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Fumanchu vs Samurai, who is going to win out?
Few issues had aroused China’s nationalist sentiment as did a territorial dispute involving
her traditional foe, Japan, a country that most Chinese people were taught to hate. To many people in both countries, the war which had officially ended more than 60 years ago seems to be carried on until this day. The situation refreshes itself recently as the two countries started fierce quarrels over the ownership of a few tiny uninhabited islands in Northern China Sea, known as Diaoyudao in Chinese, or Senkaku islands according to Japan‟s records.
Hatred toward Japan, often abetted by ultra-nationalist pandering from state-controlled news and media, appears to be an apt way besides money to rally Chinese masses to engage themselves in any collective efforts. After all, no country in modern history had inflicted such humiliation and damage to China as did Japan during the two Sino- Japan wars in the past 150 years. Taking revenge on Japan or demanding retribution on Japan‟s war-time crimes has thus become such a
parameter of testing one‟s patriotism that any different opinion could well be labeled as an act of
treason, especially by those uneducated and underprivileged youths who are desperately seeking a conduit to vent their agony toward social and economic injustice. For years, the two countries have been in constant diplomatic fights, particularly over the controversial visits of the Yashukuni shrine by Japanese officials including several prime ministers, a gesture interpreted by China as a sign of Japan‟s unwillingness to admit its war-time crimes and resurrection of militarism. The
relationship of the two countries dropped to frozen point recently when Japanese government under Mr. Noda declared that it would “purchase the disputed islands from a private Japanese citizen”, a symbolic way to formally confirm the ownership. Though often portrayed by
communist propagandas as the only government “wholeheartedly fighting to protect the best interest of Chinese people”, Mao‟s regime had rejected Japan‟s offer to pay back her war-time
compensation when the two countries established formal diplomatic relationship in 70‟s. Such a decision would have been unthinkable if China were ruled by a democratically elected government. Since China is still under the same Communist government, so virtually no one, except for the oversea dissidents, dares to raise this sensitive question. On the other hand, the communist regime was always known as a master in its ability to capitalize on Chinese people‟s nationalist sentiment to serve for its political agenda. And not surprisingly it has now resorted to this time-tested strategy of manipulating nationalism to find a way out of economic and diplomatic blockades set by the US and West. But only this time it seems Beijing may not be as confident as it was used to be when deploying this seemingly never-failing gadget of communist wisdom. Could communist China still be able to succeed in its attempt of tapping on the impulse of Chinese masses, however carefully camouflaged by nationalist sentiment?
Judging from a broader perspective of geopolitics, there appears to be something more than what meets the eyes in the row fighting for ownership of a few tiny islands in North China Sea. The fact that Japan brought up this territorial dispute not long after US‟s claiming of strategic shift
to Asia Pacific can hardly be dismissed as a simple coincidence. As a result, it may not be totally off the wall to view Japan‟s move could in fact be part of the US and Japan‟s joint efforts to contain their common rival, communist China. This is why the ruling-clan in Beijing has to be extremely cautious when using this strategy, mostly because any mishandling may well result in a backfire that could lead to disastrous side-effects.
The official reaction on the issue was as always vehement in the tone of rhetoric, unflinchingly denouncing Japan’s outrageous and despicable attempt to infringe the sacred
“China’s territorial sovereignty”. In the meanwhile, china also threats to boycott Japanese-made
goods and reduce Japan‟s investment in china, a method typically used by the communist regime to punish any foreign country that is on its way. The bad news for china is that this time Japan seems just as determined as her counterpart when it comes to the cause of protecting her “territorial sovereignty”, which is deemed by the Japanese masses, especially the right-extremists,
to be nothing less sacred than China‟s.
Japan’s stubbornness and determination put communist China in dire straits, largely because China is in no position to challenge both Japan and US in either military or economy. Despite the seemingly tough attitude and even saber-rattling, Beijing is highly unlikely to take any tangible actions to stop Japan from going ahead with its predetermined plan of seizing the disputed islands. As a matter of fact, Japan had since 1970‟s had the islands under her jurisdictional control, as testified by several arrests made on Chinese and Hong Kong activists attempting to land on the disputed islands in past decades. On each occasion, these Chinese thugs were swiftly rounded up and handcuffed by Japanese police the moment they set foot on the island, which was viewed by the whole world as an unequivocal sign of Japan‟s actual control of the islands. In the meanwhile, Beijing had done nothing except for launching waves after waves of anti-Japan ranting on TV and on street, threatening to boycott Japanese made goods, and to storm Japanese-owned supermarkets. The wooly-minded impulse turned out to be nothing but a mockery when Chinese protestors quickly found out the „Japanese owned stores” were actually run by Chinese staff and selling mostly locally made goods, and Japanese cars selling in China were also assembled in china‟s
As to boycotting Japanese made products, words stay longer than actions, for only a fool would like to replace his Japanese car for a junky Chinese-made one, despite the loss of face in not actively defending the so called “china‟s sacred nationalist sovereignty”.
Underneath that firing rhetoric so typical to a totalitarian regime, communist china is actually seeking a peaceful settlement with Japan. The government spokesperson, while scolding vehemently on any Japan‟s “despicable attempts on infringing china‟s sovereignty”, urges Japan to find a solution through negotiation. A conflict with Japan and US at this point comes untimely for the regime, who has been struggling desperately with its troubled economy and other domestic issues. Beijing is at the end of its tether, finding itself in a changing world where its fellow totalitarian regimes—North Korea, Syria, Iran, ---- are all facing extinction. Despite its reputation as the most tenacious and pragmatic regime of modern time, Communist China‟s days are indeed numbered ----it is only a matter of time before this decaying and corrupted bureaucratic system meeting its own demise. And Beijing knows by heart that although nationalism had in past served well for regime‟s political agenda, it is not totally risk-free, but a double-edged sword, so do speak.
Any failure of the regime‟s diplomatic efforts may be deemed by Chinese masses as a sign of weakness, and subsequently diminish their faith in its legitimacy to rule. On the other hand, a total engagement with Japan and US seems to be out of question, given the actual economic and military strength at china‟s disposal. A regional war with Japan or US combined with economic
sanctions could plunge the country into an internal turmoil in which millions of underprivileged, viewing the time has finally come for their show, could rise up and even topple down the regime. All of this has put communist China in a desperate defensive position when dealing with a strong
neighboring country like Japan on territorial disputes.
Explicitly, considering all elements involved, communist China is not dealing with Japan alone, but the whole Western world, which sees this event as a great chance to rearrange Eastern Asia‟s strategic map. China‟s territorial crisis reflects a symptom of the ever-deteriorating
condition of her living environment, where she has found herself to be increasingly isolated and encircled. As for China‟s reaction plan, beneath the aggressive sentiment resembling to the
anti-imperialism propagandas of Mao‟s era, shows a set of elaborately designed diplomatic and economic maneuvers, aimed at easing tension, instead of escalating it. Despite pugnacious rhetoric and even saber-rattling shows, the communist regime has resorted to the richness of ancient Chinese wisdom of intimidation and bribery to get what it wants. A peaceful settlement of keeping a status-quo seems to be the only option appropriate to China‟s strategic objective at this point, but the question is whether Japan and US, with a thorough understanding of the tough situation China is facing, are still willing to accept the offer?