POINT OF VIEW/ Nobuyoshi Sakajiri: China playing dangerous game of 'chicken' with Japan

September 16, 2012

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

The Chinese public was shaken and is reacting strongly to “nationalization” of the Senkaku Islands by the Noda administration, and not the Chinese administration of Hu Jintao.

That is because they have been told the islets, called the Diayou Islands in China, have been Chinese territories since ancient times.

Many Chinese were unaware that the islands in the East China Sea have been administered by Japan, common knowledge in the international community.

Slogans put up by young protesters who assembled before the Japanese Embassy in Beijing on Sept. 15 over the territorial row were dreadful. One, for example, while referring to Japanese in derogatory terms, "Xiao Riben," can be translated as saying to "wipe out to the last Japanese." This is downright insane.

Beijing sent six marine surveillance vessels into Japan’s territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands on Sept. 14.

The Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, reported that the vessels reached waters surrounding the Diaoyu Islands and defended their rights and enforced the law.

The state-run China Central Television repeatedly aired footage of crew members of the Chinese surveillance vessels notifying the Japan Coast Guard boats in Japanese territorial waters that they are infringing on Chinese sovereignty and that if they do not halt their activities, they will be the ones responsible for whatever consequences that follow.

The report was aimed at explaining to the public what the Chinese side told the Japanese authorities.

China had no other choice but to explain what it is doing in the East China Sea.

Two years ago, when a Chinese fishing trawler deliberately rammed two Japan Coast Guard vessels off the Senkaku Islands, the state-run media and emerging media outlets, which are often tilted toward commercialism, covered the incident as if the captain of the trawler were a victim and a hero.

Few in China know that Japanese used to inhabit the islands for decades. China began claiming the Senkakus only after reports had surfaced that the sea around the islands may abound in natural resources. But these facts are scarcely known in China.

China is now facing the music for a lack of education about the Senkakus and media reports that lacked balance.

Chinese authorities, unable to reign in the public anger, are condoning the mob violence, plunder and burning by anti-Japan demonstrators.

A boycott of Japanese products appear to be spreading after a high-ranking official with the government made remarks that showed understanding for such a move.

Moreover, Fu Ying, vice foreign minister, refused on Sept. 14 to meet with Uichiro Niwa, Japanese ambassador, who visited the Chinese ministry to lodge a protest over the Chinese vessels entering Japanese territorial waters.

Although China was calling for settling the territorial dispute through dialogue, it looks as if both the government and the private sector are in fact forming a united front to play a game of chicken with Japan.

Chinese media on Sept. 15 did not report on the mob violence against Japanese establishments erupting in many parts of China, except for the state-run Xinhua news agency, which carried a brief report on the demonstrations in its English-language version.

If this approach is maintained, China will eventually find itself cutting its own throat.

* * *

Nobuyoshi Sakajiri is chief of The Asahi Shimbun’s China General Bureau.

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Chinese demonstrators clash with policemen at the barricades during an anti-Japan protests outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing on Sept. 15. Angry protesters staged anti-Japanese demonstrations in cities across China on Sept. 15 over Japan's control of disputed islands, with a protest in Beijing turning violent before being brought under control by police. (AP Photo)

Chinese demonstrators clash with policemen at the barricades during an anti-Japan protests outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing on Sept. 15. Angry protesters staged anti-Japanese demonstrations in cities across China on Sept. 15 over Japan's control of disputed islands, with a protest in Beijing turning violent before being brought under control by police. (AP Photo)

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  • Chinese demonstrators clash with policemen at the barricades during an anti-Japan protests outside the Japanese Embassy in Beijing on Sept. 15. Angry protesters staged anti-Japanese demonstrations in cities across China on Sept. 15 over Japan's control of disputed islands, with a protest in Beijing turning violent before being brought under control by police. (AP Photo)
  • Nobuyoshi Sakajiri (The Asahi Shimbun)

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