Further adventures in East Asian hegemonism
Posted by ampontan on Friday, July 20, 2012
MOST news outlets reported last week that the Japanese called their ambassador to China, Niwa Uichiro, back to Tokyo for a few days to give him instructions on the message they want him to deliver to Beijing on the games the Chinese are playing in the Senkakus. The news media reminded its readers that moves of this sort are often used in diplomacy to convey one nation’s displeasure with another, though the Foreign Ministry denied that was their intent. Foreign Minister Gemba Koichiro said the summons was to ensure he would “properly explain Japan’s stance to China”. But that might mean something other than what you think it means.
His Excellency the Messenger returned to Beijing on Monday. What those news outlets didn’t report was that his Tokyo trip might have been to guarantee that he delivered the message the government wanted delivered instead of the one Mr. Niwa thinks should be delivered. In fact, many people were upset that he returned to Beijing at all — they thought he should have been sacked and someone else sent in his place.
To start at the beginning: Niwa Uichiro is the former president and chairman of the large trading company, Itochu Corp. He resigned that position to take the job of ambassador during the Kan administration. Itochu has extensive business interests in China. Mr. Niwa has distinctive opinions about Japanese-Sino relations and is not reticent about expressing them, but then he wasn’t trained as a diplomat.
For example, even though the Chinese economy is now larger than that of Japan, and Japan has serious fiscal problems, Mr. Niwa thinks his government should continue to lavish ODA on the Chinese. Indeed, he thinks the ODA should be increased, rather than cut. He submitted a memorandum to the Foreign Ministry arguing that position, and it contained the sentence:
“Eliminating ODA to China would result in being criticized by China.”
Perish the thought. No one will be surprised to read that that one Foreign Ministry source observed, “It’s impossible for Itochu to tell anything to the Chinese”.
The former Itochu boss has also “donated” (that’s the word the Japanese reports use) money to Chinese government officials. They are viewed as de facto bribes that enable his company to receive orders through ODA business. It has been confirmed through the Osaka Tax Bureau that he “donated” several billion yen to the son of former Premier Li Peng.
The future success of Itochu in China might not be the only reason for Mr. Niwa’s largesse. Author Fukuda Yusuke described a conversation he had with the ambassador in the pages of the monthly magazine Will:
Niwa: The age of Greater China will come in the future.
Fukuda: What will the Japanese position be if that happens?
Niwa: Japan should continue to exist as a Chinese vassal state.
Fukuda: Japan has to become a Chinese vassal state?
Niwa: That is the path for Japan to live in happiness and safety.
He also has strong views on the Senkaku Islets. The magazine quotes him as saying that “The Chinese people aren’t interested in the Senkakus”, and offers a report of a conversation he had with Lower House Speaker Yokomichi Takahiro (former Socialist, now DPJ member) and China’s next boss, Xi Jinping, who might or might not be a former socialist himself. Japan’s official government representative in China thinks Japan should relinquish the islands to China. He is reported to have said at the meeting, “The emotions of the Japanese people are strange,” and “Japan is a weird country”.
Of course he also has opinions about Taiwan:
“Taiwanese independence is out of the question. It is absolutely not possible.”
Those inclined to dismiss these stories because of their source should try this from the Financial Times of Britain on the plan of Tokyo Metro District Governor Ishihara Shintaro to buy the Senkakus:
“If Mr Ishihara’s plans are acted upon, then it will result in an extremely grave crisis in relations between Japan and China,” Mr Niwa told the Financial Times. “We cannot allow decades of past effort to be brought to nothing.”
Not to mention decades of future Itochu profits.
There are several reasons for the absence of a link to the FT article. First, reading it requires registration, and the article itself is otherwise not worth the trouble. Second, this paragraph has been widely quoted elsewhere. Third, the FT follows those two sentences with this:
“Mr Niwa’s remarks are by far the strongest sign of Japanese central government disquiet over Mr Ishihara’s scheme to buy three of the Senkaku islands.”
No links for the bogus. Mr. Niwa does not speak for the Japanese central government, which considers him an embarrassment. Both Foreign Minister Gemba Koichiro and Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura Osamu have clearly stated that Niwa Uichiro is not expressing the Japanese position. It is almost certainly not the policy of Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiro, who is what the industrial media terms a “hawk”. Deputy Prime Minister Okada Katsuya said:
“He is not functioning as a Japanese ambassador…it is a cost of the change of government.”
(Mr. Okada is referring to the DPJ policy to deliberately shut out the bureaucracy from policy-making positions when they think they can get away with it.)
His is not the position of the Japanese people, either. The Fuji/Sankei poll of 20 May surveyed the public on what it thought of the possible purchase of the islets by either the Tokyo Metro District or the national government. The answer:
They conducted another survey this month, asking only about a national government purchase:
Yes or leaning that way: 67.2%
No or leaning that way: 26.6%
As of 13 July, the two accounts set up by the Tokyo Metro District government for donations to purchase the islets had received 92,197 donations worth JPY 1,357,453,727, or $US 17,182,300.
If anyone is disquieted by the Ishihara scheme, it is the Chinese. From a Generic Media Report (GMR):
“Nobody is allowed to trade in China’s sacred territory,” the (foreign) ministry said in a statement posted on its website on Saturday.
The press outside of Japan can’t publish an article on this subject without referring to Ishihara Shintaro as a nationalist, an ultranationalist, a right-wing nationalist, or an ultranationalist racist right-winger. Funny how little they have to say about the Chinese, other than that they’re the other party in the “dispute”.
In fact, the Financial Times also wrote:
In a sign of the passions being aroused by recent tensions, a Chinese military scholar has called for China’s new aircraft carrier to be named Diaoyu Islands.
In an essay published in the Communist party’s Global Times newspaper on Monday, Major General Luo Yuan, who is known for his hawkish views, suggested China should use areas near the Diaoyu for military exercises including guided missile tests and should make one island an air force live firing range.
Gen. Luo rattles a rack full of sabers in a newspaper affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party, yet he only has “hawkish views”.
But back to Mr. Niwa. Here’s a Japanese blogger:
It is impossible to conduct diplomacy or economic activities without understanding the nature of the Chinese people. The reason for Shiseido’s success in China was due to the knowledge of their former chairman, Fukuhara Yoshiharu. He was trained in Confucianism from a young age and was an avid reader of history, so he had a good understanding of their nature. When he opened a plant in China, he regarded bribes within a reasonable level as a “ritual”, but when he received an unreasonable request, he told them he’d shut the factory down right away and leave. As a result, even the Communist Party didn’t interfere with him.
In contrast, some half-baked businessmen and politicians are taken up by the Chinese and used as their puppets. A recent example is perhaps Mr. Niwa, the current ambassador to China. In the past, former Prime Minister Hashimoto’s womanizing got him into trouble with the “pink services” provided to him.
The mention of the Hashimoto Ryutaro scandal refers to the reports that surfaced when he was prime minister in the 1990s. According to those stories, as a Cabinet member in the 1980s, he had Big Fun with a Chinese woman in China who was really a spy. He had to answer to the charges in the Diet. The late Hashimoto wouldn’t talk about how “close” he was with the woman, but he did admit that she had interpreted for him, and that he bought her meals and wrote her letters. Attention on the story was diverted by the collapse of a major bank and securities company in the post-bubble era. (It was also later revealed that Hashimoto had received money from Taiwan’s National Security Bureau.)
Here’s what the Wall Street Journal posted on their pretend blog, Japan Realtime, at the time of the Niwa appointment:
The appointment can be seen as yet another salvo in the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s battle with the bureaucracy, who kept a strong grip on the country’s policy-making apparatus for most of the postwar period. “It’s a sign that the government doesn’t trust the bureaucrats,” says Robert Dujarric of Temple University in Tokyo. “They would prefer to have ‘their man” in Beijing.”
This ran about six months after those Japanese who hoped the DPJ would reorient the relationship with Kasumigaseki had already given up on them as hopeless. But in keeping with the J-school template, the WSJ found an academic to say what they wanted to say themselves, even if the info was already past the sell-by date.
In retrospect, the prof might have been more accurate than he knew. Kan Naoto appointed Mr. Niwa, and Sengoku Yoshito was Mr. Kan’s chief cabinet secretary at the time. One of the highlights of his brief term in office was the report by another Diet member that Mr. Sengoku told him Japan was already a Chinese vassal. Maybe Niwa Uichiro was their man in Beijing after all.
It was typical of Mr. Kan, by the way, to make a point of asserting the authority of politicians by selecting a non-bureaucrat who turned out to be even worse than a bureaucrat would have been. It is also typical that he assumed this bold stance for the appointment of an ambassador, a position given to people who communicate policy rather than formulate it.
Was Mr. Niwa on to something when he said Japan was a weird country? He might have been the Kan-Sengoku man in Beijing, but what other country would retain someone like him in that position?
Then again, it isn’t the country. The opposition Liberal Democratic Party wants to give him the boot. It’s the Democratic Party government that thinks he’s just the man for the job.
Hey you! Get off of my cloud!
While the collegiate spitball artists of the Western media amuse themselves by using the Senkakus story as target practice, they’re missing another story perfectly suited to their talents.
China and South Korea also have a dispute about some isolated bit of maritime territory, this one in the East China Sea. It’s so isolated, in fact, it’s 4.6 meters below sea level. That’s the sunken reef known as Ieodo, Parangdo, Suyan Rock, Socotra Rock, or That Thing Down There, depending on your perspective.
Located 150 kilometers southeast of Jeju, the Underwater Treasure is closer to Japanese territory than to Chinese territory. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea states that no country can claim submerged reefs, but that hasn’t stopped these two. In fact, the Koreans did what they do best in situations of this sort — they built a pointless facility on the rock. You don’t have to read Korean to get the picture. That’s a platform for helicopter landings.
Here’s some more serious journalism if you can handle it, this time from the Korea Times:
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) plans to call in senior diplomats of the Chinese Embassy in Seoul today to protest Beijing’s claims of jurisdiction over Korea’s southern reef territory Ieodo, a ministry spokesman said Sunday
The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) stipulates that any coastal state has the rights to claim an EEZ that stretches up to 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) from its shore, except where there is an overlap with a neighboring country’s claims.
There is no word on what the Men from U.N.C.L.O.S. have to say about the KT’s interpretation of the UN convention. My guess is that they’re laughing so hard, they’re boiling tea in their navels.
In their perpetual quest to keep up with the Japanese Joneses, the South Koreans have even created a controversy that has the residents of their outlying islands upset about the placement of a military base. The Japanese have Okinawa, and now the South Koreans have a problem in Jeju. The government built a base there that enables the Navy to reduce by 15 hours the time it would take to send combat troops to a “target site in the East China Sea”.
“It will be a key buttress enabling Korea to maintain its territorial claim on the nation’s southernmost island of Ieodo by force,” said Lee Choon-Kun, a security expert and vice president of the Seoul-based think tank, the Center for Free Enterprise.
But the construction of that Navy base on the island displeased more than a few Jejuans.
At this rate, how long will it before it occurs to the Koreans to petition the International Hydrographic Organization to change the name of the East China Sea to the Sea of Korea? After all, the French called it the Mer de Corée in the 19th century.
That isn’t the only territorial dispute between the two countries, by the way. Since 2003, the Chinese have taken to referring to the history of the ancient Goguryeo kingdom and its successor Balhae as “Chinese regional history”, which is partially true. The Koreans consider those kingdoms to be the geographical roots of the Korean people, which means they’ve already written enough on the topic to fill a small library. A good bit of contemporary North Korean territory lies in what was the sphere of both kingdoms, though they extended further northward.
The Chinese have also been finding ways to double the length of the Great Wall, which they now claim originally extended onto the Korean Peninsula. Some suspect the Chinese are preparing themselves for the day that North Korea falls apart.
Then again, it could just be the Chinese doing what comes naturally.
* Is not Niwa Uichiro an extreme example of the businessman who goes along to get along? Be that as it may, it is not necessarily the case he shouldn’t be in government. He might have made an excellent Agriculture Minister, assuming one of those is necessary.
But Kan Naoto and Noda Yoshihiko appointed people to that position instead who are opposed to Japanese membership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, though they themselves support it. Those ministers are Diet members widely assumed to be allies of the agriculture ministry.
I wonder if this is another example of how the DPJ government is putting their own men in positions of authority because they don’t trust the bureaucracy.
* Mr. Niwa has a kindred spirit in Magosaki Ukeru, a former diplomat and instructor at Japan’s National Defense Academy. He is one of the few Japanese who thinks the Senkakus are historically Chinese territory. Folks on the Chinese net love him: “There seem to be some Japanese who can listen to reason. Respecting history is respecting the facts,” ran one comment.
Little do they know that he has a reputation as an eccentric among the few Japanese who know who he is. A book written by a former diplomat contains the story that Mr. Magosaki once briefed Prime Minister Hashimoto while wearing two neckties, though he apparently wasn’t doing it on purpose.
* Do yourself a favor and try this report on Ieodo in the Dokdo Times, a satirical site focusing on Korean issues. Those guys are good.
The Sankei is now reporting Mr. Niwa will be removed from his post in September when the current Diet session adjourns.
Now, here are The Subs, the voice of young China. It is perhaps appropriate that young China expresses itself in the voice of punk rock. The name of the song is We Don’t Have to Wait Someday.
Of course not. They want the world and they want it now.