Thursday, August 23, 2012

Diaoyu Islands or Senkaku Islands - Power Shift and Institutional Failure?

The landing of Hong Kong activists on a disputed island, known as the Diaoyu islands in China and the Senkaku islands in Japan sharply intensified tensions between the two countries.

After Japan arrested the Chinese group Wednesday, there were anti-Japan demonstrations in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Beijing.China warned Japan not to allow Sunday's landing, urging it not to "undermine China's territorial sovereignty," according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

Furious anti-Japan protests erupted in mainland China cities Sunday after a Japanese group landed on an island that both countries claimed to be theirs to raise the flag. Protesters toppled Japanese-made cars, burned Japanese flags, and shouted that the island is Chinese territory and Japan should get out, according to the state-run China Daily newspaper report.

A significant number criticized the Chinese government for its timidity. The outspokenly hawkish called on the Chinese government to take radical action including the Chinese military to seize Japanese ships in defending the islands.

Confrontations between Japan and China on or near the dispute islands thus claimed by some analysts have the potential to become larger international incidents, but under current circumstances, the full-scale war between the countries might not happen.

The root cause of the anti-Japanese protest  rises seems to be the timidity of the Chinese government besides the issues of the country's sovereignty, national unity and territorial integrity over the dispute, as claimed by the Chinese hawkish.

According to some analysts, it reflects the historical animosities especially bitter Chinese memories of war-time atrocities carried out by the invading Japanese army in the 1930s and 1940s notably the Nanking Massacre during the Second Sino-Japanese War, which hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians and disarmed soldiers were murdered by soldiers of the Imperial Japanese Army; the Boxer Protocol of 7 September 1901 which caused severe punishments, including an indemnity of 450 million taels of silver, more than the mainland China government's annual tax revenue, to pay as indemnity over a course of 39 years to the Eight-Nation Alliance which brought 20,000 armed troops to China to captured Beijing; and the legacy of Genghis Kahn Mongol Empire.

On the other hand, China's emergence as an economic giant after 1990 dimmed the memories of Japan's achievement. As major economic power but overtook by mainland China, Japan still has the world's third-largest economy and the world's fourth-largest exporter as claimed by economists.  Although Japan has officially renounced its right to declare war, it maintains a modern military force used for self-defense and peace keeping roles, and seems be prepared to use it aggressively in the dispute islands, according to some international analysts.

Both sides say they have a history of economic use of the islands. The mainland China and Taiwan claim that the islands have been a part of Chinese territory since at least 1534. Taiwan stressed that the islands were serving as important fishing grounds administered by the province of Taiwan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that this is "fully proven by history and is legally well-founded".

They acknowledge that Japan took control of the islands in 1894–1895 during the first Sino-Japanese War, through the signature of the Treaty of Shimonoseki. They assert that the Potsdam Declaration (which Japan accepted as part of the San Francisco Peace Treaty) required that Japan relinquish control of all islands except for "the islands of Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine", and they state that this means control of the islands should pass to China.

Japan says it surveyed the islands for 10 years and determined that they were uninhabited. That being the case, on 14 January 1895 it erected a sovereignty marker that formally incorporated the islands into Japanese territory. The Senkaku islands became part of the Nansei Shoto islands - also known as the Ryukyu Islands and now as modern-day Okinawa prefecture.

After World War II Japan renounced claims to a number of territories and islands including Taiwan in the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco. But under the treaty the Nansei Shoto islands came under US trusteeship and were then returned to Japan in 1971, under the Okinawa reversion deal.

Japan says that China raised no objections to the San Francisco deal. And it says that it is only since the 1970s, when the issue of oil resources in the area emerged, that Chinese and Taiwanese authorities began pressing their claims.

Based on the above chronology, it seems that the super power especially US strategized the plan to safeguard its interest and to suppress mainland China and segregate Taiwan by returning the disputed islands to Japan.

Are integrative strategies the solution or sharing the sovereignty to solve the dispute between the two nations? 

Some claimed that the international politics is more of a zero sum game than most people realize, will it be the zero sum game?

Politics is an art of the impossible; but who can rewrite the political impossibility? Let’s wait and see.


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