region. What we have, however, is not peace but a cold ceasefire. Peace requires humility, empathy and an acceptance of reality. The leadership of China, for its own reasons, finds those three requirements inimical to its interests.

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* Michiyo-san and Ms. Hille, I got the message. Will your editors cut me some slack, as I select only a small part of the text and provide the link to the original article?

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