Japan from the inside out

Letter bombs (11): Boomerangs

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, September 26, 2010

It is difficult for men in high office to avoid the malady of self-delusion. They are always surrounded by worshipers. They are constantly, and for the most part sincerely, assured of their greatness. They live in an artificial atmosphere of adulation and exultation which sooner or later impairs their judgment. They are in grave danger of becoming careless and arrogant.
– Calvin Coolidge

READER M-BONE has given me permission to quote his comments before, so I’ll take the liberty of quoting two more, because they’re quite good. This time he writes about the reaction outside of East Asia to Japan’s problems with China in the Senkaku dispute. Here’s the first:

China is making like Gamilus – fighting against their own interests in a state of sublime belligerence. (Amp. note: Space Battleship Yamato reference)

They’ve given a huge boost to the US-Japan alliance (arguably at its shakiest since 1960 during the DPJ tenure, now likely to be coming on like gangbusters), spat on some of their best friends in Japan, and this time it isn’t just (Martin) Fackler – everyone from The Economist to tea party trolls on Yahoo comments seem to be calling China the petulant child of current international relations – many of these are the same people who gave China a free pass in 2005 because of the emotive history issue. And for what? A petty domestic PR coup in a media environment that the Chinese government runs anyway? AND Japan gave them the perfect out by releasing the captain and they STILL found a way to screw the pooch by demanding apology and compensation doubling down on their domestic propaganda but leaving much of the rest of the world shaking their heads.

How long before China pisses off Russia and India and finds itself surrounded on all sides by a FCL (F**k China League)?

Two from me:

1. India and Russia have been wary of China for some time, and are probably charter members of the FCL. India came to blows with them in the early 60s, and the Soviet Union almost did.

2. I don’t think it’s just for domestic consumption. As I tried to argue in my Friday post, and as Michael Turton does on his Taiwan website, this is how China will behave as it tries to recreate its hegemony/suzerainty in the future. It’s how they’ve always behaved when they’ve had the wherewithal in the past. The DPJ played into this Chinese conceit with their fawning behavior. The Chinese do not treat other countries as equal partners, and they have no intention of doing so with “Little Japan”.

M-Bone Comment #2

China has not been anxious to get into scuffs with India and Russia yet and if you want to beat on a country for no good reason with no chance of retribution, Japan is probably the world’s best candidate. However, when you think about it, if ANY part of this latest Chinese show was designed to improve their geo-political position and to increase their chance of actually ending up with the Senkakus (instead of a rather banal ‘the captain came home’ moment) what transpired can only be considered a huge failure. China will now (likely) face a surging Japanese-American partnership where it was once waning and the greatest lasting legacy out of all of this will likely be the US’s unambiguous statement that the islands are covered by the security treaty. If the Chinese leaders were really dumb enough to catalyze this, who is to say that some colossal f%”k up with another neighbor won’t be coming down the line?

…Even the domestic Japan bashing to distract from Chinese government problems blah blah argument isn’t a good one in this case. If they had played it stern and waited, the Japanese would still have likely released the captain, giving them a victory without all of the hotheads taking to the streets. Then, if they really wanted to, they could have waited a bit and jumped on a random history issue a few weeks or months on.

My general feeling is that most people are more pissed at China than supportive of Japan, but it seems to me that China, obviously used to manipulating nationalism, doesn’t seem to grasp how quick and how powerful turns in American nationalism can be.

Two more from me:

1. Someone in the Japanese print media (in the flood of information over the past few days) noted that during the Koizumi administration, there was an official with a high position in the Chinese leadership who had a good understanding of Japan. He’s not there anymore, and no one’s replaced him.

2. I suspect Chinese leadership concluded that the U.S. under the Obama administration and with its financial problems became a paper tiger and behaved accordingly. (Or, they suspected it had become a paper tiger and wanted to make sure.) The Futenma issue gave them another opportunity to test that theory.

I think Chinese imperial ambition, hubris, nouveau riche / narikin environment, lack of understanding (at the top) of other countries, and a general we-don’t-give-a-sh*t-what-you-think attitude are all part of the mix.

21st Century Schizoid Man sent in a good comment from a Japanese forum. Here it is in English:

“There is no question that Japan caved in to the Chinese this time, but nevertheless, the negative aspects for the Chinese are by no means inconsiderable. The argument that the Chinese are a threat is bound to increase, so it will be argued that Japan must also strengthen its military capabilities. Japan’s relationship with the U.S. will grow stronger and resemble conditions during the Koizumi era. Even more, the world now knows that if anything should occur, (China is a) country that will respond as if hostages had been taken. This will likely open the eyes of those who harbored fantasies about the Chinese.

“In short, it would be a good idea not to have any fantasies about the Chinese, eliminate any sentimental emotionalism, and create a cool relationship in which we use those aspects we can use.

“Japan has effective control of the Senkakus, If the Chinese seize them it will rupture Sino-Japanese relations, and would, in a real sense, be an act of war, so that is likely impossible right away. For now, we should quietly build up our military capabilities to prepare for any contingencies. It is important to never again be entertained by the fantasy of ‘friendly Sino-Japanese relations’”.

One comment from me:

1. As I tried to argue yesterday, I don’t think we’re going to be hearing any more about yuai and an East Asian entity for a while.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

19 Responses to “Letter bombs (11): Boomerangs”

  1. Our policy, as a western fiat money supporter, should be to allow and promote such distortions as it enables us to sell arms and drugs in unequal measure to all those who participate.

    We can identify those who can be marked down for our death squads also, by stirring the pot as necessary.

    As I said before China has doubled its size just after WWII! Does no one know what this means? The retaliation was to give them a permanent seat at the UN. Take that! Allowing this spat is nothing compared to that. Japan is going to suffer many such indignities. Get used to it. If China overplays the hand they have they can easily be led into annihilation as a political entity. The unconditional surrender for them will be along the lines of ethnic borders and the creation of new states, all unnecessary with Germany and Japan.

    But if they do not overplay, then all the other nations have to acknowledge the giant has internal difficulties that require sabre rattling from time to time.

    Act of war? Cutting of the ear of a naval officer is an act of war! Suck it up and say sorry politely! Even in a successful war, Japan and other allies will lose massive materiel and population.

  2. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    Ampontan: Thanks for translation.

    It is noteworthy that Heritage Foundation article remarked as follows:

    “For the PRC, these incidents once again demonstrate that Beijing is extremely poor at crisis management. From a foreign ministry that appears unable to move beyond repetition of its talking points to the lack of any kind of policy initiatives even after several days of escalating tensions, China’s behavior is consistent with its prior non-responses to similar crises.”

    But now the world knows that Japan is equally or far more poor at crisis management under DPJ administration.

    The only good thing I can foresee in Japan is substantial, massive blow to those who advocate for China, for Yuai and for many things in that line.

    Especially people in Okinawa would have a difficult time in asserting removal of US forces out of it. Or, may be they welcome JDF in stead?

  3. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    The only way to avoid the malady of self-delusion is to have flow of open critism – freedom of speech. I doubt if China has that – if it has how CCCP could continue thus far by such poor crisis management – all people are SUPPRESSED, or MADE ignorant or they accept it as necessary evil to maintain the largest population nation, or they just do not care whatever the reason is? Or fine mixture of all of these?

  4. bender said

    massive blow to those who advocate for China

    Let’s see about that- I still hear voices within Japan that Japan should always swallow up her pride to make profits. If they so insist, I hope those “profits” are redistributed in Japan- probably not?

  5. 21st Century Schizoid Man said





  6. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    While profit is nicely distributed, that may be a way to go for them. But one point they even cannot miss is – instability. Instability exists in US for Toyota, one may say. But that and this are different. Much different. I would welcome any observation.

    Sorry for the previous post entirely in Japanese, friends!

  7. bender said


    Freedom of speech doesn’t guarantee that a country will become less selfish and pacifist. Hatred runs deep in humanity, maybe it’s even a trait, and it can also be put to use in democracies- Germany was a democracy (albeit a fragile one) when the Nazis took over. I believe people have to be actually taught not to hate, which is a recent phenomenon in history. Some religions had always been preaching this, but somehow it didn’t transcend races, ethnicities or other religions.

  8. Anyone recall what the Han General in charge of the PLA Academy said would happen, if there was a tsunami destroying China’s east coast cities?

  9. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    Points taken, Bender. And yours is graceful (no irony intended). Thanks.

  10. Hiroshige said

    Exactly – it is no ‘USA vs China’ struggle, it is ‘coalition vs. coalition’. And while China is able to lure only partners like Pakistan or Iran (and even these are far from being true allies), US has high tech rich friends like Japan, Taiwan or South Korea. This is not Cold War anymore, the rules are different…

  11. M-Bone said

    No problem throwing the quotes up on the front page.

    Gamilus – Space Battleship YAMATO ref.

    ‘I don’t think it’s just for domestic consumption’

    Indeed. However, the Chinese response seems EFFECTIVE just on the level of domestic consumption. Who is thinking that China comes out of this looking good or even sensible in a powerful way? A few people in Sudan?

  12. bender said


    The thing is, they seem to not care about perception at all. Maybe, since like a fifth of the global population is them. The dark side of the force is looming on us…

  13. bender said

    BTW, it’s called “Gamilon” in Star Blazers, the American dubbed version of Space-battleship Yamato. The leader of Gamilon is called “Desslock”. Gamilon was attacking Earth because their home world was decaying. In a sense, they’re like the Goths.

  14. PaxAmericana said

    Playing devil’s advocate, wasn’t China forced to play a strong hand in this? The Japanese government seems to have not worked out an agreement with the Chinese early on – and the Chinese were forced to aggressively defend their claims to the islands for the future. And this shows the brain-dead nature of what the Japanese government did.

    Also, the US has had freedom of speech, but has certainly had its share of wars over the last century.

  15. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    @PaxAmericana what kind of agreement is it? Not to detain captain but just to force him out?

  16. M-Bone said

    ‘Maybe, since like a fifth of the global population is them.’

    Maybe, but the population ~ power era of world history is long over. In fact, one could argue that a large population, especially on with the wealth imbalance of China, aging population issues, etc. is actually a DISADVANTAGE in the long run. They’re going to have to start caring what people on the outside think, especially if Europe and America start seeing protectionism as a strategic necessity.

    ‘Playing devil’s advocate, wasn’t China forced to play a strong hand in this?’

    A strong hand would have been asking for the return of the captain and for a move toward international arbitration on the islands. Instead we got apology and compensation demands, plus an export block which can be interpreted as an act of war in some contexts (seriously, try doing that to the US and see what happens), vague threats of retaliation, and the statement that the islands are unquestionably China’s and are illegally occupied, not simply that dialogue is necessary because of a complex history – something that could actually have won China sympathy. None of that is consistent with how territorial disputes (even one as important as Russia and Canada over the Arctic) play out in other contexts, even when the parties are trying to look strong. China didn’t play strong, it played at best enraged at worst, crazy.

    The smart move by China would have been to play out Senkaku claims internationally by adopting an imperial victim position and appealing to the international human rights regime. Instead, they responded in a way that has reminded many that China has itself been an imperialist victimizer of others and in a tone that brings things like Tibet to mind.

    Of course, like Korea on Dokto / Takeshima, the last thing China wants on Senkaku is international arbitration that would bring in a legal and empirical tradition that differs greatly from the historical justification of Chinese rule over so much territory – the Sino-centric idea that anything touched by cultures heavily influenced by the Han-sphere historically is essentially and eternally China’s property. This is why China won’t talk seriously on territorial disputes – as long as it is a domestic discourse, the ethno-boosterism of traditional Chinese ideas of history and geography can trump the evidence-based tradition. So even if China could win (they very well could) in the international law space, the leaders seem far more comfortable running their own historical court. If China’s view of sovereignty had a Western equivalent, it would be like claiming EU affairs should only be decided by the Holy Roman Empire electors.

  17. PaxAmericana said


    When dealing with a powerful neighbor in a sensitive matter, it would seem logical to work out the specific details of how you want things to play out, and if they can tolerate this course of action. The alternative is what Koizumi did, namely, throw them out as quickly as possible, and make the problem go away.


    They did ask for the return of the captain. And international arbitration was most problematic for them. For one thing, it would have caused them to lose face as it would have been in the face of extreme pressure. For another thing, they have strong internal pressure to simply wait till their Navy is as large as the American one, at least in East Asia. By the way, your remark about how the US behaves seems rather revealing. You imply that the US is a lot more aggressive than the Chinese, and I agree.

  18. M-Bone said

    “You imply that the US is a lot more aggressive than the Chinese, and I agree.”

    No matter how we interpret US motives and impacts (force of stability or destablizing force) the very fact that the US is central to a discussion of the seas far, far away from its continental ground should tell us, at the very least, that it is “proactive in establishing and protecting its interests”.

    At present, China is badly underestimating the US. American technocracy and grass roots military enthusiasm means that it will respond in kind to any crap that China kicks its way in the foreseeable future. If China is calling out Japan here as a prelude to a stare down with the US, things could get crazy in a hurry. War seems far out there, but endlessly escalating posturing and nationalist games seems likely.

  19. M-Bone said

    Pat Buchanan beating the drum.

    As I stated earlier, I think that China’s recent move is going to win mainstream American support for this point of view, or at least start a chain reaction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: