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Diaoyutai Chinese Captain to be released

September 24th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Japan’s NHK World has just reported the detained Chinese captain (Zhan Qixiong) since September 8 will be released. The report said:

Japanese prosecutors have decided to release the captain of a Chinese fishing boat involved in collisions in the East China Sea. The captain’s detention has stirred tension between Japan and China.

钓鱼台群岛 (Diaoyutai) Map Location

I’d be shocked if the captain is dragged through some trial in Japan using Japanese law, because Diaoyutai (or Senkaku as known in Japan) is a disputed territory. If Japan prosecutes Zhan, it implies Japan has unconditionally rejected China’s claims. Doing so would have put Japan’s hope for a form of Asian Union on the line. The Chinese government has shown restraint too, in my opinion. If not, they’d put that same hope on the line as well. So, I am personally happy to see this issue coming to an end without further escalation (ok, reading Western media, it appears Japan and China are at each others throats with knives).

There are hawks both within China and Japan I am sure. They are likely egged on by those who rather see an unstable Asia. Lots of emotion running all over. If I am paid $1billion in salary to lead either China or Japan, I’d not want the job. Kudos to cooler heads.

[Update 1: Allen‘s comments]

The Japanese has definitely been the aggressor in this case. When there is territorial dispute, you don’t advance and press forward – by sending police / coast guard to arrest Chinese citizens on disputed territory.

A little bit of history: The Diaoyutai and Okinawa and surrounding islands had been considered part of China in the Qing dynasty. However, as modernization took hold in Japan and Japan became more powerful and militaristic, it took over Okinawa, Diayutai, Taiwan and surrounding islands. After the end of WWII, the U.S. came to administer the islands between Taiwan proper and Japan. The U.S. set up its forward Asia bases in Okinawa (bases that are still opposed by Okinawans today) and then returned the jurisdictions of the islands to Japan in the 1970′s.

China’s (and Taiwan’s) claim to the Diaoyutai islands is based on historical, cultural and traditional sphere of influence. Japanese is based on colonial aggression. It’s best argument is that under (current, Western-based) “International Law,” it was the first nation to claim the islands.

If we have to have a solution under today’s International Law, there is not much to say except that the most powerful nation will win – ultimately (that’s basically what International Law says: always status quo, irrespective how unjust the status quo is).

If we go back to Asia before Western “International Law,” where “sovereignty” is not a binary concept, where there is a hierarchy of sovereigns – the islands between Japan and China can be China’s jurisdiction as well as a sort of “local jurisdiction” where people in the region – regardless of “nationality” (Japanese or Chinese … as well as the many indigenous people) can share in the abundant resources of the region. As we look forward, I foresee a day where the entire polity of East Asia will be united. So all this will seem like petty fights.

Chineseness as we understand today is a concept imposed by Western norms of nations and sovereigns. I foresee, once China has recovered its place in the world, that Chineseness will be replaced with Asianness and eventually a sense of global citizenship, with traditions and cultures identified locally but citizenship and sense of community defined globally. When viewed in that light, we can feel less emotional about it. The dispute with Japan is important. But if Chinese hold their destiny in their hand and go where we know we should be, this is really – in that view – petty.

[Update 2] Updated map to show more exactly where Diaoyutai is located.

[Update 3] Some comments around the web on this topic:

There is very strong geographical evidence that TiaoYuTai/Senkaku belongs to China. The US was well aware of that evidence. In a “Senate Foreign Relations Committee Staff Memo, Okinawa Reversion Treaty” dated Oct. 26, 1971, p. 6, Subsection entitled
“The Senkaku (Tiao Yu Tai) Island,” the following statement was made.
“The Senkakus are located 130 statute mile northeast of Taiwan and about 80 miles from the nearest inhabited island in Okinawa. They are situated IN THE CHINESE CONTINENTAL SHELF AND ARE SEPARATED FROM OKINAWA BY A DEEP TRENCH IN THE OCEAN FLOOR. ” (Capitalization added by S. B. Woo)

Strangely enough, I am not sure if the Chinese governments in Mainland and Taiwan are aware of this fact, since the respective governments may not have surveyed the ocean floor in that area.

S. B. Woo, former Lieutenant governor of Delaware.

by what else, japan
September 22nd, 2010 11:36 am

Fact 1: Pebbles and pachinko balls have been thrown at Japanese schools in China. Not bullets. [In response to recent rumors some Japanese schools are being shot at.]

Fact 2: Threats have been made to Chinese Schools in Japan. By phone. Bomb threats included.

Fact 3: Japan said it might release videos on the incident, to which (when questinoned by reporters) the chinese side said ‘please, show them, not bits and pieces but completely.’

Fact 4: After 1895, this island was govened together with Taiwan but not Okinawa.

fact 5: This is only new in the sense how Japan treated it. Deng of China said many years ago let’s leave this dispute to the next generation so neither side has tried to change the status quo without giving up its own stance. Case in point: several years ago some Chinese landed on the island and were released without charge before long according to this mutual understanding of the two governments.

Fact 6: Action leads to reaction. Japan’s decision to arrest the captain is the cause of the current situation.

Fact 7: This actually involves not boats and ships but lives. Sept 8th is double trageties for the captain. His grandmother died after hearing he got arrested. And he lost the chance to carry out the duty as any eldest grandson would and should.

Fact 8: Once again the U.S. has shown itself a good student of imperial Britain. To return Taiwan to China but let Japan administer this island may be too small a piece of work to be worth mentioning, but look at how beautifully it has worked.

Fact 9: Japan likes to link this to the South China sea and China’s territorial disputes with some southeast Asia nations, while it forgets and China hardly ever points out that Japan has territorial disputes with not some but all its neighbours. The dispute with the Koreas is identical in nature. An island that Japan got when it colonized Korea in 1895.

Who said there is nothing positive about global warming? Maybe a few more melting Arctic glaciers is all that is needed for enduring peace.

  1. tc
    September 24th, 2010 at 19:29 | #1

    Japanese have never stopped trying to occupy Chinese territory. Someday they will force Chinese people to take up arms to defend ourselves again. It’s just a matter of time.

  2. September 24th, 2010 at 19:40 | #2

    A little bit of history: The Diaoyutai and Okinawa and surrounding islands had been considered part of China in the Qing dynasty. However, as modernization took hold in Japan and Japan became more powerful and militaristic, it took over Okinawa, Diayutai, Taiwan and surrounding islands. After the end of WWII, the U.S. came to administer the islands between Taiwan proper and Japan. The U.S. set up its forward Asia bases in Okinawa (bases that are still opposed by Okinawans today) and then returned the jurisdictions of the islands to Japan in the 1970’s.

    China’s (and Taiwan’s) claim to the Diaoyutai islands is based on historical, cultural and traditional sphere of influence. Japanese is based on colonial aggression. It’s best argument is that under (current, Western-based) “International Law,” it was the first nation to claim the islands.

    If we have to have a solution under today’s International Law, there is not much to say except that the most powerful nation will win – ultimately (that’s basically what International Law says: always status quo under the “law” (the West makes the law), irrespective how unjust the status quo is).

    If we go back to Asia before Western “International Law,” where “sovereignty” is not a binary concept, where there is a hierarchy of sovereigns – the islands between Japan and China can be China’s jurisdiction as well as a sort of “local jurisdiction” where people in the region – regardless of “nationality” (Japanese or Chinese … as well as the many indigenous people) can share in the abundant resources of the region. As we look forward, I foresee a day where the entire polity of East Asia will be united. So all this will seem like petty fights.

    Chineseness as we understand today is a concept imposed by Western norms of nations and sovereigns. I foresee, once China has recovered its place in the world, that Chineseness will be replaced with Asianness and eventually a sense of global citizenship, with traditions and cultures identified locally but citizenship and sense of community defined globally. When viewed in that light, we can feel less emotional about it. The dispute with Japan is important. But if Chinese hold their destiny in their hand and go where we know we should be, this is really – in that view – petty.

  3. September 24th, 2010 at 23:17 | #3

    @tc

    If China is much weaker than she is today, I’d expect Japan to be much more belligerent. I think the Chinese people should channel their energy towards becoming more developed.

    But, that is not to say that Japan is not interested in regional peace. This is a common goal that should be worked at by all in Asia.

  4. raffiaflower
    September 25th, 2010 at 06:12 | #4

    In taking an uncompromising stance over sovereignty, China has shown Japan clearly the line in the sand (or water, in this case).
    Like America’s unwarranted claims about the Chinese currency, the Japanese attempt to flex its muscle over DYT looks intended to test China’s limits; where will they yield?
    As the author Laurence Brahm notes in The Art of The Deal in China, when America ratchets up the noise about human rights, Tibet, etc, they are not ends in themselves but bargaining chips to gain concessions in other disputes, eg, trade, NK, Iran, etc.
    With China’s economy having nudged past and set to leave it further in the distance, the Japanese are probably looking for negotiating tools that could give them an edge in future horsetrading between them two.
    But picking an unsettled territorial dispute left over from a particularly sensitive period of history is ill-judged – the Chinese leadership is unlikely to compromise without risking popular ire or its own internal turmoil.
    But now that Japan has blinked in face of the new status quo in East Asia, and both sides are calling for dialogue and further development of ties – this little fishing trip might hopefully herald a new beginning between neighbours.

  5. September 25th, 2010 at 16:45 | #5

    @ raffiaflower

    Well said.

    Also . . . I don’t like conspiracy theories in general – but I am really curious what transpired within Japan over this episode. China’s reactions is expected when the Japanese wanted to prosecute the captain. Did the Japanese military tried to test the new Prime Minister Kan?

  6. September 25th, 2010 at 18:45 | #6

    A few funny quotes from the Japan side:

    In reaction to the current diplomatic spat between China and Japan, Japan’s current foreign ministry said: “There is no territorial issue that needs to be resolved over the Senkaku.

    “China calling for apology or compensation is groundless and is absolutely not acceptable.”

    Katsuya Okada, who was Japan’s foreign minister until a cabinet reshuffle on September 17, criticised China over its demands, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported.

    “Everybody knows that China is not a democratic country, but [the latest demand] will make that explicit,” Okada, who is now secretary-general of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, was quoted as saying.

    So according to the Japan side, China’s demands are totally unreasonable since there is no dispute. Even if there was a dispute, it doesn’t matter, since China is not a “democratic” nation.

  7. raffiaflower
    September 25th, 2010 at 18:47 | #7

    Given the extensive and cosy ties developed with the LDP under 60 years of its one-party rule, imo, would you be surprised that the army loyalists and hawks picked on the opportunity to test the new PM and his China stance?
    He has ostensibly not given in to the pressure and reiterated pragmatism in Sino-Japanese ties focused on future development.
    It is left to the Japanese FM to appease the nationalists by insisting that there is no dispute ove DYT.
    Quite a nimble balancing act for the Japanese side.
    China, tho, has been consistent in its stance about sovereignty over the islands – a stand reinforced with its claim for an apology and compensation.
    The point being made is that, apart from sovereignty, pretty much else can be negotiated. But Japan must accept the fact that it is no longer top of the pecking order, and must treat China with respect as an equal, and be accorded the same in turn.

  8. r v
    September 25th, 2010 at 19:47 | #8

    Well,

    I guess China must prove to Japan that there is INDEED a “dispute”, by tit-for-tat sending Coast Guard vessels to challenge Japanese Coast Guard vessels.

    And if China arrests the Japanese Coast Guard vessel crews, there won’t be a “dispute” any more.

    🙂

  9. r v
    September 26th, 2010 at 14:40 | #9

    US media is beginning to rehash and lament the loss of US prestige in all this, and hoping that Japan and ASEAN will get closer (back) to USA.

    Aside from the obviously tempting in an usual pattern of media distortion, the current course may be inevitable, and the ultimate outcome maybe far less depressing for US.

    (1) US’s decline and China’s rise are 2 sides of the same coin (and in relative terms). As China rises, it is inevitable that China will need to fill the power vacuum left by US in much of Asia. Why does US have to “leave” Asia? Because it’s simple economics. It’s economically inefficient for US to extend its power that far, for the benefit of Asian nations. In the long run, it will simply present too much of a burden to US, as Asian nations develop and their demand for security and national voice become too much for US to “go alone”.

    Japan and South Korea will simply become too big for US to play the big brother.

    (2) Equilibrium here may inevitably become a world where China dominates in the East, and US still dominates in the West (though, Brazil might want to challenge that in a few decades).

    *1 US author warned that US shouldn’t be distracted in the East.

    However, one should also warn that US is perhaps already too distracted in the East, and not noticing the decline of its powers in its own Western hemisphere.

    Need one forget that South America is gaining their own nationalistic voices and Mexico is flaring up a real insurgency type drug war that might make Afghanistan look like a short vacation??!!

  10. r v
    September 26th, 2010 at 18:11 | #10

    How does one spot Western Media bias? Simple, they rehash/recycle adjectives to news cycles.

    Go search up the media articles on China, look for the adjectives used on China, compare to what was used previously. The following will give you a few simple examples.

    (1) “Chauvinist”. (used by writers who are used to writing about Tibet. These writers are now writing about China’s “chauvinist attitude” in claiming Diaoyutai island!)

    (2) “assertive”.

  11. September 27th, 2010 at 22:15 | #11

    Just saw a clip of Captain Zhan returning home – and hear the family members emotionally embrace each other. They spoke in the same dialect I grew up speaking in Taiwan. This made his homecoming that much more touching for me … on a personal level.

  12. October 1st, 2010 at 08:26 | #12

    Here is an interesting article from ATimes.com.

    It goes into some of the background of the incident in a very interesting angle. Is Korea, S China Seas, and now Diaoyutai all manufactured crises? Has China’s assertiveness backfired?

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