China-Japan Islands Dispute

5 Feb

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“Ties between China and Japan have been repeatedly strained by a territorial row over a group of islands, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China”. The islands are currently owned by Japan, however conflict has arisen as the Chinese claim these Islands have historically been Chinese territory. The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that this is “fully proven by history and is legally well-founded”, however the Japanese argue that under the 1951 Treaty of San Francisco the Islands fell from Japanese to US trusteeship, and were subsequently returned to Japan in 1971.

The growing tensions between China and Japan escalated, leading to violent riots across China in September 2012, following the Japanese Government’s purchase of a further 3 Islands from a wealthy Japanese family. The islands are considered important to both countries due to their location in relation to shipping routes, the fishing grounds offered and the rich oil deposits available. In more than 50 cities across China in mid-September 2012, protestors took to the streets against Japan, targeting Japanese restaurants, factories and vehicles. In Beijing Police action was taken to stop protestors attacking the Japanese embassy, however they [the police] allowed for negative chants, slogans to be brandished and objects such as rocks and eggs to be thrown at the embassy. The Chinese Government did however call for order after 2 days of violence, with Xi Jinping the [at the time] president-in-waiting stating he would subsequently attend a meeting with the South-East Asian leaders to resolve growing tensions within the region.

However, the timing and nature of the protests is somewhat ‘fishy’. China has a history of disallowing protests; note the horrific massacre at Tiananmen Square in 1989. Whilst small scale protests have often been allowed, large scale outbursts, such as the anti-Japan protests that attracted International Attention are, more often than not, quelled by the Chinese Government. However, these protests were not. Instead they were [to a degree] allowed by the Government and Police. Could it be argued that this allowing of violent protest by the Government was due to the sense of Nationalism it created? A National Identity that coincidently fitted in well with the new leadership structuring of the Chinese Government? And a sense of Nationalism that allowed domestic social and political issues to become of a lesser concern?

Banners portraying slogans such as – “For the respect of the motherland, we must go to war with Japan”, were viewed in Cities across China therefore showing the sense of Nationalism that became apparent during the protests. The sparking of this sense of Nationalism will have certainly helped to legitimise the new structure of the Chinese Government that was announced 2 months later in November 2012, and therefore it could be argued that protests on such as large scale [which have previously been all but quelled by the Government] were only allowed by the Chinese Government in order to legitimise the new regime.

Sources:

Q&A: China-Japan Islands Row. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11341139

Anti-Japan Protests erupt in dozens of Chinese cities in disputed islands row. Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/9545254/Anti-Japan-protests-erupt-in-dozens-of-Chinese-cities-in-disputed-islands-row.html

China seized by second day of violent Anti-Japan Riots. Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/9546336/China-seized-by-second-day-of-violent-anti-Japan-protests.html

1989: Tiananmen Square Massacre. Source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/june/4/newsid_2496000/2496277.stm

Thomas Lum (2006) Social Unrest in China. Source: http://digitalcommons.ilr.cornell.edu/cgi/v iewcontent.cgi?article=1018&context=crs&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.co.uk%2Fscholar%3Fstart%3D10%26q%3Dchinese%2Bgovernment%2Bprotests%26hl%3Den%26as_sdt%3D0%2C5#search=%22chinese%20government%20protests%22

China Confirms Leadership Change. Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-20321603

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10 Responses to “China-Japan Islands Dispute”

  1. aa29g11 February 5, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    It is interesting to see what the outcome of this will be. Whether the Chinese government will allow protests to continue or not to. What is interesting is that the Japanese government have now established an office in order to deal with this issue. At the moment it does not seem as if either side will give up due to the resources that these island possess.

    http://europe.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2013-02/06/content_16204897.htm

  2. ja11g12 February 6, 2013 at 11:46 am #

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21337444
    It is also interesting to see how far China will take action against Japan in this dispute, especially as China acted provocatively after the dispute had calmed down and both nations had entered talks.

    You also have to wonder what the Chinese government will do regarding this surge in nationalism, whether they will try to subdue it or use it to their advantage and encourage it.

  3. iyh1g10 February 6, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    I wonder if there could be some truth that the timing and nature of the protests and the Chinese Government’s response towards it being somewhat ‘fishy’ could be partially due to the Communist Party rallying nationalist resentment against Japan and its ally, the United States, as a diversion from China’s significant social challenges such as polluted air, endemic corruption, food hygiene issues and lack of press freedom of speech.

    I am interested in seeing the outcome as from the current looks of it, the problem with the issue at hand seems so impossible to fix with neither countries willing to give way. It is a pressure cooker environment with both countries very possessive over what they deem to be theirs but it is vital that neither party can afford to make a mistake as it would be harder to go back once actual consequences occur.

    The rift between the two nations has historical roots, however it cannot be ignored that action to be taken in the future is driven by political forces. There may have been talks of first shots and warships but it would appear that the “battle” is not solely a military one. The dispute has raised tension beyond that of the two countries, involving the US and other South Asian countries as well. The US is obligated by treaty to defend Japan if it is attacked and Japan has reportedly made efforts to rope other South Asian countries which have different values from China, in an attempt to build a network against it. It is questionable how much weight these other countries carry in influencing the decision to be made. The US has been trying to convince both sides to negotiate and it has to be careful not to take sides, being bound by its alliance to the Japanese while likely wanting to maintain a diplomatic relationship with China. There has been a shift in power in China and Japan over the years from when the island was first seized by Japan in 1895 and whether that poses as a factor is interesting to note.

    The U.S. interest in an Asian island dispute. Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/japan-and-chinas-island-argument-is-a-us-concern/2013/02/05/fbc7ed62-6999-11e2-af53-7b2b2a7510a8_story.html

    China rebukes US over ‘ignorant’ comments on island dispute with Japan. Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/21/china-japan-senkaku-islands-hillary-clinton

  4. cjf3g11 February 6, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

    I find it interesting that this has sparked nationalistic identity in china and that it has possibly been used as a tool by the government to gain support for the new regime. The fact that the police and government did very little to stop the violence could be seen as encouraging this nationalism and therefore support the suggestion that the issue of the islands was used as a tool. Furthermore the islands have not been inhabited since the end of world war two and had been forgotten about for decades. Therefore it seems to be too much of a coincidence that China is now suddenly aggressively asserting their claim over the islands (which has resulted in strong nationalism), at the same time as the new regime. However would china really risk going to war with Japan just to promote support for their new regime? It seems a bit extreme.
    The tensions over the islands are ultimately never ending as it is unclear who the islands actually belong to as both china and japan believe the islands are theirs, this therefore creates a potentially dangerous situation if an agreement is not reached.

  5. imagemadness February 6, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

    Although the Chinese can prove that the Diaoyu islands belong to them since ancient times, it is rather curious for China to not have realized the Japanese have already incorporated the islands into Japanese territory in 1895, three months before the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed. Even if China believed the islands were ceded to Japan along with Taiwan, the possession of the islands should be made aware to China in the Treaty of Francisco, yet it raised no objections. If China is to claim the islands back, Taiwan seems to have more ‘rights’ as it was in administration of the islands before the Japanese discovered them.

    Moreover, Japan has also monitored the islands for a decade before incorporating it into its territory, the islands were found to be uninhabited. Applying the concept of adverse possession in land law, Japan has already destroyed China’s title on the islands after possessing it for over a century. This may seem unfair, but it is ultimately a pragmatic approach to the use of land.

    On a more interesting note, despite the anti-Japan protests across China, it is very difficult for the Chinese to deny they do not appreciate anything from their opposition. “The Diaoyu islands belong to China; Sora Aoi belongs to the world.” Miss Aoi, a Japanese AV idol who is admired by millions Chinese young men was somehow targeted in the slogan regarding the nations dispute. Despite she is a very influential Japanese figure in China, her attempt to ease the tension between the two nations on Sina Weibo China’s twitter has seemed to fail for receiving many negative responses.

    http://www.economist.com/node/21563349

    http://www.tealeafnation.com/2012/09/japanese-adult-film-actress-tries-online-diplomacy-but-word-order-gets-in-the-way/

  6. kh13g11 February 11, 2013 at 1:17 pm #

    Disputes with Japan have been well documented over the course of Chinese history notably in the 1930’s when there was dispute over the Manchurian railway. In that instance there was a carefully orchestrated plan to create an event that would look like the Chinese were showing an act of aggression and then they were be able to move troops into a previously unoccupied area under the false pretence of protecting what was rightfully theirs, the railway. The Lytton report was written to try and find fault and resolution to the problem. However when the Japanese launched an offensive injuring hundreds in Shanghai international sympathy broke down and a withdrawal of troops commenced. The rebuke that Japan received in the Lytton report when it was found to be the aggressor led to a withdrawal from the League of Nations and tension that eventually contributed to World War 2.
    In terms of the current land dispute again foreign involvement in the form of US comments from Hilary Clinton the secretary of state have this time angered the Chinese after she spoke in support of the Japanese who recently bought the islands from their private owners. In a time of huge technological advances and China’s dominance of the world economy turn this into a largely political battle as war would be too catastrophic.

    http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1499.html
    [accessed 06/02/13]
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/21/china-japan-senkaku-islands-hillary-clinton
    [accessed 06/02/13]

  7. samhemming February 12, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    The dispute over the Senkaku or Daioyu islands has only continued to escalate in 2013 with China directing weapons-targeting radar at Japanese naval vessels. China having a territorial dispute over an island’s sovereignty isn’t a new situation. Taiwan is perhaps the most blatant of disputes dating back to the civil war that established the Chinese Communist Party rule in China. Interestingly as part of the Taiwanese Republic of China’s claim to be the true Chinese government it also believes itself the rightful government of many of the territories that the People’s Republic also claims. The competing claims include the Paracel Islands, with Vietnam, as well as the Spratly Islands, with both the Vietnamese and the Philippines. These issues came to a head when Vietnam refused to stamp Chinese passports. It is worth questioning the motivation behind the claims and whether they should be considered together.
    It may be as simple as a race for resources. There is potential oil wealth near the Senkaku/Daioyu Islands and the Spratlys, which possibly mirror the mineral wealth of the surrounding area. Given China’s formidable industry the desire to obtain these resources is understandable. However there are also some political issues that are no doubt relevant. China building up its territorial claims in the South and the East China Sea strengthens its presence in the area and the People’s Republic’s position in regards to Taiwan, a constant threat to Chinese sovereignty. This issue of sovereignty or territorial integrity can also be seen as a potential cause of the situation. It may be that the Chinese government wants to carry on the tradition of Chairman Mao as a ‘great unifier,’ joetaylor704 explains how important Mao’s popularity remains in his article. So perhaps the claims to disputed territory are just the most recent of government emphasis on territorial integrity in foreign affairs that dates back to the ‘Five Principles of Peaceful co-existence.’

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-20491426
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-13748349
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21337444
    https://uosm2018.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/the-scale-of-maos-importance-and-reputation/

  8. db7g09 February 26, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

    So far many states involved in disputes have been able to resolve a large number of maritime boundary conflicts through negotiation. The states’ practice of resolving disputes is not reflected in the current legal situation of 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), which does not permit ready resolutions of boundary disputes in sufficient time.

    As a mandatory legal regime does not exist between the disputants, a pure legal solution will not be implemented in the Diaoyu / Senkaku Islands conflict. Concerning the possession of the islands, no party will concede the ownership of the islands to the opposite party because the islands are too closely linked to other soft factors, such as nationalism and retaliation of former humiliations. A military solution is not very probable either because China has espoused the peaceful rise tactics. Its ascendancy requires a peaceful international environment so that access to supplies still can boost their economic growth. Given China’s domestic instability it would be foolhardy for the CCP regime to put this supportive environment at risk.

    On these grounds the only viable solution is a joint development. Regarding the Nansha Islands, Deng Xiaoping said in 1988 that the Philippines and China should put the
    issue aside for the time being and take the approach of pursuing a joint development, similar to that of the Japanese-Korean joint development, which concerns the ‘Southern Part of the Continental Shelf Adjacent to the Two Countries’. The question of the islands sovereignty should be discarded and the emphasis laid on an equal repartition of the resources. In order to ensure this goal, the parties should establish many subzones within the Chinese / Japanese / Taiwanese continental Shelves, to be shared equally. From today’s perspective, the bilateral ties between Japan, China and Taiwan seem to be too strained for a common solution and the conflict will presumably drag on for a while. Being aware of the Japan’s leeway, I would contend that the factor of time and the dwindling supplies may make the disputants alter their standpoints in the near future and that Deng Xiaoping’s foresight will become reality.

    Sources:

    Jonathan I. Charney, “The Delimitation of Ocean Boundaries”, in: D. G. Dallmeyer, L. DeVorsey (ed.), Rights To Oceanic Resources (1rst ed., 1989), 42

    Russell Org, China’s Security Interests in the 21rst Century (1rst ed., 2007), 119; Ingrid d’Hooghe, “Public Diplomacy in the People’s Republic of China”, in: Jan Melissen (ed.) The New Public Diplomacy (1rst ed., 2005), 90

    Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Set aside dispute and pursue joint development,”

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, ‘Q & A on the Senkaku Islands’ (Recent Japan-China Relations 2010)

    Tough talks ahead for Japan

    • db7g09 February 26, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

      Please can you delete the above comment, I can’t seem to delete my comment.

  9. db7g09 February 26, 2013 at 6:49 pm #

    So far many states involved in disputes have been able to resolve a large number of maritime boundary conflicts through negotiation. The states’ practice of resolving disputes is not reflected in the current legal situation of 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), which does not permit ready resolutions of extant boundary disputes.

    As a mandatory legal regime does not exist between the disputants, a pure legal solution will not be implemented in the Diaoyu / Senkaku Islands conflict. Concerning the possession of the islands, no party will concede the ownership of the islands to the opposite party because the islands are too closely linked to other soft factors, such as nationalism and retaliation of former humiliations. A military solution is not very probable either because China has espoused the peaceful rise tactics. Its ascendancy requires a peaceful international environment so that access to supplies still can boost their economic growth. Given China’s domestic instability it would be foolhardy for the CCP regime to put this supportive environment at risk.

    On these grounds the only viable solution is a joint development. Regarding the Nansha Islands, Deng Xiaoping said in 1988 that the Philippines and China should put the issue aside for the time being and take the approach of pursuing a joint development, similar to that of the Japanese-Korean joint development, which concerns the ‘Southern Part of the Continental Shelf Adjacent to the Two Countries’. The question of the islands sovereignty should be discarded and the emphasis laid on an equal repartition of the resources. In order to ensure this goal the parties should establish many subzones within the Chinese / Japanese / Taiwanese continental Shelves, to be shared equally. From today’s perspective, the bilateral ties between Japan, China and Taiwan seem to be too strained for a common solution and the conflict will presumably drag on for a while. Being aware of the Japan’s leeway, I would contend that the factor of time and the dwindling supplies may make the disputants alter their standpoints in the near future and that Deng Xiaoping’s foresight will become reality.

    Sources:

    Jonathan I. Charney, “The Delimitation of Ocean Boundaries”, in: D. G. Dallmeyer, L. DeVorsey (ed.), Rights To Oceanic Resources (1rst ed., 1989), 42

    Russell Org, China’s Security Interests in the 21rst Century (1rst ed., 2007), 119; Ingrid d’Hooghe, “Public Diplomacy in the People’s Republic of China”, in: Jan Melissen (ed.) The New Public Diplomacy (1rst ed., 2005), 90

    Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Set aside dispute and pursue joint development,”
    http://www.new.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/ziliao/3602/3604/t18023.htm

    ‘Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, ‘Q & A on the Senkaku Islands’ (Recent Japan-China Relations 2010)’ http://www.mofa.go.jp/region/asia-paci/china/r-relations.html

    ‘Tough talks ahead for Japan’ http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2013/02/26/editorials/tough-talks-ahead-for-japan/#.USz0-6WpUnE

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