China vs Japan – which is better? There’s only one way to find out…

25 Aug

japan imperial flagYou might have heard recently about a bit of diplomatic aggro between China and Japan. I say a bit. I mean what may in 20 years’ time be referred to as “the origins of World War Three”. As with most disputes in Asia Pacific, it revolves around a disputed set of rocks. Literally little more than jagged stubs of nothingness poking wilfully out of the deep, shouting “claim me, if you DARE!”.

Now, you might hear a lot of nationalistic posturing on both sides about their rightful claims, but here’s the deal. I can pronounce the islands in Japanese – Senkaku, since you ask – while I have more difficulty, as with most words, with the Chinese Diaoyu. This, in my book, means Japan wins by default – if half the planet can’t pronounce the pesky name then you forfeit sovereignty rights … is the new rule I’ve just made up.

Ironically in this instance, and for about the first time in such disputes, I think China probably has the more valid claim. If you look on the map, the disputed lands are bloody miles away from Japan – Taiwan has a pretty valid claim on them too, but definitely not Japan. I say ironically because China claims just about everything in the South and East China Sea because it has an old map with all of these islands, atolls, reefs and sandbanks depicted as belonging to the Middle Kingdom.  Not very convincing if you ask me but who’s going to argue with China? Well, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Japan, now that there are signs that there could be precious minerals or even gas and oil under the crabby bits of rock.

As tensions mounted over the Senkaku dispute, a boat full of Chinese and Taiwanese activists sailed off from Hong Kong to plant the Chinese (and Taiwanese) flags on them. Now I found this propaganda stunt particularly, err, fishy given that Hong Kongers in my experience do not consider themselves to be a part of that whole Chinese territorial posturing nonsense. Yes, they may feel ethnically aligned to their cousins across the border, but when it comes to geopolitical matters, they would rather remain aloof of China’s insatiable land grab. They are happy in their difference from the PRC because it means they can hang on to things – rule of law, press freedom, financial independence, freedom of speech etc etc – that mainland Chinese can only dream of.

The whole thing smacked of a Communist-sponsored PR stunt – making sure the activists came from Hong Kong to distance the act itself from the PRC, but still showing Japan that the government has popular support for its territorial stance.

Anyway, long story short, no-one in this or any of the Asian maritime squabbles that have erupted over the past few months have particularly covered themselves in glory. What there needs to be is some kind of international arbitration in all this, some kind of union of nations which could decide on who gets what. A United Nations, if you will. Oh, wait a minute. There is.

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