Japan from the inside out

Posts Tagged ‘Anti-Nipponism’

The perpetual whingeing of the outsiders

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 2, 2012

WHEN I first came to Japan, the only publicly accessible opinions in print about the country were little more than pretentious spitballing masquerading as insight. It’s taken some time, but the tide is finally turning.

Noah Smith is an assistant professor of finance at Stony Brook who writes an economics blog. Prof. Smith has lived in Japan and liked it quite a bit.

On Friday, rather than write a post about economics, he dealt with a post on another website called Cracked titled 5 Things Nobody Tells You About Living in Japan. (I also read it, but thought it was too puerile to waste time on.) Thing number four was that “foreigners will always be outsiders”. That’s a dead giveaway the speaker/author expected adulation without effort or behavior adjustment and is astonished to find himself on the royal road to obscurity.

Prof. Smith takes apart the conceit very well. He says:

This runs directly counter to my own experience of life as a Westerner in Japan.

He discusses language skills first:

Despite the easiness of the (spoken) Japanese language, many Westerners never bother to become truly fluent. The reason is simple; they can get by in the country speaking simple English and broken, simple Japanese. Of course, as the author of the article above suggests, this makes it difficult to really relate to most of the people in Japan. It makes it tough to form close relationships, tough to be included in social activities, and tough to work productively with Japanese coworkers. But because Japanese culture is generally friendly, and because some Japanese people take it upon themselves to speak English to foreigners, these Westerners can manage a sort of stunted, good-enough social life over there without ever spending the effort to become fluent. No wonder they feel like outsiders! What would you expect?

And culture:

What about the cultural attitudes? The xenophobia, the closed society, the racial homogeneity?

To be perfectly honest, I haven’t seen much of it.

Speaking of his academic work, he says:

(I)f you are at home in a university setting in America, and if you speak Japanese, you will be at home in a university setting in Japan. And never once has anyone there treated me as an outsider.

He includes informal social settings:

(W)hen I lived in Japan the first time, I went to plenty of rock and techno shows. I found the people there to be extremely welcoming and friendly – and not just in a “Wow, look, a white guy came to our show!” kind of way, but in a “Hey, want to hop on scooters go out for a beer?” kind of way.

He also tells some Keynesian harsh truths:

(I)f you spend your life speaking pidgin Japanese and walking around thinking “I’m a foreigner, I’m an outsider,” you can easily fail to realize that Japanese people, despite their vaunted “racial homogeneity”, are just as heterogeneous in terms of their tastes and attitudes and personalities as Americans or Canadians or Australians. As in so many situations, individual differences matter far more than group differences. And if you’re walking around Japan feeling a wall of alienation between you and everyone you meet, chances are it’s due to the cultural prejudices of one specific individual: you.

One factor behind the alienation is the sense of entitlement many Westerners bring with them to the country as if it were carry-on baggage, and the disappointment that results when they realize the people around them are quite content to live their entire lives without interacting with Our Hero.

Some of the commenters to his post beg to differ. I was alerted to the article because I caught a retweet from someone in Japan who read it and agreed with it. Looking at the history of the Tweet revealed that one person thought Prof. Smith’s opinions were “contrary to the evidence and facts”. As evidence he offered a link to the BBC and as facts he provided a link to the Japan Times. By that time I was laughing so hard it was impossible to click on them.

A copy of the Tweet was also sent to Hiroko Tabuchi of the New York Times, for some unfathomable reason. No matter where the people employed at that newspaper were born and grew up, they quickly develop an inability to understand anyone living west of the Hudson River and east of Long Island City. Manhattan is one of the most provincial places in the United States.

I’m in complete agreement with Prof. Smith on this subject, and dealt with it five years ago in this post called What Japanese exclusionism? The myths live on, alas. One of the points I made at that time is equally true today. I suspect the foreigners who do well in Japan communicate on a sub-verbal level that they are willing to accommodate themselves to Japanese people and their customs rather than demand the Japanese accommodate themselves to them. As Prof. Smith says, if you’re having a problem, the problem is you.


It might be that Prof. Smith and I would agree on little else, however. One of the posts on his site is titled “Why I Love Michael Moore”. If I were writing for a website unrelated to Japan, I might title an article “Why Michael Moore is a Transparent Fraud”. He also links to Matt Yglesias, the blogosphere’s version of Michael Moore.

Posted in Foreigners in Japan | Tagged: , | 8 Comments »

The end of analysis as we know it

Posted by ampontan on Friday, November 30, 2012

DO editors have any real standards to determine whom they will select to write articles about Japan? Field-specific expertise certainly isn’t a requirement. If anything, field-specific expertise about Japan seems to be a negative attribute in the selection process.

Here we go again: Someone calling himself Chan Akya wrote an article titled The End of Japan as We Know it for the peculiar Asia Times website. (That site offers columns by the excellent David Goldman, AKA Spengler, regular pieces from a North Korean propagandist, and nothing of value about Japan.) The author’s noisy parade of ignorance is amplified by an infatuation with his prose and inner dialogue. That makes this analysis particularly difficult to wade through.

He even presents us with the intellectual’s version of “some of my best friends are Japanese”:

At many levels, I have a deep admiration for the Japanese people; their work ethic, aesthetic values and personal discipline all set them apart from the globalized mainstream.

That deep admiration unfortunately did not inspire him to learn anything about the country.

He begins with a discussion of Keynesian economics and the series of budget deficits the country has run since the late 90s. While that is true enough, there is no mention of the collapse of the bubble economy in the early 90s, the resultant problem with the non-performing debt held by financial institutions, and the role of the five-year Koizumi administration, particularly Takenaka Heizo, to prevent the problems from overwhelming the financial industry, and to drastically reduce the annual budget deficit. While the Japanese political class since then has failed to uphold its fiduciary responsibility, the economy has not been the unending dismal swamp that most people outside the country think it is.

Exacerbating the current situation in Japan is the collapse in the political system where, yet again, a coalition government is set to fail and new elections announced in December. Alternatively one could argue that political paralysis, much like in the case of the US and Europe’s lame duck governments, is merely the populist rendition of a sclerotic economy. The reason for the linkage of course is that the Japan is the living (ahem, some may argue that point) embodiment of the situation where the turkeys not only outvoted thanksgiving, they also allocated all the gravy to themselves.

Every word in that paragraph is wrong, including the a’s, an’s, and the’s. (Ahem yourself; don’t even think about going there on this with me.) An earlier unquoted passage, by the way, makes it clear he’s referring to the voters as turkeys.

Here’s what he doesn’t know:

* The Japanese political system is not collapsing. It would be easy to make the case that it is healthier than the political system in the United States. People who rely on the usual inadequate Anglosphere sources and who think the national legislature constitutes the entire political system cannot be expected to understand this. How unfortunate that they cannot be expected to refrain from writing about it.

* The voters have been expressing for years exactly what they want, and what they have wanted is massive central government reform. That is not easy to achieve in any system with its encrusted vested interests, nor is their fault that they haven’t received it. This election will be just the latest in a series of monumental exercises in throwing the bums out. That line about “the turkeys outvoting Thanksgiving” (of course!)? It is tantamount to a public declaration of a functional illiteracy of matters Japanese in general, and trends among the electorate, sub-national politics, and the perpetual battle with the bureaucracy in particular.

* This was a coalition government in only the most technical sense of the term — the remaining party in the coalition has fewer than 10 Diet members. The coalition was formed with two mini-parties solely to pass legislation in the upper house. It was a Democratic Party of Japan government. Period.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has done all the usual gimmicks – promises of more subsidies, the vaguely worded reforms and of course obligatory visits to the Yasukuni shrine designed to get geriatric Samurai warrior votes on its side…

Isn’t he the clever wordsmith? Yasukuni shrine visits didn’t hurt Mr. Koizumi with the non-geriatric non-samurai independent voters, but what he doesn’t know about this issue would fill several books. Included in that lack of knowledge is that none of the LDP successors of Mr. Koizumi made any of the “of course obligatory” visits to Yasukuni. Incidentally, since the LDP promises have yet to be translated into English, he can’t be expected to know their content, either.

…with the active support of the farming and construction lobbies it appears that the LDP is headed back to power albeit in a coalition framework.

Were the author able to read Japanese, I could recommend several books and articles about how these special interest groups no longer have the electoral strength they once did. He would need to read at least one article on how the farming lobby supported the DPJ in the last lower house election, but all of that would be chanting sutras into a horse’s ear.

We do not know yet how the incumbent Democratic Party of Japan is likely to fare…

Yes we do. The possibilities range from bad to near extinction.

…so convoluted are the fortunes of the party when examined against the popularity of its individual politicians.

Apart from its incoherence, the full sentence is an astonishing display of ignorance. The unpopularity of all three individual DPJ prime ministers is remarkable for its depth and the intensity of emotion it generates. It aligns almost perfectly with the unpopularity of the party as a group.

After trying various approaches, the party has now settled itself on the bandwagon of expanding the middle classes – presumably through more tax breaks and other ideas that run counter to the current orthodoxy around value-added taxes; however the party led by the outgoing prime minister has also embarked on a controversial policy to secure funding for grandiose construction projects with the issue of bonds to which it would like the Bank of Japan to directly subscribe.

The party that is making news and causing controversy because it wants the BOJ to subscribe to construction bonds is the LDP — the opposition party. While it is true the DPJ can’t provide a full accounting of the funds for Tohoku relief and reconstruction, that is due to their incompetence and inability to say no to the bureaucracy.

“Presumably through tax breaks”? The DPJ was the engine that drove the increase in the consumption tax increase from 5-10%, and they’re also engineering increases in income and inheritance taxes. One who presumes to have the knowledge required to write an op-ed about Japan should know that.

Or that Japan doesn’t have a value-added tax, assuming that’s what that reference is all about.

At long last he gets down and dirty:

At the other end of the spectrum, the right wing has become more active with the triumvirate of Shintaro Ishihara and Takeo Hiranuma’s the Sunrise Party and Toru Hashimoto’s Resurrection Party. All the politicians in the triumvirate have a somewhat unfortunate history of egging on xenophobic tendencies; the triumphalism of Ishihara in the late ’80s with his call for Japan to become more assertive against the US; and the unfortunate racial stereotypes he espoused which brought to mind the propaganda of Goebbels have not been forgotten yet anywhere in Asia or the US.

Get used to this. You’re going to be seeing so much of this bologna in the future, it won’t be possible to slice it all — even the small end that isn’t past its sell-by date. Notice how he dodges the commitment to call them Nazis or fascists: it “brings to mind the propaganda of Goebbels”.

Having spent some time studying the content of German propaganda, and much more time studying Japanese politics and politicians, I can say this comparison would occur only to those people whose minds are bent into a distinctive warp. This calls for the invocation of Godwin’s Law. He loses.

* Messrs. Ishihara and Hiranuma have had “a somewhat unfortunate” (sic) history of egging on xenophobic tendencies, but neither of them will be pinning yellow and pink identification badges on non-Japanese or stuffing them into ovens. Mr. Ishihara’s electoral success over the years originates in the name recognition value of being the first prominent celebrity politician in Japan. That success is by no means automatic; the party both these men formed for the 2010 upper house elections flopped badly. Their alliance with Mr. Hashimoto has nothing to do with xenophobia and everything to do with domestic considerations. The people who vote for them will not be driven to do so for xenophobic reasons.

Incidentally, the author also refers in another section to “a horrifying collapse in exports” without mentioning that it was attributable almost entirely to a byproduct of Chinese xenophobia and ethnocentrism.

* Hashimoto Toru’s party has an official English name: Japan Restoration Party. Evidently he can’t be bothered to spend 10 seconds to visit their website and get it right.

I would be curious to learn more of Mr. Hashimoto’s history of xenophobia that the author alleges. The Osaka mayor is a one-man political content provider. He’s written several books and is the world’s leading political Tweeter (95+% of which is related to political discussions and debates), so it’s difficult to keep up, but I can’t remember seeing anything overtly xenophobic. That includes the content of a website of a virulent “it’s positive to be negative” leftist Brit who slapped together a collection of unpleasant Hashimoto statements.

* As for the call for Japan to become more assertive against the US, that has little to with either the right wing or xenophobia. Japanese throughout the political spectrum have been growing weary of that shotgun wedding of convenience, and that trend is accelerating as the people who were children in the early postwar years head into retirement.

It is also worthy of note there is no mention of the fact that a large share of the incumbent Democratic Party of Japan membership consists of global governance types who think the nation-state is an anachronism. If that’s the context, perhaps what most people would consider normal patriotism would be seen as xenophobia.

Take stock for a moment: an ancient political party that seems hopelessly anachronistic, an incumbent political party that appears altogether confused, a right-wing organization that is built on idolizing an extinct past; does anyone hear the faint echoes from the future of other democracies in Europe and perhaps the US?

Yes, let’s take stock. The ancient political party is all of 57 years old. The name of the “right-wing organization” whose name he can’t get right is not built on idolizing an extinct past. Their original motivation is the decentralization of government and the regional devolution of authority. That none of them “idolize an extinct past” demonstrates the author is either making stuff up or listening to people who are making stuff up. In a Japanese context that party’s core domestic reform agenda is fresher and more forward-looking than any major political party in the US or Western Europe. (It is also a full-fledged party, not an “organization.”)

Again, the only people hearing “echoes from the future” are those whose minds are bent into a distinctive warp, anxious to seem perceptive by blindly setting up a comparison with anti-immigrant parties in Europe that the media mistakenly refers to as “right wing”. (Most of them are really Big Statists, from what I can see.)

It cannot be emphasized too strongly:

Conditions in Japan do not and will not resemble those in any European country, nor conform to the illusions of drive-by Western commentators.

But enough of this; the rest of his analysis is based on conjecture just as foamy. (He too quickly accepts the idea that Japan has renounced nuclear energy; I wouldn’t be too cocksure about that. It doesn’t bode well for the movement that Hashimoto Toru has left it and Kamei Shizuka and Ozawa Ichiro have joined it.)

My thinking is quite simply that Japan has reached an economic point of no-return; this will be now played out politically to provide a dignified burial of the country’s ambitions.

Through a stroke of synchronicity, the following article appeared on the same day as this op-ed:

The first of a new generation of high-speed, magnetic levitation trains has been unveiled in Japan, designed to operate at speeds of more than 310 mph…

Designed by Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Tokai), the state-of-the-art trains are scheduled to go into use in 2027 and link Shinagawa Station, in central Tokyo, with Nagoya.

At present, it takes 90 minutes for a conventional “shinkansen” bullet train to complete the journey between the two stations, but the new technology will cut the trip to 40 minutes.

The vehicle has no wheels – doing away with friction and, hence, providing a smoother and quieter ride at a faster speed – and is propelled along a track through electromagnetic pull.

That’s just 15 years away.

Japan will be the first nation to build a large-scale maglev route and hopes to be able to export the technology once it has been perfected.

And I expect they will be successful.

Had Chan Akya or the media’s editorial class known the ABCs of political conditions in Japan, the electorate’s intense interest in reform and readiness to punish politicians who lack that interest, and indeed, the capacity for innovation and survival of actors in the free market system in general and the Japanese in particular, this article would never have been written, much less been published.

How unlucky for us.

My thinking is that chances are very good Japan will survive the coming Dark Ages better than either the United States or most of the EU. That round red sun is more likely to be rising than setting.

Posted in Business, finance and the economy, Government, Mass media, Politics, Social trends | Tagged: , | 4 Comments »

All you have to do is look (106)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Anti-Japanese, and therefore patriotic Chinese, merchandise available for purchase on the Net. Note the Japanese flag doormat.

Posted in China, International relations, Photographs and videos | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »


Posted by ampontan on Thursday, October 25, 2012

He was the opposite of Dr Watson, who saw but did not observe: he observed, but did not see. He was the archetype of the man, so common among intellectuals, who knows much but understands little….A man may smile and smile and be a villain. A man may read and read, and experience and experience, and understand nothing.
– Theodore Dalrymple on Isaac Deutscher

One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool.
– George Orwell

EVERYONE now knows the futility of prying loose the truth and nothing but out of horsenbuggy journalism. Obtaining a glimpse of undistorted reality on a particular subject requires the reader to play Rashomon and compare several accounts from radically different perspectives. Few people have the time or the patience for that, which is the primary reason the remnants of the guild manage to stay in business.

One of the pixel-stained wretches’ preferred methods of self-justification is to cite on-call academics to buttress whatever case they want to make at the time. But that’s another ploy whose efficacy is evaporating, as the awareness is also growing that the professorariat as it presents itself and is presented in the news media is nearly as corrupted as the journos, if not equally so.

As the events known as Climategate involving the University of East Anglia and Michael Mann demonstrate, that is just as true for professionals in the hard sciences as well as social studies (the word “science” is incompatible with the latter). The EU cuts off funding to climatologists who publish research suggesting that global warming might not be a problem after all. It is now possible to publish scientific papers based on the claim that “the evidence-based movement in the health sciences is outrageously exclusionary and dangerously normative with regards to scientific knowledge, (and) constitutes a good example of microfascism.” The field of social studies has become infected by the ideas of deconstructionism and post-structuralism, which hold that reality is unknowable and we should “delight in the plurality of meaning”.

Less recognized is that this plurality of meaning often exists because some people can’t be bothered with basic research to begin with, or are only interested in discovering facts that fit their worldview.

Then there are the priests of the inner temple convinced that their guild status, endowed chairs, and publishing contracts bestow on them the privilege to sermonize on matters they know little or nothing about, based on a casual drive through the neighborhood. One of these bodhisattvas is Walter Russell Mead, who’s been spotted driving through the East Asian neighborhood every once in a while. He passed through again last week after unloading one-a-day observations on Russia, Pakistan Sunni radicals, the German economy, the Methodist Church, fracking in the Rust Belt, the third presidential debate, and the Wall Street scandal of Rajat Gupta. (Today he’s talking about higher education costs.) Quantity is never a substitute for quality, particularly when the quantity is a planet wide and a centimeter deep.

On his website last week, he dashed off another “Quick Take” on Northeast Asia. The only takeaway is that he knows dashed all about this part of the world. Copy-paste is not kosher, but this case warrants an exception, and it’s website policy to save links for those on the legit. Let’s start with the title:

Japanese Nationalists Rattle the Cages

Ah, the nationalist beasts of Japan are losing their patience at being held under lock and key, are they?

Last week it was China; this week it’s Japan where nationalists are raging against the country across the sea . And unlike in China, this time it isn’t just hotheaded micro-bloggers; it’s former prime minister and opposition leader Shinzo Abe, who is widely expected to become PM next year. Abe has decided to visit the controversial Yakusuni war shrine.

It isn’t just Chinese micro-bloggers: Communist Party-controlled newspapers and media outlets in China have for several years been openly threatening military action against any country that would oppose its claims in the region. The claims include Okinawa as well as the Senkakus, as well as open threats to “smash small Japan”. The micro-bloggers and the street rioters are so rabid because their government encourages it.

Mead needs to turn that telescope around and look through the small end.

Meanwhile, all that Mr. Abe, two Cabinet members, and some other MPs did was to attend the fall festival at a Shinto shrine in Tokyo that is the Japanese equivalent of Arlington National Cemetery. For Mead, this constitutes “raging against the country across the sea”.

Then again, Western academics have a taste for this false equivalence between the behavior in modern China and South Korea on the one hand and Japan on the other.

He continues by offering some Sunday supplement insights:

Nationalism is on the rise in Japan, as it is elsewhere in Asia.

Let’s do some deconstruction of our own.

* The nationalism of China and both Koreas is limited to two gears: idling and overdrive. The Chinese shifted into overdrive after the Democratic Party of Japan and the United States took control of the governments in their respective countries in the same year. The South Koreans grab the stick whenever their economy or the government’s approval ratings head south. The North Koreans never let it go.

* The nationalism of China and both Koreas has ethnocentrism as a core component of their conception of their modern states. One aspect of this component is a tendency to define themselves in terms of the “other”. For those three states, the other is the Japan of the first half of the 20th century. That country no longer exists.

The nationalist ethnocentrism of these countries, that in its modern manifestation demonizes a country which no longer exists, is both an embedded feature and bug. Absent a critical shock to their systems, it will not go away. Japan’s exemplary postwar behavior among all the nations of the G-whatever has not changed their attitudes. It is not possible for them to change those attitudes because it is part of the psychological foundation of their states.

* Ethnocentrism was a core component of Japanese nationalism in the first half of the 20th century, but the Americans crushed that out of them. It would be difficult to find any overt references by the Japanese government, mass media, or citizenry to national exceptionalism and cultural superiority on the scale at which the Chinese and Koreans habitually indulge. Exclude Ishihara Shintaro (whose prominence is widely misunderstood) and it might be impossible.

Extreme examples of these references are commonplace in China, the two Koreas, Russia — and the United States and Europe.

Mead, by the way, has argued that every age needs a “liberal empire”, and thinks the Imperial power for our age is the United States.

* What Mead supposes to be Japanese “nationalism” would be unremarkable in any other country of the world. It is indistinguishable from the more innocuous strain of patriotism common in the West two or three generations ago.

Rather than alarming, it is a sign that Japan is recovering its equilibrium from the anti-nationalist overcompensation of the postwar period.

For example: A forum on regional affairs was held earlier this month in Seoul with participants from South Korea, China, and Japan. Among the participants was Prof. Mun Jeong-in of Yonsei University. One of his statements was typical of the Korean-Chinese approach at venues of this sort:

“Both South Korea and China have the historical experience of Japanese rule and subjugation. Japan is the core of the problem.”

The Japanese participant was Tanaka Hitoshi, a former deputy minister for foreign affairs and now a senior fellow at the Japan Center for International Exchange. He replied:

“The war has been over for more than 67 years. How long is Japan supposed to keep a low profile?…In the past, Japan would have not said anything (to actions such as the recent South Korean behavior regarding Takeshima), but now we will. Japan has become a normal nation.”

There is no sign that Mead is aware of the ABCs of the attitudes in any of these countries. His view of East Asia is as much a prisoner of the past as that of the geopolitical rent-seekers in China and the Koreas.

Mr. Abe’s visit drew attention because it is the first that he has made to the shrine since winning an internal party election last month. During that election, he took the hardest line in a field of five conservative candidates, calling for expanding the limits of Japan’s pacifist Constitution to allow a full military, and supporting patriotic education that teaches a more sympathetic view of Japan’s actions during World War II.

Making this statement requires one to be ignorant of the fact that it is the official position of the Liberal Democratic Party — not just Mr. Abe — to amend the Constitution to allow “a full military”. They’ve already written and presented a draft Constitution.

It also requires one to believe there is something intrinsically “hardline” about establishing a military for self-defense, both individual and collective. That would go without saying for any other normal country. Does Mead actually believe the Japanese are incapable of maintaining a military without succumbing to blood lust? Is he aware that the threat comes from China and is independent of anything Japan might or might not do?

As for supporting “patriotic” education, does this mean that Mead would favor education of the sort that would include the Howard Zinn approach to history as an alternative view in all American textbooks? Note also that Mead cites no details for his charge that a new curriculum would be more sympathetic toward Japan’s actions during World War II, nor what that would mean.

Then again, one American president of an earlier generation didn’t think the Japanese were entirely to blame. Refer to the first Mead link for Herbert Hoover’s opinion.

If Shinzo Abe continues to visit the shrine as prime minister as he has promised to do, Japanese companies in China would be well advised to hire more security guards, as angry Chinese are likely to make their disapproval clear to Japanese interests wherever they happen to find them.

Mead thinks a former Japanese prime minister is being foolhardy because a visit to certain places in his own country will anger the neighborhood geopolitical malefactor. But Abe Shinzo was the second chief cabinet secretary in the Koizumi administration. He already knows what might happen in China and South Korea as a result of Yasukuni visits.

Abe doesn’t plan on just stopping by the shrine. According to the Times, he will also revise an official apology regarding sex slavery in World War II, a move sure to upset the South Koreans as well as the Chinese. Further, Abe has said he would consider deploying Coast Guard to the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

While it is true that Mr. Abe would repudiate the Kono Statement, among the other things Mead doesn’t know are the circumstances behind the statement itself. It should never have been issued to begin with.

That Mead would also make a reference to the “disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands” shows that he hasn’t taken the time to do much reading about the subject. (Nicholas Kristoff columns don’t count.) Deploying the Japanese Coast Guard to the Senkakus would be no different than the Americans sending their own Coast Guard to Key West, even if the Cubans had taken it into their heads to claim that island for the first time in 1971.

Is there some reason Japan should not defend its own territory that is visible only from Mead’s perch in La Tour Ivoire?

But the Japanese seem only dimly aware of the fact that they live in a very precarious neighborhood, surrounded by strong nuclear powers with long memories of past conflicts with Japan.

This is the most preposterous statement I’ve read by a supposedly serious author all year — and this is an American election year when preposterous statements are as common as dandruff on the shoulders of an academic’s corduroy sport coat.

Let’s not mince words: To hold forth on what anyone in Japan knows about circumstances in the region when one knows so little of them oneself is beyond patronizing.

With the Russians deploying to the Far East, the South Koreans incensed by the Dokdo island dispute, the Chinese burning Japanese cars and flags, and always-volatile North Korea, the Japanese could probably use a lighter touch in their politics and diplomacy.

That Mead would refer to the islands as “Dokdo” instead of Takeshima can only mean the following:

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that when the Americans forced Japan at the end of the war to relinquish the territory it had seized in the region, they thought Takeshima belonged to Japan — despite Korean objections, and despite originally siding with the Korean position.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that the American government told the Koreans more than once that they thought Takeshima was Japanese (here and here) and recommended that the Koreans submit their case to the International Court of Justice.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that the Japanese have twice made the request for ICJ mediation, and the Koreans still refuse.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that the Japanese incorporated the islands on the principle of terra nullius. Or the Koreans have yet to make a plausible claim without a triple ricochet of logic, factual inaccuracies, photoshopping, or outright fabrications that they islands were ever theirs.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that a Korean monthly reported the two countries agreed to disagree about the islets in 1965, and that another Korean politician destroyed the Korean documents so they would never come to light.

* He is unaware or doesn’t care that the only reason the Koreans have the islets now is that they took them by force, killing some people when they did so.

* Even Google Maps recently switched from “Dokdo” to “Liancourt Rocks” for the name of the islets (drawing the predictable response from the Koreans).

From this, we can only conclude that Mead believes “might makes right”.

The Japanese could probably use a lighter touch in their politics and diplomacy.

How much lighter can they get without bending over?

Japanese government actions regarding Takeshima have been to ask South Korea to submit the case to the ICJ and to insert a passage in their textbooks that they think Takeshima is theirs. Japanese government actions regarding the Senkakus have been to purchase the land from the Japanese owners, who had been harassed for decades by the Chinese, and prevent the Tokyo Metro District from buying the land and building a much-needed ship basin and radio tower. That step was taken so as not to provoke the ever-ready-to-be-provoked Chinese.

Or does Mead think even the mildest expressions of the national interest are off-limits for Japan? Should Japan limit itself to playing Our Lady of Perpetual Atonement and writing checks when the Western powers are short of money for whatever fine military or economic mess they’ve gotten themselves into this time?

But Mead has a solution: the Global Liberal Imperium will dispatch its fleet to the region and pacify the cage rattlers:

These disputes may be a headache for the U.S., but they also demonstrate the continuing need for a strong U.S. military presence in the Pacific. The American naval presence in the region has been one of the major reasons these conflicts haven’t erupted since the end of the Korean War. Don’t expect large budget cuts for the Navy anytime soon.

Is that last sentence dependent on Romney winning the election, or Obama — for whom Mead supposedly voted, and who still can’t spit out a straight answer on the sequestration of Defense Department funds — getting reelected?

Can Japan depend on the United States to keep the peace in the region? Hah!

Japan and the US are dropping plans for a joint drill to simulate the retaking of a remote island from foreign forces amid a row between Tokyo and Beijing over a disputed archipelago, a report said.

The governments are set to cancel the drill as it could provoke further anger from China after a row escalated when Japan last month nationalised some of the disputed islands, also claimed by Beijing, Jiji Press reported late Friday.

The decision to cancel the drill, which would have involved an island that is not part of the disputed chain, was in line with the views of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s office, the news agency quoted government sources as saying.

Neither country had concerns of that sort when it conducted a similar drill last month in Guam. China didn’t behave any more obnoxiously then than it always does. Was this a Japanese idea — or an American idea?

Mind you, the Americans don’t seem concerned when the Chinese conduct military drills. Just a week before the Mead Quick Take:

The joint exercise involving the PLA Navy and civilian law enforcement ships conducted Friday in the East China Sea came as a surprise for Japanese media, which believe the move is due to the deteriorating situation between the two countries over Japan’s “nationalization” of the Diaoyu Islands.

There is no need to object to the speculation by Japanese media. The exercise has sent a clear message to the outside world, that China is ready to use naval force in maritime conflicts.

It was no surprise to anyone in Japan, much less the media. If you thought that was inflated belligerence, now read this:

(China) will only become more skillful in dealing with more provocations. What’s more, the Chinese people have increasingly begun to think that some countries have been underestimating the consequences of angering China, and China needs to teach them a lesson. This growing public sentiment may pressure the government to change its diplomatic policies.

Chinese people believe there is unlikely to be any major war in the Asia-Pacific region, because China has no intention of starting one, nor will the US, we believe. A conflict in this area would be a brief brawl, in which the weaker country is more likely to suffer.

China, the most powerful country in this region, has in the past been the strongest voice urging parties to “set aside disputes.” The Philippines, Vietnam and Japan, on the contrary, were more bellicose. This is not normal.

Japan has to realize the fact that it has always been a small country compared to China, and in the future it will still only be another Vietnam or Philippines. It is better for Japan to show some respect, or it is asking for trouble.

True, that was from the Global Times, whose editors consider the light touch in diplomacy to be the application of a blowtorch. Their rhetoric is so intemperate the editorial staff might soon undergo a shakeup. But it is affiliated with the People’s Daily, and as that article at the link notes, the Chinese-language version is even more extreme.

Need I mention that no one in Japan talks or writes anything remotely like that?

But other Chinese weren’t convinced that the Americans would intervene anyway:

“There is a danger of China and Japan having a military conflict,” said Yan Xuetong, one of China’s most influential foreign policy strategists, and a noted hawk. “I do not see either side making concessions. Both sides want to solve the situation peacefully, but neither side can provide the right approach.”


“Generally speaking, according to the theory of international relations, unless one country makes concessions to the other, the escalation of a conflict between two countries will not stop until there is a military clash,” he said.

He said that China was tolerant with smaller powers. “But the case of Japan is different. There is history between us. Japan is a big power. It regards itself as a regional, and sometimes a world power. So China can very naturally regard Japan as an equal. And if we are equal, you cannot poke us,” he said.

The only country doing, or threatening to do, the poking is China. But if Japanese become more impertinent than the Chinese can bear?

Mr Yan predicted that if there was a military confrontation, the United States would not intervene physically.

Both presidential candidates say the American military will be out of Afghanistan by 2014, which means the country will revert to the status quo ante of 2001. The Americans couldn’t come up with a status of forces agreement for Iraq to help maintain peace in that part of the world. They can’t figure out what to do with the soon-to-be nuclear Iran, except cover their eyes and hope it goes away. The Obama administration has, however, figured out what to do with Israel – cut it adrift.

The United States can’t even protect the lives of its own ambassador and three other embassy personnel in Libya. Despite the request of the ambassador for greater security, and despite the possibility that the ambassador was involved in some dangerous business by facilitating a gun-running operation to Syria through Turkey, the U.S. government outsourced the security of the consulate to foreigners, watched the attack from drones in real time without responding, and lied about the whole thing for weeks afterward.

The language blaring out of China every day (thoughtfully translated by them into English and put on the Web — removing all excuses) is more bellicose than that which emanated from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The Chinese openly express their intent to grind several axes with other nations, including the United States.

But an American university professor thinks an America filled to the gills with Chinese-held debt and tired of international policery has to send a depleted fleet to keep order in the western Pacific because “nationalism is on the rise” in the region and Japanese politicians are “rattling the cages”.

Even the most inconsequential of Japanese politicians know more of what is stake in the region than any drive-by Western academic, yet Walter Russell Mead snarks about their “dim awareness”.

And some people will read what he writes and assume he has something worth saying about this part of the world beyond the obvious, the superficial, and the incorrect.

May somebody shine a light on them all.

Posted in China, History, International relations, Military affairs, North Korea, South Korea | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Caveat empty

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, October 18, 2012

THE news sites passed on the gossip yesterday that former prime minister and current LDP President Abe Shinzo visited the Yasukuni Shrine for their annual fall festival. He’s been there before (though not when he was prime minister), and he might go there again when it means something, but until then the gossipers will have to satisfy themselves by tattling on neighborhood arguments. Judging from the headline, Reuters enjoys it:

Japan opposition leader’s war shrine visit bound to anger China, Korea

The Tweeter known as Shishi Juroku (Lion Sixteen) saw the headline and had a succinct response. In English, his comment would be:

War shrine?

Yasukuni is a “war shrine” in the same sense that Arlington National in the United States is a “war cemetery”, but that’s an example of the hazards you might encounter if you voluntarily enter Reutersworld.

Had Shishi Juroku read to the last sentence of the article, he might have been spurred to spout a few more question marks. It also might have cured him from reading any Reuters article again. Here’s a screenshot of the passage:

Kishi Nobusuke become the Minister of Commerce and Industry in 1941, and he served in that role until the 1945 surrender. Because he was a member of the government, the Allies incarcerated him at Sugamo Prison as a Class A war crimes suspect. He was released after three years.

Kishi was not convicted of anything, because he wasn’t tried. Indeed, he wasn’t even indicted, though Tojo and a few other Cabinet members were. That might have been because his job was limited to wartime material procurement, and his opposition to continuing the war was a factor in bringing down the Tojo government before the surrender.

This is an easily confirmed matter of historical record, but the lichtaffen have priorities more important than factual accuracy.

There are two possibilities for errors of this kind. One is simple incompetence. Applying the principle of Occam’s Razor suggests this is the most likely explanation.

If so, the people who once upon a time inaccurately reported on changes to Japanese high school history textbooks are incapable of elementary historical research themselves. Is this journalism, or is this vaudeville?

But because this is a Reuters article, it’s also possible they’re pushing one of several agendas. In this case, it’s the agenda of a Japan unrepentant for its Godzilla-like behavior of a few generations ago and, by insinuation, ready to do it all again. One wonders if it is that Reuters employees are stupid enough to believe it, or they’re just happy to follow their employer’s editorial guidelines as long as they can deposit the paycheck.

Once upon a time, I felt sorry for the people who read/consumed the news as presented by the outlet of their choice and thereby thought they understood something of what was happening in the world.

But that’s over. Ignorance is no longer an excuse for the non-journalistic public. Even Wikipedia gets it right sometimes.

As for the journos, they’ve never had an excuse.

Posted in Mass media, Politics | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by ampontan on Thursday, October 4, 2012

IT’S possible to see some academics and think tankers still offering a certain kind of helpful advice to the Japanese about how to resolve the lingering animosities in Northeast Asia . That advice is now decades out of date, and its expression alone demonstrates that those who offer it aren’t paying attention.

This is the third time in a week I’ve presented excerpts from Prof. Furuta Hiroshi, but that’s because he had the foresight to write the following in 2005.

The great cacophony in East Asia, past, present, and future, is obvious to everyone. For many years, it has been believed that the primary cause of that cacophony is Japan’s history of colonial policies on the Korean Peninsula and the invasion and warfare in China. That Japan’s everlasting atonement to them will contribute to reconciliation and cooperation in the region has been induced as a conclusion, enveloped in a sense of ethics.

Now, however, we have at last begun to understand the immaturity of that logic. The present cacophony of East Asia is rather a result of their nationalist melody. The sheet music is inscribed with the first movement of Sinocentric Culturalism, which hasn’t been reorchestrated for centuries. The timber of the music has swelled from the initial faint strains and gradually become a great noise that has drowned out the voices of reconciliation, cooperation, and atonement. Under the baton of their moral propensities, they unendingly chant an anti-Japanese liturgy. This quashes the spirit of compliance with international law that we have created in recent years, as well as our verified historical research and even our rational thought. Their compatriots strike us in the face and impose on us their mistaken “correct history”.

The results of the peace so assiduously built up in the sixty years after the war have been branded as militarism by those with nuclear weapons who would pillage our islands. The “intellectuals of good conscience” who are not aware of that outrageousness are unworthy of being attributed with the quality of good conscience.

The time has now come in which we will have to fight through and survive the never-ending anti-Japan symphony.

Posted in China, History, International relations, Photographs and videos, South Korea, World War II | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

More on Han-yi Shaw and the Senkakus

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 29, 2012

MICHAEL Turton examines the recent guest article by Han-yi Shaw about the Senkakus in the Nicholas Kristof New York Times column and shreds it. Literally. Here was my response, but his is better. First, kudos for sharp eyes: I’ll let Turton explain it.

Here is what Shaw wrote near the bottom:

And according to Taiwan gazetteers, “Diaoyu Island accommodates ten or more large ships” under the jurisdiction of Kavalan, Taiwan.

Heh. The Chinese text he highlights, presumably from the Chen Shouqi text on the right, actually says something like “the Diaoyu Island can hold 1000 large ships.” Not ten, but a thousand. Is Shaw deliberately mistranslating, mistaken, or is it that the gazetteer he cites is not the one in the picture?

Sure enough, that’s exactly what the text in the photograph says: 1,000 large ships. That’s physically impossible.

Shaw was new to me, so I wondered in the piece whether he had another agenda. He wasn’t new to Michael Turton. Here’s his explanation of the Shaw background.

The NYTimes piece leaves out a key piece of information that makes Shaw’s position more rational than it really is, because if the paper’s gentle readers saw it in print they would immediately realize an inconvenient truth: that Han-yi Shaw is a right-wing Chinese expansionist following a Chinese-invented Sinocentric form of sovereignty that hands all of Asia to China. Here is what he says in the long paper:

…Many Chinese scholars have argued that when evaluating the various historical evidence put forth by the Chinese side, one must not fail to recognize the important political realities of the time from which they originated, namely, an era characterized by the East Asian World Order (otherwise known as the Chinese World Order).

The underlying concern is the following: whether principles of modern international law, which has its origin in the European tradition of international order, can properly judge a territorial dispute involving countries historically belonging under the East Asian World Order with fundamentally different ordering principles from its European counterpart. First and foremost, it should be noted that the East Asian World Order was a system of international relations characterized as Sinocentric and hierarchical rather than one based on sovereign equality of nations. Under such a framework, relations between nations were not governed by principles of international law known to the West, but instead by what is know as the “tributary system” instituted by China.

It looks like Shaw claims that there are Chinese scholars arguing that if China says someone paid tribute to it at some point in history, China can determine the sovereignty in its favor. I doubt one can find many Korean, Mongolian, Tibetan, Japanese, Thai, or Vietnamese scholars to support this. It is hard to imagine a mindset more self-serving and expansionist than this. Imagine if the NYTimes column had been fronted by this nonsense. Instead, Shaw cleverly frames it as an attack on Tokyo’s position rather than an announcement of his own with copious evidence, maps, and charts.

There’s more:

What has really happened here is that the East Asian World Order as deployed in the service of Chinese expansion means that when China wants to expand, it will rummage through its history to find justification for said expansion. Thus, the real inconvenient truth is that the Senkakus are Japanese and the Chinese claim is simply naked expansionism.

The even more inconvenient truth, as I have noted several times on this blog, is that many Chinese, especially on the right, argue that Okinawa is Chinese, “stolen territory” — in Chinese minds, and on Chinese maps, the two are linked.

He also touches on the chartered Taiwanese fishing boats that sallied forth to the Senkakus and back:

It should be noted that effectively, when the Ma government and the Beijing government tag-team Japan, the Ma government is working with China, whatever their denials.

It’s all here, and worth reading every word.

It would seem that the credibility of a certain Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist in the New York Times is rapidly evaporating.

Posted in China, History, International relations, Taiwan | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »


Posted by ampontan on Thursday, September 27, 2012

YESTERDAY, senior officials of the South Korean Maritime Police (AKA Coast Guard) confirmed on Chosun Television the information that former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo revealed a year or two ago. According to the Chosun Ilbo report on the program, then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun ordered the maritime police to attack and sink two Japanese Coast Guard ships conducting a hydrographic survey in the Sea of Japan if they entered the waters near Takeshima.

Roh gave the order on 14 April 2006. That was a few months before the end of the Koizumi administration, when Mr. Abe was the chief cabinet secretary. The Japanese had provided the International Hydrographic Agency with advance notice of the survey. When South Korea found out, they transferred 18 ships from their maritime police stationed in the West Sea and the South Sea, as the Chosun put it, to defend the islets. As the map above shows, the “West Sea” is what the rest of the world calls the Yellow Sea, and the South Sea is what the rest of the world calls the Jeju Strait. It also shows the Sea of Japan as the “East Sea”, but they generously put the real name in parentheses just below it.

The presidential order was to ram the Japanese ships, sink them, and then fulfill their humanitarian duty by rescuing any Japanese sailors in the water. Said one of the officials on Korean TV:

“We didn’t actually do it, but the order was imbued with the will to defend Dokdo.”

Also yesterday, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported on the election of the “far right” Abe Shinzo as president of the Liberal Democratic Party, and added:

“If he becomes Prime Minister, it will expose the Japanese trend toward militarism, and friction will increase with China, South Korea, and other surrounding countries…Mr. Abe seems to be dreaming of the revival of a militarist Japan.”

Somebody seems to be dreaming, but they’ve fingered the wrong sleeper. If Yonhap ever wakes up from its stupor, perhaps they’ll remember that Abe Shinzo has already served as prime minister for a year and given everyone an idea of his approach to foreign poicy. His first overseas trip as the head of the Japanese government was to China, and he also visited South Korea for a summit with Roh (whom he immediately discovered was impossible to work with.)

Also during his term of office, Premier Wen Jibao became the first Chinese leader to address the Japanese Diet. In his speech, Mr. Wen said:

“The older generation of Chinese leaders stated on many occasions that it was a handful of militarists who were responsible for that war of aggression. The Japanese people were also victims of the war, and the Chinese people should live in friendship with them.”


“Since the normalization of diplomatic ties between China and Japan, the Japanese Government and leaders have on many occasions stated their position on the historical issue, admitted that Japan had committed aggression and expressed deep remorse and apology to the victimized countries.”


“During my meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday, we agreed to upgrade bilateral economic cooperation by launching a China-Japan high level economic dialogue mechanism. To start with, the two countries should further strengthen cooperation in energy, environmental protection, banking, new and high technology, information and communication and protection of intellectual property rights.”

Toward the end, he observed:

“We in China have a time-honored tradition of prizing virtue rather than force and valuing credibility and harmony.”

So to sum up, we have a leftwing president of South Korea sending a flotilla of 18 ships from the “West Sea” and the “South Sea” to defend Dokdo by attacking two vessels conducting a hydrographic survey. We’ve got the Communist Party in China forgetting everything it once said now that they’ve pried out of Japan the money they needed to kickstart their entry into the modern world, and are trying to pry one part of Japan loose as a preparation for prying loose all of Okinawa.

Wouldn’t it appear to the disinterested observer that the problem is the real militarism of leftists in other Northeast Asian countries rather than the dreams of a non-existent militarism from a “far-right” politician in Japan?

For another entertaining diversion, you might try the Hiroko Tabuchi piece on Mr. Abe’s election in the New York Times. It isn’t often you get the chance to see a major news outlet create an article out of a series of cut-and-paste observations so random as to be scatterbrained.

Their headline also referred to Mr. Abe as a “nationalist”, and the article said his election might “help fuel tensions” in the region. Yes, she did use the word “help”, but no, I don’t think the Chinese and the Koreans really need any help with tension fueling. They’re already doing fine on their own.

Note the underlying assumption that everyone else’s bad behavior is Japan’s responsibility to ameliorate.

She said he might become prime minister after the next election because:

“(N)ow the Democratic Party has lost much of its support, having fallen short on many of their promises to change Japan’s postwar order by wrestling power away from the country’s powerful bureaucrats.”

That’s pretty close to the truth for the Times. All you have to do is replace the word “many” with “all”.

Tabuchi also explained that Mr. Abe resigned the premiership “citing an unspecified health problem”.

Forty-five seconds on Google specified the health problem as ulcerative colitis, one symptom of which is severe diarrhea. He might not have specified it when he resigned, but the Japanese news media did. In Mr. Abe’s case, it involved 30 trips to the bathroom a day, none of which relieved the pain in his abdominal area. He says that a new drug approved for treatment two years ago has helped considerably.

Now if we could only find an equivalent medication for the news media.


The Yomiuri Shimbun is reporting that President Ma Ying-jeou of Taiwan met with people from the Taiwan military on the 26th and praised the recent fishing boat excursion in Japanese territorial waters:

“They showed the world that the Diaoyutai is Taiwan’s territory.”

And here it was just a month ago that he appeared on Japanese television to tout his East Asia Peace Initiative, one of the clauses of which was to refrain from escalating tension.

Mr. Ma’s family name, by the way, translates to horse. He’s not living up to it, however. It’s hard to tell whether he’s a donkey or a horse.

That might have been the Last Emperor, but the dreams of empire are still alive.

Posted in China, International relations, Mass media, Military affairs, South Korea | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Refrying nationalism

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, September 26, 2012

THE balloting to select the new president of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party has just finished, and the LDP has chosen former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo as its new leader. That means Mr. Abe stands a good chance of becoming prime minister again following the next election.

We already know how most of the news media in the Anglosphere and the Asahi Shimbun in Japan will treat the news: Japan is turning rightward! Japan is turning to nationalism! In fact, the Washington Post has already started (and we’ll get to that in a day or two.) [[Quick update: The Yonhap news agency of South Korea just now referred to him as “far right” in their report.]]

Well, that’s accurate in one sense: Japan isn’t turning to social democracy and uno mundo imposed and enforced from the top down.

I’ve already dealt with the other senses in a post called The Mirage of Japanese Nationalism more than five years ago. I just re-read it and, apart from the failure to anticipate the revival of the term “right-wing”, it’s just as valid as it was in May 2007. Hit the link and see for yourself. (The link to the blogger in France still works.)

And if you’re in a reading mood, the links to the post before and the post after in May 2007 might be of interest as well — particularly the one the right with commentary about the Japanese Constitution, and what Ishihara Shintaro suggested the Chinese government would do when their economy hits a rough patch.


It didn’t take the Associated Press long:

Abe’s previous 2006-2007 tenure as prime minister was marked by a nationalistic agenda. He urged a revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution, pressed for patriotic education, upgraded the defense agency to ministry status and pushed for Japan to have a greater international peacekeeping role.

News outlets should give serious consideration to shifting their AP reports to the Entertainment section.

Time for some neo-nationalist music. It’s funky as the dickens, has three of the four original members of Nenes, and the bandleader wearing a hibiscus in the lapel of his white suit.

Posted in Mass media, Politics | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Yes, it is inconvenient

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 22, 2012

ON Thursday, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times presented a guest piece in his On The Ground column by Han-Yi Shaw (original name, Shao Hanyi), a Research Fellow at the Research Center for International Legal Studies at the National Chengchi University in Taiwan.

Mr. Shaw suspects that Japan illegally seized the Senkaku islets from China in 1895 and thinks he can prove it. These islets are at the center of a serious dispute between the two countries. The Japanese government’s purchase of some of the islets from their private Japanese owners caused violent demonstrations throughout China last week.

The Shaw article is titled The Inconvenient Truth Behind the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. That’s apt, because the truth is inconvenient indeed — for Mr. Shaw. His piece is weak, short on facts, long on innuendo, and contains internal contradictions and inaccuracies.

And if that weren’t enough, Mr. Shaw unwittingly demonstrates that he doesn’t follow current events in Japan very closely.

The article is filled with lacunae. Here’s how he starts:

Japan’s recent purchase of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands has predictably reignited tensions amongst China, Japan, and Taiwan. Three months ago, when Niwa Uichiro, the Japanese ambassador to China, warned that Japan’s purchase of the islands could spark an “extremely grave crisis” between China and Japan, Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro slammed Niwa as an unqualified ambassador, who “needs to learn more about the history of his own country”.

Ambassador Niwa was forced to apologize for his remarks and was recently replaced. But what is most alarming amid these developments is that despite Japan’s democratic and pluralist society, rising nationalist sentiments are sidelining moderate views and preventing rational dialogue.

Now here’s what he doesn’t say and what he left out.

The duties of an ambassador do not include giving interviews to foreign publications, in this case the Financial Times, to influence the policies of his government. Their duties are limited to serving in a foreign country as representatives to express their government’s views and policies.

Mr. Niwa also reportedly made several other poorly received statements, including the suggestion that the Age of a Greater China is coming, and that Japan would be better off becoming a Chinese vassal state.

Mr. Shaw might not know that Niwa Uichiro was not a career diplomat. He resigned his position as chairman of Itochu Corp., a large trading company with extensive business interests in China, to become the ambassador.

He neglects to mention that Mr. Niwa was summoned to Tokyo from Beijing to ensure that he would deliver the messages to China that the Japanese government wanted him to deliver, instead of what Niwa Uichiro thought they should say.

I know of no Japanese who publicly called for Mr. Niwa to be retained in his position. Ishihara Shintaro’s criticism had little, if any, impact on the decision.

But one of the points of Mr. Shaw’s piece is to convey the idea that the ultranationalist Ishihara is preventing “rational dialogue” in Japan’s democratic and pluralistic society.

It is an inconvenient truth for Mr. Shaw, however, that public opinion polling shows little support for Mr. Ishihara in national politics. He put his name behind the effort to create the Sunrise Party of Japan for the upper house elections in 2010. It has seven sitting members in the bicameral Diet at present. None of their members won a seat through direct election in 2010. Only one of them won a proportional representation seat.

That’s important because it means Ishihara Shintaro is incapable of electorally punishing the Democratic Party government of Noda Yoshihiko. Thus, it would seem that Mr. Shaw wants to discredit the Japanese intent to keep the Senkaku islets by demonizing Ishihara Shintaro and suggesting he has a stranglehold on Japanese policymaking. He doesn’t.

I spent some time on this because Mr. Shaw is trying to add a contemporary political dimension to the issue instead of limiting himself to the presentation of historical evidence. People do that sort of thing all the time. But if Mr. Shaw wants to do it, he needs to do some homework first.

He writes:

My research of over 40 official Meiji period documents unearthed from the Japanese National Archives, Diplomatic Records Office, and National Institute for Defense Studies Library clearly demonstrates that the Meiji government acknowledged Chinese ownership of the islands back in 1885.

We’d all like to see his evidence, but he doesn’t show us any. His article is accompanied by photographs of two Meiji-era documents stating that Japanese surveys of the islets were incomplete. Perhaps they were. But he would have better made his point by showing photographs that he thinks are clear proof of Japanese acknowledgement instead of those irrelevant letters. The discussion of historical research should not involve sleight-of-hand. That doesn’t stop him from saying:

Following the first on-site survey, in 1885, the Japanese foreign minister wrote, “Chinese newspapers have been reporting rumors of our intention of occupying islands belonging to China located next to Taiwan.…

I can’t determine from that translated sentence whether the foreign minister thinks the islands belong to China or the Chinese newspapers think the islands belong to China. Heck, the Chinese newspapers still think that. It might have been easy to clear up the syntax had he shown us a photo of that Japanese letter, but instead he shows us two other Japanese letters unrelated to his point.

Is there an inconvenient truth in the letter he doesn’t want us to see? Any more background information he’s leaving out?

Speaking of background, here’s something from a piece I wrote in 2010:

Fukuoka native Koga Tatsuhiro was making a living in Naha, Okinawa, catching and exporting finfish and shellfish when he discovered in 1884 that the islets were the habitat of the rare short-tailed albatross. He started collecting albatross feathers for sale in addition conducting to his fishing business. Ten years later, he applied to the government of Okinawa Prefecture to lease the islands. They turned him down because they weren’t sure who the islands belonged to. Koga then applied to the interior and agriculture ministries in Tokyo, and they turned him down for the same reason… The Senkakus were uninhabited and unclaimed—indeed, they had never been administered at any time by the Chinese government, and there is no record of any Chinese ever living or working there.

That’s relevant, because Mr. Shaw writes:

In November 1885, the Okinawa governor confirmed “since this matter is not unrelated to China, if problems do arise I would be in grave repentance for my responsibility”.

The only things the Okinawa governor confirmed were that the matter might have been related to China because he didn’t know who the islets belonged to, and that claiming territory was not his job. It does not demonstrate that he knew they were Chinese.

Mr. Shaw’s only mention of Koga Tatsuhiro is this:

In his biography Koga Tatsushiro, the first Japanese citizen to lease the islands from the Meiji government, attributed Japan’s possession of the islands to “the gallant military victory of our Imperial forces.”

People say all sorts of things in the spirit of patriotism, particularly after a war. But that “gallant military victory” also resulted in Japanese possession of other islands: Taiwan and the Pescadores. His manner of framing Koga’s involvement and the brevity of the direct quote raise questions that a serious scholar would not leave unanswered.

But if Koga, the operator of a small business, thought the islands were Chinese, Mr. Shaw would have told us. In fact, when Koga first wanted to establish a business there, he went to the Okinawa governor. That suggests he thought they were Japanese, if anything.

Incidentally, Koga and his son ran that business on the islands until 1940, and more than 200 of his employees lived there. It is still possible, however, to run across commentators who say the islands are “uninhabitable”.

Collectively, these official documents leave no doubt that the Meiji government did not base its occupation of the islands following “on-site surveys time and again,” but instead annexed them as booty of war.

Well, that settles that, at least for Mr. Shaw. Or does it?

Here are some more inconvenient truths.

* The first war between China and Japan started in April 1894 and ended when the Chinese sued for peace in February 1895.

* Among the terms of the Treaty of Shimonoseki signed in April 1895, Japan had China give complete independence to Korea, and received the territories of Taiwan, the Liaodong Peninsula (which Russia, France, and Germany made Japan give back a week later), and the Pescadores — other islands near Taiwan.

* The Japanese government annexed the Senkakus in January 1895, one month before the Chinese sued for peace and four months before the Treaty of Shimonoseki.

* The Japanese government knew that Taiwan, the Liaodong Peninsula, and the Pescadores were Chinese territory, and so insisted on them in the treaty negotiations. They even fought and defeated Qing dynasty troops at a garrison in the Pescadores and occupied the islands to ensure the Chinese would give them Taiwan in the negotiations then underway. They didn’t treat them as “booty of war”.

It would be logical to assume that if they thought the Senkakus were also Chinese territory, they would have included them in the treaty too. They were getting everything else they wanted. Therefore, it would seem that the Japanese thought they weren’t anybody’s territory, much less Chinese, and so annexed them.

Japan asserts that neither Beijing nor Taipei objected to U.S. administration after WWII. That’s true, but what Japan does not mention is that neither Beijing nor Taipei were invited as signatories of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, from which the U.S. derived administrative rights.

What Mr. Shaw does not mention is that Chiang Kai-shek had the ear of the Allied forces throughout the war. He also participated in the conferences that resulted in the Cairo Declaration of 1943. One clause included the provision that Japan would give back all the territories it seized from China, including Taiwan and the Pescadores. Complaints about the San Francisco Peace Treaty are quibbling.

Indeed, Chiang Kai-shek also wanted Okinawa, but he didn’t get anywhere with that one. The current Chinese government is still trying.

Mr. Shaw also fails to mention that the reason neither the PRC or the ROC were invited to the peace treaty conference is that they were in the middle of a civil war at the time and lacked the legal status to be party to an international agreement.

When Japan annexed the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands in 1895, it detached them from Taiwan and placed them under Okinawa Prefecture… Qing period (1644-1911) records substantiate Chinese ownership of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands prior to 1895. Envoy documents indicate that the islands reside inside the “border that separates Chinese and foreign lands.”

A post written by Prof. Shimojo Masao and presented here yesterday demonstrates that is incorrect. The Qing period records Prof. Shimojo presented — including maps that still exist — are clear about the border of China and Taiwan. None of them mentioned the Senkakus. Indeed, Qing dynasty records show that they considered the border to be Mt. Jilong in Taiwan: in 1684, when they incorporated the western part of Taiwan, and 1696, 1728, 1744, and 1793. It’s not possible to detach anything that isn’t attached to begin with.

And according to Taiwan gazetteers, “Diaoyu Island accommodates ten or more large ships” under the jurisdiction of Kavalan, Taiwan.

That’s most curious. If the Taiwan gazetteers were the ones who thought Diaoyu was part of Taiwan, why doesn’t he show us a photo of the publication? He does show us the photo of a gazetteer in the unrelated Fujian Province on the mainland in 1871, but none from Taiwan. Is that because he is aware of the inconvenient truths Prof. Shimojo has uncovered?

Half a century later when Japan returned Taiwan to China…

Chapter 2, Article 2 (b) of the San Francisco treaty:

Japan renounces all right, title and claim to Formosa and the Pescadores.

Japan did not “return Taiwan to China”. It only renounced its right, title, and claim. Every scholar in Taiwan knows this. Does Mr. Shaw have another agenda?

Half a century later when Japan returned Taiwan to China, both sides adopted the 1945 administrative arrangement of Taiwan, with the Chinese unaware that the uninhabited “Senkaku Islands” were in fact the former Diaoyu Islands. This explains the belated protest from Taipei and Beijing over U.S. administration of the islands after the war.

Rather than explain the belated protest, it offers an excuse for the belated protest, and not a very good one at that. The Chinese don’t even know their own geography? For example:

The first is an official letter from a Chinese consul in Nagasaki dated May 20, 1920 that listed the islands as Japanese territory.

The letter contained the Japanese name for the Senkakus rather than the Chinese name. What Mr. Shaw finds inconvenient to mention is that the document is an official expression of gratitude for the Japanese rescuing Chinese fishermen who were shipwrecked on the islets. They didn’t know what islets they were?

The “belated protest” didn’t come until 1971, after the potential for undersea resources were discovered in the area and the Americans and the Japanese signed the agreement to restore Okinawa to Japan.

Up until then, as I’ve noted before:

8 January 1953: Renmin Ribao (People’s Daily) published an article titled “The Ryukyu Islanders’ Struggle against American Occupation” (i.e., Okinawa). The article mentioned the Senkakus, used that name, and stated they were part of the Ryukyus.

November 1958: A Beijing company published a map of the world showing the Senkakus as Japanese territory and using the Japanese name.

October 1965: The Research Institute for Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense published a series of world maps. It showed the islets as part of Japanese territory and used the Japanese name Senkakus. Here is a color reproduction of the map itself on a Taiwanese website. The poster worries about how the map would affect the Taiwanese claim. Scroll down to see the magical mystery change on the map for the 1972 edition.

6 October 1968: The Taiwanese newspaper Lianhebao (United Daily News) published an article explaining that Taiwanese fishermen were prohibited from fishing in the Senkakus. They used the Japanese name.

Hit this link for a look at the front page of the People’s Daily, as well as a Chinese map published in 1953, and republished in 1958, 1960, and 1967.

But Mr. Shaw would have us believe:

The Japanese government frequently cites two documents as evidence that China did not consider the islands to be Chinese. The first is an official letter from a Chinese consul in Nagasaki dated May 20, 1920 that listed the islands as Japanese territory. The second piece evidence is a Chinese map from 1958 that excludes the Senkaku Islands from Chinese territory. But the Japanese government’s partial unveiling leaves out important information from the map’s colophon: “certain national boundaries are based on maps compiled prior to the Second Sino-Japanese War(1937-1945).”

I count three more maps from China, two from Taiwan (one for a junior high school textbook), an article in the People’s Daily, and an article in a Taiwanese newspaper.

That’s more than “two”.

And that’s not to mention the classified 1969 Chinese government map reported in the United States to be in the possession of the Japanese government, and which has been seen by sources at that media outlet.

Want to bet that the US government also has seen it? Perhaps that’s the back story for this report which appeared yesterday:

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for East Asian and Pacific Affairs) Kurt Campbell said islands at the heart of a dispute between Japan and China fall under an American defense pact with Japan, while urging the sides to resolve the standoff via diplomacy…The U.S. doesn’t take a position on the sovereignty of the islands, known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese, Campbell said. His comments echoed those of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who said in 2010 that the islands fall under “mutual treaty obligations” with the Japan government.

And that comment about the colophon is so disingenuous as to be odiferous. The author would have us believe it refers to the Senkakus, whose status wasn’t in dispute for decades before or after the second war with China. But Japan also occupied the Spratlys and the Paracels during the war and relinquished them after 1945 as well. Disputes about the Spratlys continue to the present with Vietnam. Unfortunately, the author doesn’t address anything about that part of the map. Would it show something that he finds inconvenient? In addition, the borders of China, Outer Mongolia, and Inner Mongolia frequently shifted before and after the war. Was the colophon referring to that? Instead of answer, Mr. Shaw gives us only more innuendo.

Concludes Mr. Shaw:

The right to know is the bedrock of every democracy. The Japanese public deserves to know the other side of the story.

On 21 August this year, Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou appeared on Japanese television and presented his case that the Senkaku islets were Taiwan’s territory. I’d be glad to introduce Mr. Shaw to the NHK producer who edited the program for broadcast if he wants to know how much the Japanese public knows. He sure doesn’t know now.

In his introduction to the piece, Nicholas Kristof writes:

I invite any Japanese scholars to make the contrary legal case.

Though a Ph.D isn’t essential to debate an activist academic, Mr. Kristof’s request is a reasonable one for maintaining the level of dialogue in his column and at the newspaper.

But a Japanese scholar has already accepted Mr. Kristof’s request to make a contrary legal case, and notification of that acceptance has been sent to him.

We’ll see what happens next.


People will have to distort the facts to make the claim that only the ultra-rightwing nationalists are the obstacle. The Japanese Communist Party, ultra-rightwing nationalist scalawags that they are, also addresses the issue on their website:

The Senkaku Islands question has nothing to do with the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95. The Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty to conclude the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 decided to cede Taiwan and the Penghu Islands to Japan. This was Japan’s territorial expansion, which can never be justified. But every historical document tells us that the Senkaku Islands question was dealt with separately from the Taiwan and Penghu Islands question. In the negotiations on the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty, the question of title to the Senkaku Islands was not taken up.

The JCP, by the way, also complained that the U.S. military used the islets for target practice.

Posted in China, History, International relations, Politics, Taiwan | Tagged: , , , | 28 Comments »

All you have to do is look (56)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 22, 2012

A scene from the anti-Japan protests last week in Kunming. See what I mean about demonstrations being social events and a great way to meet girls?

“Hey, that’s a great sign you’ve got there. Did you make it yourself? Aren’t those Japanese evil? By the way, my name’s…”

Posted in China, International relations | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (53)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Two screen shots from Japanese television. Here’s one:

And the other:

Efforts are underway within the South Korean government to have the “sunburst” flag of Japan banned at international venues. Their efforts began after one of their soccer players got in trouble for parading a “Dokdo is Our Land” banner around the pitch after his team defeated Japan in the bronze medal match at the London Olympics.

The program gave a brief history of the use of the symbol in Japan. The first shot explains that several similar designs were used as family crests in Kyushu during the Warring States period of the late 15th and 16th centuries and shows four examples. The explanation underneath says the families chose it because there are a lot of active volcanoes in the region and, being a southern island, the sun has a stronger presence in everyone’s awareness.

The second explains that many of the people in positions of authority during the early Meiji period were from Kyushu. They used the symbol on the crests as a reference to create military flags because it presented the image of strength from the sun and the volcanoes.

One of the factors that was an impetus for the Meiji restoration was the concern that Japan would be the next East Asian target for European colonialism.

The flag most often associated with that design is used as a Maritime Self-Defense Force flag today, and a modified design is used by the Land Self-Defense Force.

Posted in History, Military affairs, Photographs and videos | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

China demos: The rest of the story

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, September 16, 2012

A photograph was taken of a police officer in civilian clothes holding a megaphone and giving instructions, after which a car was destroyed. They’ve turned into a mob. A police officer does something like this, and the security police are providing protection. Amazing, a country capable of such theater.

– A Tweet from Masumitsu Koz, referring to the above photo from Chinese sources

YOU’VE read the news from China on the government-inspired and –supported anti-Japanese demonstrations that have turned into rioting and looting. Now, to paraphrase Paul Harvey, here’s the rest of the story.

The Japanese public was appalled at the incompetence with which the Kan Naoto Cabinet mishandled the incident in September 2010 when a Chinese fishing boat captain rammed into two Japanese Coast Guard vessels near the Senkaku islets. Their misfeasance and negligence included lying about the responsibility of the Okinawa prosecutors, concealing the video of the incident (until a Coast Guard officer released it on Youtube), and charges that government officials had resigned themselves to vassalage to the Chinese. It was one of several factors that would have bounced Kan Naoto from office after only six months on the job, until the Tohoku disaster prolonged his term for another six months.

A direct result of that incompetence was the fund-raising drive started by Tokyo Metro District Gov. Ishihara Shintaro to purchase the islets for Tokyo from their Japanese owners. Widely dismissed, and therefore unwisely disregarded, as an ultranationalist, Mr. Ishihara read the national mood that demanded the government uphold its prime directive to defend the country. The Tokyo government received enough money through the drive to make the purchase.

But he would not have stopped with the title transfer. Under his direction, the Tokyo government would likely have built docks for fishing boats and emergency rescue squads, and conducted surveys to determine the extent of the undersea resources in the area.

That would have upset the Chinese, who manufactured their own claim to the islets in the early 70s to glom the resources for themselves. Therefore, the government of Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko stepped in to have the national government buy them. It was an attempt to seize the middle ground — they would satisfy the public by upholding Japanese sovereignty without antagonizing the Chinese by developing the islets.

Tang Jiazhuan, the head of a China-Japan Friendship Association, sent a back-channel message to the Japanese government that the Chinese would accept the purchase (while publicly complaining about it) if Japan did not erect permanent buildings, conducted no surveys, and recognized that the sovereignty of the territory was in dispute.

The first two already were the policy of the Noda government, but the third was and is not. Mr. Noda informed President Hu Jintao that his government would purchase the islets when both men were in Vladivostok for the APEC summit. Here is the Epoch Times description of Mr. Hu’s response:

Hu Jintao admonished Japanese Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Russia Sunday, stating that Japan’s attempts to “interfere” in the Senkaku Islands dispute were “illegal and futile.”


Hu’s remarks, however, were published for less than an hour before they were purged from Party websites and others affiliated with Beijing. No explanation was presented for the deletions.

The article had said, “Hu Jintao solemnly pointed out that recently China and Japan’s conflicts over the Senkaku Islands have been grim. On the Senkaku Islands matter, the Chinese position is consistent and clear. Any means taken by Japan to ‘interfere with the islands’ are illegal, futile, and firmly opposed by China. The Chinese government’s stance on protecting territory and sovereignty is unwavering.”

The Epoch Times reported that Mr. Hu was said to have told the Japanese prime minister, “The Japanese must fully realize the seriousness of the current situation, not make a wrong decision, and protect the development of China-Japan relations.”

They added that the article was deleted from the Chinese Web portal NetEase, Google News, and the Xinhua news agency. Phoenix TV in Hong Kong also ran the article, but later modified it to make it less harsh.

And then it was uploaded again. That is unusual, even for China. It suggests, at a minimum, serious disagreement among the country’s rulers over how to proceed.

The same day, the Chinese Foreign Ministry sent a message to the Japanese government declaring their strong opposition to the purchase. They didn’t make it public until later that night.

The following day, Mr. Noda announced the purchase and ignored the Chinese demands. The Chinese knew that would strengthen Japanese control of the islets and were disturbed because it caused Mr. Hu to lose face. The Chinese president was criticized at home for foreign policy weakness.

The day after that, Prime Minister Wen Jibao and Deputy Prime Minister Li Keqiang issued anti-Japanese statements. Both they and Mr. Hu are viewed as relatively friendly toward Japan (unlike the presumed presidential successor, Xi Jinping). Said Mr. Li:

“Japan’s position on the islands issue is the greatest threat to the postwar international order.”

The Japanese assume that these statements were required to fend off criticism from the hardliners.

In addition, Wu Bangguo, the chairman of the standing committee of the National People’s Congress and therefore technically the Number 2 man in government, declared during his visit to Iran that the Japanese purchase was “illegal and invalid”.

The Chinese government then decided that the Japanese must be taught a lesson. Though Mr. Noda said his Cabinet would not build facilities on the Senkakus, the Chinese know his government is unlikely to last much longer. What they don’t know is the intention of whatever new government will replace it. Therefore, they gave de facto permission to the people to hold public demonstrations as an object lesson to whoever would form the next government.

First, they allowed the publication of lurid front pages on the nation’s newspapers, as we’ve seen here. Government sources also said publicly that they would not be able to prevent the people’s expressions of patriotism and anti-Japanese sentiment. “We must be even more firm in our position on the East and South China Sea after seeing the dissatisfaction of the people on the Net.” Wednesday’s newspapers featured photos of anti-Japanese demonstrations, another signal of the government’s approach.

Further permission was granted when a foreign ministry spokesman declared:

“We can understand the people’s strong sense of righteous indignation.”

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Sugiyama Shinsuke, director-general of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanic Affairs Bureau, was in China to meet Luo Zhaohui, the director-general of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Department of Asian Affairs. Mr. Luo made three demands:

1. Cancel the purchase

2. Japan must “immediately correct its error, return to the shared understanding the two countries had achieved, and seek resolution through discussion.”

3. Maintain existing channels of communication.

Mr. Sugiyama’s response was not made public, but the Chinese do not seem to have liked it.

On Thursday the 13th, Vice Minister of Commerce Jiang Zengwei was asked at a news conference about a possible boycott of Japanese goods:

“The Chinese government will understand if China’s consumers express their position with rational methods in opposition to Japan’s infringement of Chinese sovereignty.”

The Chinese have also been cancelling visits that are part of citizen exchange programs, but one Chinese source said:

“That’s not a full-scale response. We know the Japanese government is not going to cancel its purchase, but this is a strategy to achieve some sort of compromise.”

What they want is the recognition from Japan that a territorial dispute exists and a pledge that they will settle it through discussion. They aren’t going to get it.

Student and youth groups in China sent out a call for action by mobilizing for demonstrations this weekend. The government backed them up, but included a veiled warning:

“The government will staunchly protect all the required actions and proper behavior taken by the students and young people to defend our nation’s sovereignty. The party, the government, and all the people will stand together from start to finish.”

In other words: Go ahead and scare the Japanese, but don’t do anything stupid and get carried away with yourselves. But as we will see, they were unable to prevent that.

There is no question the government coordinated this weekend’s demonstrations.

Mark Mackinnon of the Globe and Mail in Canada posted this photo on Twitter and said, “Red armband gents in last pic are guiding, not preventing demonstrators headed to Japanese Embassy in Beijing.”

The on-call protesters were given transportation to and from the site in Beijing and a box lunch. Here’s a photo of the buses taken yesterday.

The schedules for the demonstrations were announced on Weibo (Chinese Twitter) for 19 Japanese consulates throughout the country yesterday and 18 today. They ensured there would be sufficient police on hand.

But they didn’t anticipate that the Rude Boys would be so disorderly, and serious clashes between the police and demonstrators began right away. In addition to the signs calling for the recovery of Okinawa (not just the Senkakus) and for the “elimination” of the Japanese, many people carried placards with photos of Chairman Mao. The destruction, particularly in Qingdao, demonstrated that events were moving beyond their control. In addition to the factories and sales outlets of Japanese companies, the mob also looted shops belonging to Rolex and Christian Dior.

The government tried to dial back on the demonstrations today. Here’s a message from the State Council Information Office as presented by China Digital Times:

“ All websites are requested to inspect and clear every forum, blog, Weibo post and other form of interactive content of material concerning “mobilizing anti-Japan demonstrations, stirring up excitement, rioting and looting” and “the U.S. history of purchasing territory.” (September 15, 2012)”

By rioting and looting, they mean the estimated 2.4 billion yen in damage to the Qingdao Aeon store alone. The company says they will need at least two months to reopen.

Unlike the newspapers earlier in the week, the front pages this morning carried no reports of the demonstrations at all. They ran typical Sunday features instead. (Clicking on the picture enlarges it somewhat.)

The newspaper coverage was also designed to calm the turbulence. Here are some headlines from this morning’s papers:

Beijing News: Patriotism must not exceed the minimum standard of the law

Beijing Youth Daily (editorial): We must not inject criminality into patriotic passion

People’s Daily (opinion piece by a student): Prevent extreme ethnocentrism from snatching China away from us

Good luck with that last one.

Good luck with all of them, in fact. More than 10,000 people demonstrated today at the Japanese embassy in Beijing, and police had to use pepper spray to drive them back. But more serious was what happened in Shenzhen. Here’s a Reuters report:

“In the biggest flare-up in protests over East China Sea islands claimed by China and Japan, police fired tear gas and used water cannon to repel thousands of protesters occupying a street in the southern city of Shenzhen, near Hong Kong.”

Now here’s what Reuters couldn’t bring themselves to tell their consumers, for reasons known only to them: The thousands of protesters that were “occupying a street” and had to be driven back with tear gas and water cannon were not anywhere near a Japanese public or private sector facility.

They were demonstrating at the local Communist Party headquarters. Here:

And here:

And here:

The placards they carried bore ominous slogans:

* ”Japan get out, Bo Xilai come back soon, down with genetically modified foods, punish the hanjian (traitors to the Han Chinese) and quislings”

* “Freedom, democracy, human rights, constitutionalism”

It is most interesting that the AP couldn’t even bring themselves to mention the tear gas and water cannon. Their account quoted a woman saying it was a “peaceful protest”.

Because this has now become a mob, and the manufactured anti-Japanese sentiment has now become an excuse, police in Shenzhen closed the four subway stops closest to Huaqiang Road. That is sometimes called China’s Akihabara because it is filled with malls selling consumer electronics and fashions.

The Investing in Chinese Stocks website also notes that this is a manifestation of the social mood :

Reclaim Sheung Shui! Protect our homes!” they chanted, echoing slogans written on the placards they were waving. They said the numbers of parallel traders buying goods in the neighbourhood and travelling through the station had been creating a nuisance for years. Parallel traders buy goods in one market to smuggle into another, where they sell them without authorisation.

The protests also drew about 300 onlookers – including some parallel traders – who stood around the station and on a footbridge.

It did not take long for clashes to break out after two young protesters held up a sign reading: “Chinese people eat s***!”, together with a modified colonial-era Hong Kong flag.

The English-language industrial media is offering a narrative of anti-Japanese hatred fueled by a Chinese-created territorial dispute. Most Japanese see the demonstrations as an extreme version of what they call gasu nuki, in which the Chinese government uses Japan to “let the gas out”. That alleviates social tensions and the dissatisfaction which would ordinarily be directed against them. Japan has seen it many times before and is accustomed to it.

This time, however, something more serious might be happening. A Communist Party congress is due to be held soon, with more turnover in party positions than normal. That suggests an internal power struggle is underway, presumably between the more “liberal” Hu faction and the Old Guard of former President Jiang Zemin, the discredited Bo, and Xi Jinping. Mr. Xi has so far been sitting on the fence. When he was forced to jump before, after the Bo Xilai scandal erupted, he jumped to the Hu side. His two-week vacation from public view has now taken on more disturbing overtones, and his first public appearance came on the first day of the demonstrations. He has yet to make a public statement about all of this.

People still remember Chairman Mao’s use of the Red Guards to eliminate opposition, and his subsequent abandonment of them after they had served his purpose. Are today’s demonstrators their 21st century reincarnation? One Weibo user Weiboed: “My father looked at the photos and videos of the demonstrations and said, that’s just how it was during the Cultural Revolution.”

The single largest interest group in the country the politicians must please is the People’s Liberation Army. Not only does the military have the guns and the numbers, but they also have substantial business interests. They are a major presence, for example, in Huawei Technologies, the China Poly Group (a large trading company also involved in real estate), and the China National Offshore Oil Corp., which focuses on developing crude oil and natural gas resources offshore.

In places like the Senkaku islets.

In other words, China’s military-industrial complex doesn’t have a dash between the first two words.

As the post at the link above explains, there are also concerns of Tiananmen V.2, driven by extreme public dissatisfaction with the corrupt ruling class and a non-responsive government.

The Chinese government itself avers that despite having the world’s second largest economy, they are still a “developing nation”. Perhaps it would be more accurate to use an unfashionable retro term: They’re still a Third World country. Do they not manifest all the symptoms of those dysfunctional regimes? They are nominally Communist, but closer in practice to the national socialism first expressed in Italian fascism. There is a free market of sorts, but it must operate at the discretion of the state: “Everything within the state, and nothing outside the state.”

The people in Third World countries often became ungovernable when they became fed up with a corrupt oligarchy. The usual pattern was for the military to step in with a firm hand and make things right, while making sure they got a piece of the action themselves.

As reader Aoumigamera suggested in a comment this morning, there are similarities between today’s China and pre-war Japan in the 1930s. He compared the hardliners in the Chinese military to the Japanese Imperial Way Faction. That was an element in the Imperial Japanese Army intent on reducing the social turmoil caused by a sharp economic downturn, the polarization of society created by the wealthy growing wealthier through governmental connections (what they now call the income gap), and social unrest. They eventually attempted a coup d’etat in the famous February 26 incident of 1936, the failure of which broke them.

That did not stop Japanese expansion overseas, as a relatively more moderate military faction stepped in to take charge. One of its members was Tojo Hideki. Social conditions at the time were formed in part by the extreme dislocations caused by the rapid modernization of the country. Those dislocations are more extreme in today’s China, which has modernized much more rapidly and covered much more ground. There is a street paved with gold and people living in caves.

While this is not to suggest there will be a coup attempt, it is not out of the question that the military will come to dominate the political class. Chinese television today reported that a large-scale military training exercise in the East China Sea had been conducted with several dozen ships and many aircraft and submarines. There were also simulations of missile attacks and anti-submarine warfare. The report said they “simulated conditions on an actual battlefield”.

This is China today. Tomorrow, the rest of the world may find themselves to be somehow part of Chinaworld whether they like it or not. Four thousand ethnic Chinese held an anti-Japanese demonstration in San Francisco today.

In the meantime, watch how the government responds by next Tuesday, the 81st anniversary of the Mukden Incident with Japan. That’s when the demonstrations were expected to peak. The country’s leaders might now think that’s not such a good idea.

What they do think is a good idea, however, is to send as many as many as 10,000 fishing boats, accompanied by fishery patrol boats, to the East China Sea when fishing season begins tomorrow. They’re getting ready now and waiting for the typhoon to pass, according to a report in the Nikkei Shimbun.

UPDATE: The Yomiuri Shimbun talked to one of the Chinese managers at the now-destroyed Panasonic plant in Qingdao. He told them:

“We won’t be able to resume operations. Counting the other plants, tens of thousands of people will be unemployed. The Chinese did this.”


Here’s another aspect to public demonstrations. This Dazhou marcher carried a placard with a photo of Aoi Sora, a Japanese porno actress and nude model (who is now trying to make the transition to more respectable show business). I’d rather carry that than a red flag.

Posted in China, International relations, World War II | Tagged: , | 9 Comments »

All you have to do is look, 15 September China edition

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Chinese are very interesting. While they’re alive, they won’t protect their own land, their own home, their own assets, their own freedom, their own jobs, or even their own children. They won’t even protect their own bodies — they’ll sell them to someone. But when it comes to defending the country’s territory, their blood runs hot and they’ll fly into a rage.

– A Chinese blogger writing at a site called Zaishui Yifang

CHINA’S national political establishment and news media have been sowing poisoned seeds for years. The harvest for this year’s crop started today in 29 cities:

Prior to a clash with armed police in Beijing, before an attempt to storm the Japanese embassy. (Asahi Shimbun photo)

The remains of a Panasonic plant in Qinqdao:

The supermarket of a Japanese-owned company in Changsha:

At a hotel in Xian. The mob demanded that the hotel send out any Japanese guests.

At a Qingdao Aeon store, a Japanese-owned company. (Owned by the family of the ruling Democratic Party bigwig Okada Katsuya, in fact. His brother is the president.)

At a Toyota dealer in Qingdao:

At another auto dealer in Hengyang:

This is how the young and the restless in China will spend the weekend, until Tuesday. That’s the 81st anniversary of the Mukden Incident, which the Japanese Imperial Army used as a pretext for invading northern China.

They’re Japanese hunting. We’ve seen the Chinese do this before. Three years ago, it was Uighur hunting in Xinjiang.

There’s video:

And this report from French television, dubbed into Japanese:

One of the Chinese tough guys says they will not accept the Uighur independence movement under any circumstances.

If you’re sitting in a different part of the world and think the Chinese will behave this way only with Asians who displease the new hegemons, you’d better think again. They want revenge on everyone they think wronged them, and they want it now. That includes the West.

It doesn’t take much to get them in the mood. A Chinese man on their Internet this week wrote that his brother-in-law, who works for a state-run company, was told that he would be fined if he didn’t participate in an anti-Japanese demonstration in Guangdong Province last month.

Video from the Qingdao Aeon store.

Posted in China, International relations, World War II | Tagged: , | 18 Comments »

All you have to do is look (48)

Posted by ampontan on Friday, September 14, 2012

An anti-Japan demonstration yesterday in Beijing. The larger Chinese-language part of the A-bomb sign says pretty much the same as the English.

The Chinese government says the demonstrations are spontaneous. This photograph of the bus stop closest to the Japanese embassy, used by 12 different bus lines, was published in a Chinese newspaper yesterday. It has been closed by the police, as you can see from the tape. The written notice on the wall is from the bus company apologizing for the inconvenience and informing riders that the stop will be closed indefinitely.

From the Kinbricks Now (Japanese language) website.

Posted in China, Photographs and videos | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »