Protesters gather in front of the Japanese embassy in Beijing on Tuesday. Photo: Li Hao/GT
Sino-Japanese relations suffered a serious blow Tuesday when the Japanese government signed a deal to purchase the Diaoyu Islands with the self-proclaimed “owner.” The friendly ties between the two countries established in the 1970s collapsed completely.
Chinese anger of over a century toward Japan was awakened Tuesday, and will in turn affect Japanese feelings toward China. It appears inevitable the two sides will be overwhelmed by hatred again now that more conflicts can be expected. China needs to be prepared for further deterioration of bilateral ties. For Beijing, the future priority isn’t to maintain stable ties, but to protect its core interests as Sino-Japanese relations sour.
Despite China’s commitment to building friendly neighboring ties, the Diaoyu issue has turned China and Japan into opponents. China isn’t used to having an adversary close by. But it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Japan inflicted painful atrocities against China in the past. It is now more developed than China, but is in decline. The balance of national power is shifting between the two. With such a close opponent, China can be spurred to action.
Japan depends on the Chinese market more than China does on the Japanese market. A political confrontation will bring insignificant economic damage to China. Meanwhile, with China’s nuclear deterrence, Japan is less likely to launch a military attack on China. Of course, Tokyo may remilitarize itself, even with nuclear armaments, encouraged by the US. But that still poses a limited threat to China. China has plenty of measures to restrain Japan. Pressure on Japan can also come from other neighboring countries.
China has been advocating friendly ties with its neighbor, but Japan has created enough troubles for China over the years. But its behavior toward the US and Russia demonstrates its inferiority toward strong countries. China cannot repeat what the US and Russia did to Japan. But a lesson is necessary to dispel its contempt toward China since the Meiji Restoration.
China is accumulating strength with its fast development. It can fully show this strength to Japan in a future conflict to reverse Japan’s attitude toward China. Until that time, it is possible to restart friendly ties between China and Japan. It may take 30 years if it goes smoothly. In a word, most young and middle-aged people will be able to see Japan treat China differently.
Keeping friendly neighboring ties is a good policy. But it cannot be achieved through one-sided begging and compromising.