Plan to buy Diaoyu Islands a political farce

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Individual ambition and strategic anxiety have fueled tensions between Japan and China, observers said after the audit committee of Japan's Lower House began testimony on Monday about the Tokyo governor's plan to purchase the Diaoyu Islands.

Shintaro Ishihara, the outspoken hawkish politician, was given the chance to lay out his plan in front of a group of lawmakers.

Osamu Fujimura, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, said on Monday that the government was considering buying the islands.

Yang Bojiang, a professor of Japanese studies at the University of International Relations, said that the latest provocations around the Diaoyu Islands embodied the strategic intent of Japan's conservatives "to contain China".

"Ishihara's purchase proposal and the fishing campaign held by a right-wing group cannot be viewed as moves of its government. However, they do have a long-term goal. The extreme right-wing nationalists, as the vanguard of Japan's conservatives, are pushing forward the fight against China in the battleground along boundaries both on land and sea. They aim at containing China's development," Yang said.

"Japan lost two decades of growth while China is growing rapidly. Its whole society feels frustrated and anxious about its own development. Such social sentiments have given birth to a silent and sympathetic atmosphere toward words and deeds of the right wing," Yang said, referring to the considerable popularity the right-wing provocation has gained.

He pointed out that the frustration and anxiety also give rise to the deep distrust between Tokyo and Beijing.

"China's regular marine enforcement is easily viewed as a hostile action targeting Japan. Even when China helped with disaster relief after the earthquake that hit northeast Japan in March last year, some Japanese doubted on the Web if China would take advantage of the situation and take the islands."

Feng Zhaokui, a Japanese studies researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, added that Ishihara's personal ambition was also one of the reasons for "his show".

"A hard stance against China over territorial disputes easily gets support from common people. So the politician, who wants to establish a new party, used it as a stepping-stone," Feng said. "He desires to win a place in Japan's dizzying politics."

But Feng said that Japan is actually not willing to see bilateral ties receive a heavy blow.

"Tokyo knows bilateral trade matters to the country's effort to revive the domestic economy after the major earthquake and tsunami," Feng said.

Though the two countries are bristling over the latest disputes, the 13th round of China-Japan strategic dialogue wrapped up on Monday between Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhang Zhijun and his Japanese counterpart Kenichiro Sasae. The two-day meeting witnessed a frank communication on appropriately handling bilateral ties.

Beijing told Tokyo that ties are facing an important chance for development as well as "serious challenges".

Zhang, who also met Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba on Monday, called on Tokyo for an appropriate solution of sensitive issues during the talk.

"We should promote anything that beefs up political trust and mutually beneficial cooperation, and we should oppose any attempt that undermines the political foundation of bilateral ties and friendship," Zhang said.

Gemba thought it was important for both sides to pursue a calm solution since "China's development means opportunities to Japan".


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