The Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands dispute between China and Japan is heating up. The biggest anti-Japan protests in years erupted in China this weekend in response to 150 Japanese activists who attended a commemoration for Japan’s war dead there, reports the Financial Times:The Mukden Incident was basically a Far East Reichstag fire. On the night of September 18,1931, there was an explosion on the South Manchurian Railway, which was controlled by the Japanese as a result of their victory in the Russo-Japanese War in 1905. The Kwantung Army, Japan's garrison along the railroad's right-of-way, blamed the Chinese. In fact, the explosion had been caused by troops of the Kwantung Army, according to author David Bergamini, on orders from the inner circle of Emperor Showa (the postumous name of Hirohito). This was their excuse for invading and occupying Manchuria in what is now northeastern China.
Chinese protestors gathered in dozens of cities, in some cases vandalising Japanese-made cars and retail outlets. About 1,000 people marched in the southern city of Shenzhen, overturning a Japanese-made police vehicle and attacking a Japanese restaurant, according to Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency.And we can expect more to come. September 18 is the the 81st anniversary of the Mukden incident, Japan’s pretext for invading northern China in 1931. The same Chinese activists from Hong Kong who first landed on the island plan to organize protests at Japanese embassies across the world on this anniversary, according to the New York Times.
These are scary moments in the Game of Thrones. America’s interest is to push toward orderly and fair settlement of all claims. One possible measure would be to encourage negotiations on sharing resources, so that the nations of the region can benefit from the under-sea resources even before final decisions about sovereignty are made.Except -- and Walter Russel Mead, though an excellent analyst, is slow on the uptake here -- China is not interested in sharing. Not under the Communist government. They want to take. This is why they have been bullying everyone in the Far East, from Japan to Vietnam. This is why they insist on only bilateral negotiations, so they can intimidate their smaller neighbors. Except Japan will not be intimidated. Their navy is the third largest in the world, and of very high quality, featuring two aircraft carriers (Hyuga and Ise) that they have surreptitiously called "destroyers,"and a lot of very powerful ships -- much more powerful than anything China has -- with names World War II historians will recognize. A painful reminder for China, to be sure, but one the thugs running the country need. They are courting a war here.
We should have no illusions about the strength and bitterness of the passions these issues evoke. Countries have gone to war for far less.Indeed. Remember how the two tiny islands of Quemoy and Matsu nearly led to nuclear war?
Despite his blindness on this issue, Mead has lotsa good stuff on the Senkaku issue on his blog. Check it out and keep scrolling.