Saturday, January 19, 2013

China's maritime disputes

In light of the recent entry by Galrahn on the issue of China's expanded map, I want to just put my thoughts on this.  I was originally thinking of writing a separate entry on the dramatic expansion of China's maritime surveillance agencies of CMS and FLEC, but I want to spend a little time just looking at the non-military part of this.

The main point I want to make here is that China's border dispute with entirely different than its border dispute with India and the countries around South China Sea.  We often read about China's recent actions have made neighbouring countries feel uneasy and have pushed them toward America.  While I do agree the other countries reactions have been similar, it's important to note that these are different issues for Chinese people.

And this has everything to do with the historical relationship of the two countries.  It starts from 1895 when China was badly defeated by Japan, who it had always looked upon as a vassal nation.  The unfair treaty which resulted in war reparation in addition to annexation of Taiwan was followed up by the brutal Russo-Japanese war of 1905 which was fought over Chinese soil and resulted in the Japanese control of Lushun (Port Arthur).  Of course, all of this was small compared to the occupation of Manchuria in 1931 and second Sino-Japanese War between 1937 and 1945.  The Chinese side has claimed that around 20 million civilians were killed during this conflict.  If that's true, it would in effect be the equivalent of 3 holocausts.  I do not know how accurate these numbers are, but I did hear a story (growing up) where my friend's ancestor was tortured to death by Japanese soldiers.  And my opinion is that most people born in my generation or prior in China probably have heard of such stories from their family or friends.  When I visited Nanjing in 2006, I was told by locals that the only place not pillaged during the Nanking massacre was the Sun Yat-Sen memorial.  Even by then, Japanese business was not allowed on the city's premise.  There has been a lot of anger within China toward Japan in the past 10 years due to the visits by Koizumi/Abe of the Yasukuni Shrine and the denials of wartime atrocities by some Japanese Nationalists.  While I do not think that the Japanese government is denying th war atrocities, I do think a lot of people in China would feel better toward Japanese if the Japanese government adopt the same attitude toward this subject as Germany has adopted toward the Holocaust.  When something like the recent Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute came up, it came across as another reminder of Japanese aggression for Chinese people.  Back when the two countries normalized relations in 1978, Deng Xiaoping made a strategic decision to not overly press Japan over this issue in exchange of money and technology to help with the Chinese economy.  And I think while China was still economically weak and needing Japan, this was something it was willing to do (not overly voicing past grievances).  However with China's growing power in the past 10 years, this is no longer the case, so the current generation of Chinese population and officials do not see the need to hold pacifying attitude toward Japan.  With the Koizumi/Abe visits, all of these anger/grievances from the past 60 years flared up and it is tough for me to see how relations between China/Japan will get better.

The difference between the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute and the South China Sea dispute is that the entire Chinese population is invested in this issue.  It's not just the PLA or a group of nationalist cranks on the internet forums that are passionate about this, it's the ordinary people.  You've seen that with the wide spread boycotting of Japanese business in the past few months due to the outrage in China over the entire Diaoyu/Senkaku issues.  This is not just a couple of islands.  This is 70 years of grievances.  It's also seen in the expansion of civilian maritime patrol fleet.  In the past few months, 11 ships from PLAN have been sent to the shipyards to be retrofitted and removed of weaponry so that they can join the CMS fleet and patrol the disputed regions with Japan.  And I think that until the Japanese government adopts an attitude toward its World War II crimes toward China (and South Korea) as Germany has toward Israel, there will always be that underlying tension that makes all border disputes even worse.  I think that the relationship between the two countries have gotten so bad that it may be more likely a conflict will break out between China and Japan rather than China and Taiwan in the next 10 years.  That's really unfortunate, because the two countries have so much to gain in this economically unstable period if they can somehow move past this issue and resolve past grievances.

As a last point, it really bugs me that Japan is often put in the same category as Vietnam/Philippines with regards to needing American help to defend itself against the big bad Chinese.  Even with the rise of PLAN, JMSDF is still clearly the stronger force at this time.  The Japanese civilian patrol fleet is also a very powerful fleet, so it is not going to be scared away by the presence of a few 1500 ton CMS cutters.  In fact, CMS has this huge build up just so that it can get somewhat close to the size of its Japanese counterpart.

24 comments:

DarkKnight said...

I hope this doesn't sound childish... but what if a type of "neutral zone" were created around the islands that would exclude military or police vessels and aircraft around the islands? This might allow for a cooling off period... leading to quiet diplomacy. A war would be a disaster for everyone.

DarkKnight said...

I hope this doesn't sound childish... but what if a type of "neutral zone" were created around the islands that would exclude military or police vessels and aircraft around the islands? This might allow for a cooling off period... leading to quiet diplomacy. A war would be a disaster for everyone.

H Danny said...

Extraordinary situations like this demand extraordinary actions. Similarly the islet can be used as nuclear waste deposit for China and Japan and Taiwan, if the countries are willing to settle. Unfortunately that is not the case at all. As of today Japan is the de facto administrator of the islands and allied with U.S. Tokyo is not willing to resolve the dispute since the resolution might result losing territory while China has nothing to lose by break status quo. The funny part is that China claims the islands of part of Taiwan. Yet Taiwan is just sandwiched between the powers that, as its former VP put it, might as well just give up something it never control, though it is the islands’ de jure owner.

H Danny said...

Extraordinary situations like this demand extraordinary actions. Similarly the islet can be used as nuclear waste deposit for China and Japan and Taiwan, if the countries are willing to settle. Unfortunately that is not the case at all. As of today Japan is the de facto administrator of the islands and allied with U.S. Tokyo is not willing to resolve the dispute since the resolution might result losing territory while China has nothing to lose by break status quo. The funny part is that China claims the islands of part of Taiwan. Yet Taiwan is just sandwiched between the powers that, as its former VP put it, might as well just give up something it never control, though it is the islands’ de jure owner.

John said...

It is the standard cold war practice of the West to exaggerate China’s fault and gloss over their crimes. The Chinese casualty caused by the Japanese in the WWII is as high as 60 millions over a population of 400 millions in one estimate. While few hundred thousands deaths in the Great Leap Forward due to failed harvest, it is common in the West to say Mao massacred 40 millions and as high as 80 millions Chinese.

Chinese never forget and forgive Japanese barbarism and atrocity, the anger displayed against Japanese nowadays is only suppressed by the CCP authoritarian government. After establishing diplomatic relationship of the two nations, Japan opened exhibition in Beijing, the Japanese staffs were beaten up when they wondered off to street, they had to be escorted by police whenever they left their exhibition building.

John said...

@H Danny,
Japan is not the de factor administrator of the Islands, China patrol the islands from air and sea with regularity more often than the Japan.

USA betrayed the terms specified in Japanese unconditional surrender, and unilaterally handed China’s territory to the defeated war criminal Japan as appeasement in order to make Japan as a tool for it to exercise its imperialist hegemony over Asia.

Japan is an unapologetic war criminal; Japan is the only defeated evil Axis Powers still occupying an ancient independent kingdom, the Ryukyu Kingdom, under the shielding of the USA.

Richard said...

"The main point I want to make here is that China's border dispute with entirely different than its border dispute with India and the countries around South China Sea"

should read

"The main point I want to make here is that China's border dispute with Japan is entirely different than its border dispute with India and the countries around South China Sea"

other than that, great post.

Christian Brotherhood said...

If all out war breaks out between Japan and China, you will see a lot of Chinese American Christian fighters get involved.

odessaguy said...

Since the end of WWII SE Asia has been relatively peaceful, with the notable exceptions of the Korean and Vietnamese wars. There's been no arms races and the nations have gotten along well and have developed outstanding trade relations.

I am concerned that China's new aggressiveness will cause its neighbors to begin to rearm quickly. Should Japan and South Korea begin building nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them everyone will be worse off.

Ozsteve53 said...

"Aggressiveness" ? Odessaguy , it is not aggression to try to reclaim stolen property . Just a wish for justice . I am a white Westerner but I am 100% with China on this issue .

Lei said...

As bad as things may look right now, I really don't think a risk of conflict exists on the short term. At least on the short term while the global economy remains vulnerable, both China and Japan recognize that it's in their interest not to worsen the relationship between the two countries. This is especially true of Abe's administration which somehow needs to balance out its nationalist base with economic growth, the latter of which China can and probably will play a key part in.

The question is, without standard diplomatic mechanisms to ease tensions, could there be a greater risk of conflict on the longer term. I'm somewhat dismayed at the US's lack of bravery on the matter. While the US's pacific policy is still being reorganized, it would be encouraging to see a stronger neutral stance (which may involve a stronger moral statement on Japan's war history with China) and an attempt to bring both parties to the negotiating table. Without some kind of third party I'm somewhat dubious that Japan and China would be able to resolve tensions on their own.

John said...

@Lei,
You need to read the following link to know what Abe is.
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Japan/OA19Dh01.html

Abe is not your rational Japanese patriot. Abe’s neo-Fascist bellicose fits perfectly USA’s global plan to cripple China’s rise. You should know that USA is in the business of imperialism, not in the business charity. The following link will help you know USA better.
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/OA19Dj02.html

odessaguy said...

I am reminded of Chinas "stealing" of Tibet, Xinjiang, inner Mongolia. And, I find it interesting that no one commented on Chinas dispute with the Philipines, Malasia or Vietnam over other islands.

Lei said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lei said...

@John

Oh please. All that article does is harp about things we already know to be standard LDP policy. Abe is hardly different. I'm not going to go around saying that Abe is actually an apologist or is more moderate on his stance about Japan's imperial history, but that hardly concludes that he is an irrational hawk who will pull the trigger on trifle squares on a map.

Let's not forget how Abe got into power. He promised economic growth, and if an actual conflict with China broke out, economic growth he will not get. In fact, such a conflict would do significant damage to an already vulnerable global economy. Neither side is that stupid. They're both playing a rational game of bluff and posture to please their base. It's hardly something either side is interested in for long term policy.

H Danny said...

Lets say some of us are out of touch. Labeling Abe as neo-fascist doesn't help solving the situation whatsoever. Say your parents left you a car for ten years and suddenly your neighbors claimed that it was stolen from them. What would you say? Now if you do have a 10 year car please give it away.

I admit I didnt quite know what was going on about these conflicts. Growing up in China one is hard to be influenced by the nationalism fever. Yet people in the govt kept a decent approach till the naval strengh gradually built up. Until VERY recently civilian maritime force started patroling, however symbolic such action might be. Before that you got true civilian, mostly Hong Kong activists who risked their lives fighting Japanese CG, with true casulties. So please show them some respect and do your research.

Now one might think that islands dispute can be solved by examing the history. Maybe. But this case the entire maritime border between the two is at stake. People all know what EEZ is. China and Japan have yet to settle the boundary as the EEZs overlapped. The islands can decide the "slope" of Japanese claim of "Middle Line". China have claimed continental shore but So far stopping at the line. The line is where the talk should begin.

Meng-yuan said...

I am glad that someone is making a distinction between Japan and Philippines/Vietnam. The case against Japan is so clear-cut that the two other nations would be wise to stay as far away as possible, but only Vietnam seems to possess that wisdom now.

First, the island was taken with Taiwan in 1895 and subsequently ruled by the Japanese themselves as part of Taiwan (instead of Okinawa) during the 50 years of occupation. In any impartial court, the ownership would not have been in doubt. Unfortunately, the UN affiliated international court is now chaired by a Japanese, so it does not qualify as "impartial".

Second, the US sold the "administration rights" on this island together with Okinawa in 1970 for $2B to Japan. This is clearly illegal when the sovereignty belongs to a third nation, but all western media choose to ignore this point. The reason is that this is a standard ploy to sew discord in East Asia so that the US can benefit as a "mediator". The UK was an expert in this (ever wonder why Kuwait was a nation separate from Iraq?), but the US has pushed it into an art form.

Third, Japan is not a normal nation. It is the only nation in the world that carries tens of millions of death on its record and yet has never repented. True, it has apologized many times whenever empty words serve to advance its interests, but I am talking real repentance, a la German style: outlawing the guilty right-wing group, making real restitution and giving up claims on disputed territories.

The sad part about the whole dispute, which was engineered by the US, is that Japan itself is the biggest loser, even more so than China. But when a whole nation is stupid enough to carry on with the legacy of its evil past, whatever punishment it receives is deserved. China is the unfortunate innocent victim here.

Shiro Omiai said...

@odessaguy

I am reminded of Chinas "stealing" of Tibet, Xinjiang, inner Mongolia. And, I find it interesting that no one commented on Chinas dispute with the Philipines, Malasia or Vietnam over other islands.

ANSWER:-

a) Tibet is incorporated in China since the Yuan dynasty (around AD1200 - AD 1369)
Xinjiang even earlier, since the Han (206 BC to around 108 AD) and Tang dynasty (AD 608 - AD 906)
Inner Mongolia (as well as Tuva, part of Eastern Kazakhstan (included Ili valley, and Russia Far East) is under the Qing dynasty - which include Ryukyu Island chain.
Xisha (The Paracels), Nansha (The Spartlys) and Zhongsha (the Macclesfields Banks) since Han or Yuan times.

Please read a little history and educate youself.

Shiro Omiai said...

@odessaguy

I am reminded of Chinas "stealing" of Tibet, Xinjiang, inner Mongolia. And, I find it interesting that no one commented on Chinas dispute with the Philipines, Malasia or Vietnam over other islands.

ANSWER:-

a) Tibet is incorporated in China since the Yuan dynasty (around AD1200 - AD 1369)
Xinjiang even earlier, since the Han (206 BC to around 108 AD) and Tang dynasty (AD 608 - AD 906)
Inner Mongolia (as well as Tuva, part of Eastern Kazakhstan (included Ili valley, and Russia Far East) is under the Qing dynasty - which include Ryukyu Island chain.
Xisha (The Paracels), Nansha (The Spartlys) and Zhongsha (the Macclesfields Banks) since Han or Yuan times.

Please read a little history and educate youself.

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Kongsak Vongshusri said...

Yes. After. That. Korea will nuk Japan

Kongsak Vongshusri said...

You. are. Mania. why. you. are. very. aggressive.

Kongsak Vongshusri said...

You. are. Mania. Or. psycho. no. Tibet people. complain. they. was. Stealing. . by. Chinese.