By Feng Zhaokui
Shoichi Nakagawa, policy chief of Japan's ruling Liberal
Democratic Party, said in Nagoya on February 26 that Japan could be
subject to China's strong influence in the context of China's
"rising military spending". He went on to say: "If something goes
awry in Taiwan in the next 15 years, then within 20 years, Japan
might become just another one of China's provinces."
Nakagawa's trumpeting of the "China threat" sounds extremely
biased. However, his strong suspicions over the growth of China's
military strength is representative of the opinions of Japan's
political elites. Worse, his remarks could fan the Japanese
public's misgivings about the "rise" of China.
Liu Jinqing, the late honorary professor of Tokyo Keizai
University, once observed: "The Japanese are psychologically
tormented. They looked down upon the Chinese in the past. They have
considered themselves as No 1 in Asia since the Meiji Restoration.
They did wrong in the first half of the 20th century. They made
impressive advances in the latter half of the 20th century, taking
advantage of the Cold War, and were far ahead of China.
China, however, has made spectacular progress since the reform and
opening-up were started in the late 1970s and is now doing better
than Japan in some respects. Some Japanese are thus thrown off
balance psychologically. They suffer mental tortures and they need
to readjust their assessment of China.
This kind of psychological dislocation constitutes the
foundation of the "China threat" theory subscribed to by many
This response to China's "rise" has its roots in the unique
First, the Japanese have a strong sense of crisis, which leads
to excessive worry over China's development.
Second, the sense of hierarchy still exists in some Japanese
minds. This means that some Japanese are not psychologically
prepared to get along with other countries on an equal basis.
In the 1980s, when China trailed far behind Japan, Japan
condescendingly offered Official Development Assistance to the
"inferior" China. But with China's economic take-off, some Japanese
feel ill at ease.
Third, some Japanese are subject to the sway of a near-abroad
complex. They harbor misgivings about the development of China,
which used to be one of the centers of ancient civilization. China
has a population 10 times that of Japan and territories 25 fold
that of the Japanese archipelago. They are worried that Japan could
be marginalized in East Asia.
Driven by the combination of all these factors, some Japanese
politicians strive to strengthen the alliance with the superior
United States so that China could be forever kept in an inferior
To prevent China from leaping over Japan in the international
hierarchical echelon, the administration of former Prime Minister
Junichiro Koizumi put the strategy of adherence to the United
States at the very top of its agenda, doing Washington's bidding on
many important matters in economic as well as military fields.
While following the US closely in virtually everything, Koizumi
emphasized "self respect and dignity" in dealing with issues left
over by history such as Japanese leaders' paying homage at the
China badly needs stability in its near abroad now that it is
committed to bringing about a moderately prosperous society. China
has no intention of confronting the United States, challenging the
US-Japan alliance or elbowing the US out of Asia, much less
invading and annexing Japan.
As some American researchers have remarked, China has drawn
lessons from the tragedies of the rise of Japan and Germany in the
late 19th and early 20th centuries. China has become ironclad in
its determination to take the road of peaceful development.
The author is a researcher with the Institute of Japanese
Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
(China Daily March 6, 2007)