The 'quasi-Cold War' between China and Japan

By Zheng Yongnian
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 22, 2014
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China-Japan relations have been tense recently and there is no indication that a thaw is likely in the next few years.

The current focal point of disputes between the two countries is the ownership of the Diaoyu Islands, but the scope of the conflict goes far beyond territorial disputes. They involve history, school textbook revision to gloss over past aggression, official visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, mistreatment of "comfort women," issues involving economy and trade, and military strategy.

Sticky solution [By Jiao Haiyang/]

Sticky solution [By Jiao Haiyang/]

A slight move in any field may affect the whole situation. And this not only concerns bilateral ties, but also involves the relationship between China, Japan, the United States and other countries.

On the economic level, China, Japan and the United States are currently the largest economies in the world, while East Asia is now at the heart of the world's economic development.

On the military level, China and the United States are big nuclear powers, and Japan is a country with a potential nuclear capability, should it wish to embark on this road. If a hot war breaks out, the consequences would be beyond imagination.

The East Asian system is a continuation of the Cold War

To a large extent, the East Asian system is a continuation of the Cold War. After World War II, the United States and the Soviet Union became locked in a prolonged Cold War. As a result, East Asia was divided into two parts, namely the United States system and the Soviet system.

To deal with China, the United States made some compromises in its policies towards Japan, such as allowing the emperor system to be preserved and not thoroughly exposing and punishing the Japanese rightists who had waged and supported war.

Japan's war criminals appeared on the stage in full make-up, becoming decisive figures. The United States was too selfish to consider the interests of other countries in its long-term strategy in the Far East, especially those of China.

The U.S.-Japan alliance has enabled the United States to effectively control Japan. Throughout the Cold War, Japan prospered under the American nuclear umbrella to become the second largest economy in the world. However, on the international level, an economically powerful Japan has been subject to the United States, and has never known how to act as a normal state.

Rightist political figures have never correctly faced the fact that Japan is a defeated nation. Some even see Japan as a "victim" after two American atomic bombs "terminated" the war.

Meanwhile, Asian countries invaded by Japan haven't reached a consensus. China and South Korea have comparatively consistent views since they suffered the most in the war. They also have territorial disputes with Japan, as its neighbors.

Other countries, especially those that belonged to the Western camp with Japan and the United States, have shown a different attitude. They have, intentionally or unintentionally, relegated Japan's aggressive history to a mere footnote.

In addition, as Asia's first country to modernize, Japan has provided economic assistance to parts of the region, helping it to gain considerable diplomatic space.

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