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On Sino-Japanese Relations

Sino-Japanese relations turn cold over history, Taiwan, security, and territory issues.

Sino-Japanese Relations Turn Cold Over History, Taiwan, Security, and Territory Issues

August 15, 2005, is the 60th anniversary of the Japanese defeat and surrender in World War II. A reporter from China Youth Daily, a newspaper under China’s Central Communist Youth League, held an exclusive interview with Dr. Jin Xide, a researcher at the Institute of Japan Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The interview centered on the questions that are typical of the Chinese government’s voice on the subject: Over the last 60 years, especially in the recent 10 years, what has Japan done about the "reflection on its invasion history?" How has it dealt with relations with its neighboring Asian countries? What does the "Resolution at the 60th Anniversary of World War II" passed by the Japanese House of Representatives tell regarding its intention?

The report was republished on the website of the Xinhua News Agency, Xinhuanet, under the title of "Japan repeatedly challenges the bottom line of Sino-Japanese relations" on August 15, 2005. Below is the translation of the report.

"Reporter (hereafter referred to as ‘R’): On August 2, the Japanese House of Representatives adopted the ‘Resolution at the 60th Anniversary of World War II.’ What is different when comparing it with the ‘Resolution at the 50th anniversary of World War II’ that passed in 1995? What is the new trend reflected in these differences?

"Jin Xide (hereafter referred to as ‘Jin’): Compared to the 1995 ‘Resolution at the 50th Anniversary of World War II,’ there is both similarity and difference.

"The similarity: Both resolutions wanted to summarize the understanding of World War II. Also, both of them evaded important questions and opted for the easy ones. They avoided addressing the responsibility of an invader and played games with wording, which put the blame on the then so-called "era of invasion" to make light of its crime of invasion.

"The difference is that the 2005 one is more regressive than the 1995 resolution. First, the words or phrases such as ‘invasion’ and ‘colonial ruling’ were deleted in the 2005 resolution. Instead it used vague words such as the ‘past acts of Japan’ to describe what Japan had done in the war and further blurred and lessened its responsibility of the invasion. Second, added to the resolution was ‘Japan was a victim’ and ‘Japan was the only country hit by atomic bombs.’ By emphasizing ‘Japan as a victim,’ it further covered up Japan’s crime of invasion. Thirdly, it included the theme of ‘commemorating the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations’ to echo with Japan’s diplomatic ‘struggle for the membership of the UN Security Council.’
"To sum up, the ‘Resolution at the 60th Anniversary of World War II’ has reflected the Japanese political move of completely turning right, and has shown a hard-line posture in order to move toward a political power.

"R: Since the 1990s, Japanese right-wing forces have risen and expanded day by day, and have committed a series of acts that hurt the feelings of neighboring countries. Could you give some analysis on the tendency of Japan’s moving to ‘pro-right wing’ in diplomatic affairs toward China over the last 10 years? What are the signs of this tendency?

"Jin: After the 1990s, Japan’s attitude toward China was indeed different from that in the 1970s and 1980s. As a result of changes of factors such as international environment, the growth rate of the economy, Japan’s domestic politics and so on, Japan’s policy toward China became increasingly right-wing and hard-line after the 1990s. Specifically, it manifests as follows:

"The first one is the issue of history. The most obvious has been worshiping the Yasukuni Shrine. Koizumi has worshiped it consecutively for four times and showed no sign of his regret until now. Another is that Japan didn’t show any concern about the issue of changing history textbooks. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology connived with Fusosha Publishing Inc. to publish the right-wing textbooks. Moreover, some cabinet members repeatedly denied the history of Japan’s aggression. This force has widely spread, without any constraint. Wrong acts by the Prime Minister and cabinet members become more and more public. What I want to emphasize is that Japan’s attitude toward the history issue poses a serious challenge to the political basis of Sino-Japanese relations.

The second one is the Taiwan issue. Japan should not interfere with the Taiwan issue and have official contacts with Taiwan. However, in recent years, the official relations between Japan and Taiwan have escalated day by day. For example, Japan lifted the ban on visits to Taiwan by officials above the Division level, allowed Lee Teng-Hui to visit Japan, publicly stated that the alliance between Japan and the United States certainly includes Taiwan, and restored the commemoration of the Japanese Emperor’s birthday in Taiwan and so on.

"The third one is the security issue. More and more, Japan has shown its ambition to be not only a political power but also a military power. Specifically it dispatches troops abroad, engages in military integration of Japan and the United States, and the outward expansion of the Japanese military and so on. All of this has created serious negative pressure on the political atmosphere of Sino-Japanese relations and the mutual trust of security. Moreover, Japan even says that China poses a threat to Japan. Japan is one of the countries that most actively oppose the lifting of the European Union arms embargo against China.
"The fourth one is the territory/border issue. On the issues of the East China Sea and the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, Japan took an aggressive position and violated the agreement between China and Japan to peacefully settle territorial disputes. Not only did it unilaterally change the territory currently in dispute but also challenged the bottom line of Sino-Japanese relations.

R: What are Japan’s intentions in the series of these events?

"Jin: Japan wanted to quickly achieve the goal of becoming a strong political and military power. Therefore, on one hand, Japan helps the United States implement its Eastern Asia strategy, but on the other hand it achieves its own goal with support of the United States. Leaning on the United States, Japan adopted two key measures. The first is to deny its history of aggression. It is believed that to be a strong political power, Japan must take off the hat on its head that reads Invader in World War II. However, the measures would inevitably cause friction with and opposition from those countries that were invaded by Japan. The second is that Japan, while moving toward a powerful country, has to compete with China in order to lead Eastern Asia and constrain China.

"In summary, guided by its overall strategy of ‘cooperating with the United States to control Asia,’ Japan constrains China’s growth while it strives to establish its superiority over China in the aspects of politics, economy and security. These two points are incompatible with the healthy development of Sino-Japanese relations and would inevitably intensify the conflicts between China and Japan."

How Does China’s U.S. Expert Perceive the Role of U.S.-Japan Relations in China Affairs?

Below is a commentary written by Wang Yiwei, associate professor at the Center of American Studies, Fudan University, analyzing how the United States deals with Japan and formulates China strategy through Japan.

The article, titled "What does the United States Want to Probe China for through Japan?" was originally published in Global Times, a newspaper under the state-run Xinhua News Agency, on October 10, 2005. It was posted on Xinhuanet under the section "Xinhua Comments" on October 15, 2005.

"Koizumi, who has no achievements in foreign affairs, won the majority in Japan’s Lower House election on September 11. That can only be explained by either the lack of international vision or lack of international interests of Japanese voters. The premise is that the United States has provided international protection for Japan out of its own strategic consideration, and therefore Japanese voters have no need to be concerned about the deteriorating relationship of Japan with China and South Korea.
"The reason why the United States uses Japan is Japanese strategic geographic location and strategic goal. Japan is in a strategic geographic location for the United States to handle any situations in the Korean Peninsula or the Taiwan Straits. As for its strategic goal, Japan is ready to help the United States because it seeks permanent council membership on the United Nations Security Council and dreams of becoming a political power. However, does the United States trust Japan? Various signs indicate that the United States ignores Japan’s intention and will not let Japan go off track in the region or in international strategy. Then, how does the United States make use of Japan and restrain it at the same time?

"1. Assimilating Japan in ideology. It is the first ‘insurance.’ There is an old saying, ‘Cherish the same ideals and follow the same path.’ In Japan, many prominent dignitaries in politics and in academia were educated in the United States. Japan is not independent in the academic and ideological fields. Therefore the United States is at ease about Japan’s future. In Japanese society, English is the symbol of social status and it is widely used in conferences. For religions and beliefs, Christians account for a considerable percentage of the population. Public places such as bars or coffee shops are highly Americanized. Therefore, ‘Adoring America’ or ‘Pro-American’ always has its market in Japan.

"2. Unifying people’s minds systematically. People’s minds keep changing. Young Japanese are especially easy to change and often become the lead against the United States. To avoid such unfathomable situations caused by people’s mind, the United States will rely on the system restraint. The revision of guidelines of Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation and the enhancement of the legitimacy of cooperation between Japan and the United States is representative of such system restraint. Meanwhile, Japanese political system with the balance and checks of multi-parties also provides the assurance of internal restraint and system restraint. Political and system ‘insurance’ is a major move from influencing the society to restraining the authorities in light of the failure of the cultural ‘insurance.’

"3. Holding back certain technology. The cultural and political restraints may all fail. Therefore the military restraint will become the last line of ‘insurance.’ By controlling core technology of Japanese satellite communication, the United States poses a security threat to Japan, thus restraining Japan’s independence and preventing it from distancing the United States.

"While using Japan, the U.S. government never lets down its guard and imposes numerous restrictions on the research and development of key components in Japanese espionage satellites. According to an insider in the Japanese Defense Agency, the key components on espionage satellites such as CPU and core parts of optical instruments all came from the United States. The National Space Development Agency of Japan (NASDA) has been only in charge of final assembly and the launch. That is the fundamental reason why there were accidents from time to time in launching satellites in Japan, which is quite unusual in view of the high-tech superiority of Japan.
"In addition, another rope to tie Japan via technology is to ensure that Japan spends much of its funds and technology on its missile defense system that is under the control of the United States, thus rendering Japan unable to start its own missile defense system. Of course, American hegemonic flagrant ‘protection’ of the security of Japanese energy sources also makes Japan dependent on the United States.

"4. Necessary intelligence infiltration to assist the three ‘insurances’ mentioned previously. Besides the means of culture, politics and technology, the United States also has its secret way to control Japan-intelligence infiltration. Through strengthening the intelligence infiltration to Japan, the United States will be able to put Japan under its strategy track more conveniently. The United States wishes Japan to obey its commands instead of becoming a challengeable ‘great nation.’ Through intelligence, the United States can fully master any political, economical or military changes in Japan and therefore ensure Japan goes along the way that the United States plans.

"Of course, the United States also has met certain challenges in controlling Japan. The biggest challenge comes from the development of regional integration. The regional integration in the East Asian region has weakened the economic foundation of the relationship between the United States and Japan. At present, the China-Japan trade has surpassed the U.S.-Japan trade. Japan is returning to Asia economically and has to pay attention to the entire East Asian region as well. The United States also worries about the possible decline of its influence on the region as a result of regional integration. The second challenge is from the United States itself, that is, the global anti-America wave also influences anti-American sentiments in Japan. Lastly, the stability of the U.S.-China relationship limits the value of Japan to the United States.

"With the rise of China, some Americans hope to guide China toward ‘a balance that favors freedom.’ However, the American Hawkish factions still do not feel at ease with China and are always on guard. Therefore, Japan becomes its best ‘probe’ to poke China and the best chess piece to counter-attack the Chinese influence. Personally, I believe the relationship between China and Japan has not yet reached the bottom, because the United States is testing China through Japan’s seeking permanent council membership in the United Nations Security Council. However, Japan has its own abacus and will not be completely controlled by the United States. We can say that the United States is using possible China-Japan conflict to assess its long-term strategic relationship with China. U.S.-Japan agreements and conflicts remain the most significant external factor that will impact the development of China-Japan relationship."