Japan from the inside out

No surprises at all

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, November 28, 2012

BY now you’ve probably read that China has issued new passports with a map of the country that includes most of the territory outside Chinese borders they don’t control but insists is theirs. (The Senkakus are not on the map, but they’re small.)

If there is any surprise to this, it would be that anyone could possibly be surprised at Chinese behavior. That is who they are.

This post at China Digital Times presents a concise roundup of regional reactions. The Vietnamese are issuing visas on separate pieces of paper to avoid stamping the passports, and India is stamping the passports with its own map showing non-Sinocentric borders. A government spokesman from The Philippines said it is an infringement of national sovereignty. Certainly the Taiwanese are displeased.

But typically slow on the uptake is the United States. The China Digital Times has a post about the American reaction with the puzzling title, State Dept.: U.S. Does Not Endorse China Passport Map.

Perhaps it doesn’t, but the passage the CDT quotes from a news conference with a State Department spokesman doesn’t inspire much confidence in the American approach. The spokesman actually said:

* Accepting the passport does not constitute the acceptance of territorial claims.

* The spokesman “looked into this a little bit” to confirm the American standards for accepting passports, and “stray maps that they include aren’t part of it”.

“Stray maps”, eh?

She also said they would have “a conversation” with the Chinese about it and there were “a bunch of other issues” involved. She also refused to refer to the use of the maps as provocative. She’ll let the media know the full American position after the conversations. Then the discussion moved on to other pressing matters, such as the anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda. (It’s also worth reading the transcript at the link inside that post to see just how unserious everyone participating was.)

Well, isn’t that dandy — the Obama administration is going to have a conversation with the Chinese about it. If we bet on form, the Chinese will ignore whatever it is the speak-softly-and-carry-a-small-stick government has to say, and the American customs officials will stamp the passports without an official objection. After all, their conversations with other malefactors, including the Russians, the Iranians, and the Egyptians, haven’t been very fruitful. They only get pushy with the Israelis, but those conversations haven’t been very fruitful either.

None of the behavior by any of the actors should surprise anyone at all.

Thus the day moves closer when Japan will beef up its military and eliminate the peace clause from the Constitution.

Those with the eyes to see…

And for more unserious talk, try this:

China’s navy chief yesterday briefed the US secretary of the Navy on test trials of the country’s first aircraft carrier and the successful aircraft landing tests, which Beijing recently confirmed.

Ray Mabus’ visit to China is the first by a US secretary of the navy in 28 years. The visit shows China’s sincerity to improve military ties with the US and Beijing’s growing transparency and confidence, experts said.

The experts were Chinese, of course.

“Despite sometimes bellicose attitudes on both sides, there is also a growing push for greater contact and communication to avoid misunderstandings and build trust,” The Associated Press said yesterday in a report about the meeting.

That might be reassuring if Associated Press reporting about repressive regimes had any credibility.

The real point comes at the end:

“The US used to be the only dominant force in the region. And the Pentagon is not used to a stronger Chinese military with an expanded sphere of activity,” Niu said.

It has nothing to with openness and trust, and everything to do with delivering an unsubtle threat.

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