Japan shining, but for the wrong reasons
Updated: 2012-07-31 08:09
By Cai Hong (China Daily)
Good advice is usually harsh to the ear. For proof, we need not look further than the suggestion of Japan's Ambassador to China Uichiro Niwa.
Niwa has drawn some criticism in his country after speaking what he really thought about the Diaoyu Islands (called the Senkaku in Japan) dispute. In an interview with the Financial Times in June, Niwa warned that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's plan to buy the Diaoyu Islands from their private Japanese owner could spark an "extremely grave crisis" between Japan and China.
There is now speculation in Japanese and Chinese media on whether he will have to return to Tokyo or stay in Beijing. The Japanese media reported on July 23 that the Japanese government is looking for Niwa's successor and may remove him in September. But the Japanese embassy has denied the news.
Niwa will be right if Japan goes ahead with its plan to purchase the Diaoyu Islands and causes a setback in Sino-Japanese relations.
The Japanese government has decided to "nationalize" the islets and is trying to buy them in April 2013. And Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba has said the Japan-US Security Treaty would protect the eight islets with US consent.
Gemba issued a warning for Niwa, too, saying the Diaoyu Islands issue is a "domestic", rather than foreign, affair.
All these are driving home the message that Japan seems to be devising a new but less cooperative strategy toward China.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda himself is in trouble, for some parliament members of the Democratic Party of Japan have resigned from the party. But he wants to change the official interpretation of Japan's right to collective self-defense, and has asked his government to consider revising the United Nations Peacekeeping Activities Cooperation Law to remove the restrictions on the use of weapons for Japan's Self-Defense Forces.
Besides, Japan has inserted words in the revised Basic Law on Atomic Energy that associate its nuclear power with its national security, which is believed to pave the way for Japan's potential nuclear armament. That means Noda is countering his opponents by being aggressive.
In September 2009, the DPJ came to power with underlining weaknesses and without experience in governance as the financial crisis in the US and Europe hung over Japan's economy. Tokyo felt the need to improve and expand its relations with Beijing, making good use of China's robust economic development to breathe life into Japan's economy.
At the height of Japan's economic downturn, Niwa, a Sino-Japanese relations realist with decades of international trade experience, was appointed ambassador to China and given the responsibility of improving Sino-Japanese ties. He was the best choice because he was believed to be fully aware of China. It's to Niwa's credit that he also holds a seat on the Beijing International Entrepreneurs Advisory Board and is an economic adviser to Jilin and Jiangsu provinces.
In the July edition of Japan's leading monthly magazine Bungeishunj, Niwa said a market twice as large as Japan's economy would be visible across the sea from Japan. He recommended that Japan take advantage of China's economic development if it wanted to become an economic power once more. The crux of Japan's recovery is China.
Nationalism is rising in Japan with China's emergence as an economic power. Jingoists do not want Japan to play second fiddle to China. As a result, Japan has come up with a China policy of ambivalence.
Japan does not define its relations with China clearly, because it lacks a clear national objective for the years ahead. When a nation is lost within itself, it does not know how to deal with others.
Twenty years ago Japan's moderate conservatives proposed to build a Japan that would be small but shining, and play an international role with emphasis on environmental protection and people's livelihood. Over the past 20 years, Japan's share in the global economy has indeed become smaller. But today's neo-conservatives have alienated themselves from the moderates, making Japan shine for all the wrong reasons.
The author is the Tokyo bureau chief of China Daily. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
(China Daily 07/31/2012 page8)