Thursday, October 18, 2012

Giving Up On Being Friends

Last month, Sino-Japanese relations soured greatly when a row over disputed islands led to violent anti-Japanese protests across China. The row hurt trade relations between the two countries and despite most predictions, things has not gone back to normal.

The latest incident between the two countries was a visit by two Japanese ministers to a controversial shrine for war dead on Thursday. China immediately condemned the visit as usual but the Japanese reactions have been telling. For the past few years, successive Japanese government has been bending over backwards to smooth over relations between them but in the latest incident, the Japanese has basically ignored the Chinese protest.

I blame China for this. The flare-up over the disputed islands should have never been allowed to grow to the proportions it has become. Not helping matters was the fact that the first protests in China came while China was dealing with a domestic scandal of its own. When the protests in China started, the Japanese government tried to downplay them but it just kept on growing in intensity. The sneaky suspicions in Japan is that China inflamed the row to distract the Chinese public from the Bo Xilai scandal and I fear the Japanese government has now abandoned all hopes of normal ties with China.

Even before the visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, the Japanese government bought over the disputed islands from the Japanese landowners on the island despite stern protest from China. If you combined the two incidents, I can’t help thinking that Japan is saying enough is enough and has now chosen to treat China as an annoying neighbor rather than a potential ally and friend.

At least that’s my hope. The last thing the world need is for two of the major powers in Asia to butt heads and clash over a row of small islands.  

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