Monday, 18 April 2005

So what’s up, me old China?

I mean come on, ok, we all know about the school textbook issues and the unapologetic Japanese political types, but at the moment it all seems to have got just a little out of hand, don’t you think? I have a very strong feeling that there is something much more sinister and cloak and dagger about the whole thing, indeed the person on the Kawaguchi omnibus (well, the Guru) is as confused as anyone about the apparent sudden upsurge in anti-Japanese feeling, though in fairness it isn’t all that recent as certainly during last year’s Asian footy cup there was a definite backlash towards Japan. This might well have had something to do with Japan beating China in the final with some slightly dodgy goals (though to be fair China weren’t much cop and didn’t exactly deserve to win either). But now we seem to be hitting new heights, as well as more projectiles hitting the embassies and consulates in Shanghai and Beijing.

Among the theories put forward in the media are that:
a) The Chinese are getting uppity at the textbooks in Japanese schools that gloss over or ignore Japan’s somewhat ignoble past. This might hold water except for a few points such as: pretty much every country writes textbooks for its kids that try to portray that country in as good a light as possible (I feel sure that UK texts on the British Empire, if it is still taught, still bang on about how enlightened and forward thinking we all were, but of course); that the text the Chinese are getting uppity about is admittedly a far-right creation but it is only used in a very small minority of private schools; and that Japanese have been using these texts for years but this is the first instance of mass Chinese demonstrations. Odd that.

b) Yasukuni Shrine, and all that was dicussed in more detail here, once upon a time ago and, basically, the Japanese should apologise for what they did. But then again, this does seem to be a bit of pot shouting black as the Chinese aren’t exactly the most benign of people, now are they? Tibet, anyone?

c) It’s all economic – there are a bunch of rocks in the South China Sea, or maybe the Sea of Japan, under which there is, according to those in the know, bounteous supplies of natural gas. The Japanese, not satisfied with discovering gas whilst drilling for onsens next to the Arakawa River, claim these concrete postage stamps for their own, along with all the gas. The Chinese, on the other hand disagree and say it is all theirs. Children, children, just try and learn to share, will you?

d) Japanese militarism – the Chinese, with a standing army of a million souls (or was that the Vietnamese?) is getting worried that Japan wants to remilitarise. Right. Sorry, back to that talking pot again, I mean really, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone threw away their guns. Unlikely, I know, but for China to whip up nationalist fervour because the of what the Japanese might do militarily seems just a mite hypocritical, but hey, they won’t listen to me.

e) The security council issue – as we all know Japan wants a permanent seat on the UNSC, something that yours truly has mentioned before, somewhere, and I agree with China that Japan shouldn’t get it. But nor should China, with their record of uses and abuses. Whose great idea was that? Of course China is worried about its veto being diluted and it having less of an influence in Asia, again seems like a case of share and share alike, though this probably means I am being far too naïve and simplistic, but I find that helps in a lot of situations.

No, I reckon it is something a lot more interesting than all that. That is all just a smokescreen or diversion. I reckon that the waves of liberalisation that have been sweeping China for the last few years have got the old politburo (or whatever they call it these days) in a bit of a dilemma. They like it, but they aren’t sure they are fully in control, especially since, if memory serves, they recently had a jolly big committee session with all the bigwigs with a bit of power changing hands, back room deals, back scratching and the like. So, now the musical-chairs has finished and everyone has had a little time to take stock, some gestures are needed…

So whichever bod is now in charge has to make his mark (I realise that this isn’t very well informed on my part, apologies, I have impending fatherhood to worry about (good excuse that, very flexible and convenient)). An easy way to do this is to take some existing local angst, of which the anti-Japanese one has always been there, fan it a little – for example by getting the Shanghai police to guide the protesters to the Japanese consulate and then stand around and watch them doing slightly unpleasant things to shops signs (and very unpleasant things to two unfortunate Japanese tourists who happened by, probably seeking sanctuary at the consulate as they grew worried about the situation) – and then, when things have got to a reasonably feverish pitch, send in the tanks as Deng Xiaoping did in Tiananmen Square…

Result: Populace gets to blow off a little steam. Govt gets to show who’s the boss with a martial crackdown. Asia (and West) served notice that China won’t be told what to do by anyone. Army happy that they get to push people around again. Conservatives happy that they won’t take no shit from no one. Status quo returned and liberalisations can be (temporarily or permanently) withdrawn. Koizumi happy as he can carry on visiting Yasukuni because if the Chinese govt stopped the protests with force, well, that means they must have been illegal and therefore not representative of the real will of the people. Ditto the textbook writers.


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