[From November Issue 2012]
This September the Japanese government purchased territory on the Senkaku Islands – which it regards as being part of Japan – from a private Japanese owner, placing the area under state control. China strongly objected to Japan claiming the Senkaku Islands as its own territory and sent several patrol ships to the area. Violent anti-Japanese demonstrations took place all over China. In contrast, Japan has remained calm and there has hardly been any harassment of, or violence towards, Chinese residents in Japan.
After making sure that the Senkaku Islands hadn’t been claimed by any other nation, Japan listed the Senkaku Islands as part of Okinawa Prefecture in 1895. It’s now an uninhabited island, but there was once a dried bonito factory there and more than 200 Japanese inhabitants. In San Francisco in 1951 Japan entered into a peace treaty with the allied nations, officially bringing the war to a close. In the treaty, the Senkaku Islands were not included in the list of territory Japan surrendered.
On the Chinese side the Diaoyu Islands (China’s name for the Senkaku Islands) first appeared in a document from the Ming period (14~17 century). They claim that China did not participate in the San Francisco treaty and that Japan illegally stole the islands during the First Sino-Japanese War. China began insisting that the islands were part of Chinese territory in the 1970s after the UN reported that the waters around the Senkaku Islands were potentially rich in oil reserves.
In China the gap between the rich and poor has widened and the frustration of the populace has risen. It is said that the Chinese government is making a show of taking a tough stance, and demonstrators have become angry mobs. In order to let the Chinese people vent their frustrations, the Chinese government hasn’t called a halt to the demonstrations. However, images of violent demonstrators were broadcast all over the world, reaffirming China’s image as a reactionary country.
Japan has been carefully monitoring the situation, but some people criticize the government’s attitude as being too weak. If the Chinese military intervenes in this issue, it will develop into a serious situation involving the USA. Japan and America are bound together by the US-Japan security treaty and the Senkaku Islands are part of Okinawa Prefecture, where the most important American military bases are located in the Far East. The US State Department has stated that the Senkaku Islands are covered by the security treaty.
The 40 Anniversary of Normalization between Japan and China
This year marks the 40th year since Japan-China Joint Communique of 1972. In the communique the following sentence states that both sides will: “Settle all disputes by peaceful means, without recourse to the use or threat of force.”
Six years later in August 1978, the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China was signed by Prime Minister FUKUDA Takeo. In the same year October, Chinese Vice Premier Deng XIAOPING visited Japan and said, referring to the issue of the Senkaku Islands, “It does not matter if this question is shelved for some time, say, ten years. Our generation is not wise enough to find common language on this question. Our next generation will certainly be wiser. They will certainly find a solution acceptable to all.”
Now Japan and China have strong economic ties. In 2011 trade between Japan and China is so big that it accounted for 23.3% of “world trade.” China is Japan’s most important trading partner and Japan is China’s third most important trading partner. With more than 22,000 Japanese companies operating in China employing ten million Chinese, Japan is the number one investor in China. If both countries enter into a conflict, both will lose out.