Japanese must see China anew

Publication Date : 07-11-2014


Given that the Sino-Japanese relationship has entered a complicated transformation period, in which crisis and unexpected incidents are likely to occur, China needs to come up with innovative policies to address the new situation so that the Japanese could change the way they perceive the rising China.

Relations between the two countries began to sour when Junichiro Koizumi visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honours 14 Class-A war criminals among others, several times when he was prime minister from 2001 to 2006, despite protests from China and Korea.

Although politicians on both sides tried to break the ice in the years that followed, they could never resolve the differences that exist on issues such as the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan.

The situation worsened after the United States launched its pivot to Asia strategy in 2010.

In order to cope with a rising China, the US and Japan have invented a China threat and strengthened and expanded their alliance to cover more fields such as cyberspace and intelligence cooperation. Strategic confrontation between the two Asian powers is looming heavily.

The policies of the Japanese government have cast such deep influences upon its society that the Japanese media’s default position is to construct China as an opponent, and that Japanese enterprises operating in China are looking or have moved elsewhere.

The decline in their trade volume for two consecutive years is clear evidence that the two neighbours are moving further away from each other.

But these changes have deeper roots in Japanese society. For the past two decades, the Japanese economy has been stuck in recession, and China replaced it as the world’s second-largest economy in 2010.

At the same time, its political ambitions, such as becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council and overturning the post-war system, have failed.

The national anxiety about Japan’s status and future has been exacerbated by China’s fast rise.

At a time when the global order is being reshaped, the Japanese are not sure what position their country will have in the new world system, hence they choose to support politicians that appear tough enough to give the country a voice that can be heard on the world stage.

That is also why Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken a tougher stance against China since December 2012.

Under the leadership of politicians with right-wing beliefs, Japan has already taken multiple moves to contain China, including seeking and strengthening a united front against China, strengthening its military capabilities and attempting to revise Japan’s pacifist Constitution that forbids it to have a military.

So what measures should China take in response? Doubtlessly, it needs to give up any illusions it may have to the contrary and be prepared for strategic competition even confrontation with Japan. But innovative strategic measures are needed to prevent the competition from becoming a security dilemma or an arms race between the two.

China has sent the message to the Japanese government that the “nationalising” of the main Diaoyu Islands in 2012 violated the consensus that had been reached to shelf the territorial dispute for a future and wiser generation to solve. The message should get across in a clear, unambiguous manner.

New mechanisms should be established to manage crises and prevent them from backfiring in the region. Scholars from the two nations can take the lead in this by discussing and proposing new measures such as creating a special peaceful zone around the disputed islands.

The Japanese public actually holds diverse views on the visits to the Yasukuni Shrine by the country’s leaders, and there is ample space for China to rally the support of those Japanese that oppose such visits to put pressure upon those politicians and leaders who persist in holding a wrong view of history.

China should also cultivate those Japanese politicians who have shown goodwill toward it.

The Japanese people do not want any hot or cold war, and they can well constrain their government through the Western-style democracy; all China needs to do is promote non-official interaction and let more friendly Japanese politicians and the public play more influential roles in steering Japan’s policy toward China.

It is also advisable to try and encourage the Japanese media to construct a positive image about China instead of demonising the nation as an opponent.

Media and academic communications should not be hindered by the current political stalemate; on the contrary, they can serve to overcome prejudice and the unreasonable hostility that has emerged.

China needs to make more friends internationally to break its containment. It has already improved relations with Russia and Korea. But more security cooperation is helpful with other neighbouring nations, so as to lay a sound basis for an East Asian security cooperation mechanism in the future.

The author is associate professor of international relations at Fudan University.


Source Article from http://asianewsnetwork.feedsportal.com/c/33359/f/566601/s/403d7717/sc/36/l/0L0Sasianewsnet0Bnet0Cnews0E671820Bhtml/story01.htm
Japanese must see China anew
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