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by Bonnie S. Glaser
Over the past several months a gradual but significant shift has taken place in China's policy toward Japan. The change is a result of Beijing's recognition that its unrelenting pressure on Tokyo since the Japanese Government purchased several of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands from a private owner in September 2012 has produced far greater costs than benefits for China. Chinese President Xi Jinping's meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of the Asian-African summit in Jakarta last month is the latest proof of the adjustment in Chinese policy.
Last November, when the two leaders first met in Beijing, Xi wanted to be seen as a good host and therefore did not snub Abe. In Jakarta, however, Xi had greater flexibility. Not only did he agree to the meeting, he apparently initiated it. Although China's state-run news agency Xinhua claimed the meeting took place at the request of Japan, senior Japanese officials say Xi asked to meet with Abe on the condition that Japan not disclose that it was arranged at China's behest.
China's routine conduct of patrols inside the 12-mile territorial water boundary around the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, over which Japan exercises administrative control, has failed to achieve Beijing's objective of persuading Japan to acknowledge the existence of a sovereignty dispute. Instead, China's patrols, along with the establishment of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone in November 2013 and the imposition of a virtual freeze on high-level political contacts for more than two years, has led to damaging consequences for Chinese security.
Japan's direct investment in China fell by 38.8% year-on-year in 2014 to $4.33 billion. In 2013 it fell about 4%. Japan's defence budget reached $42 billion in 2015 and has increased three years in a row, ending 11 consecutive years of cuts. Japan relaxed the ban on the transfer of defence equipment and broadened the constitutional interpretation of the right of self-defence. Japanese force posture and structure are being reconfigured with a clear priority being assigned to defence of the southwest islands. Capabilities are being bolstered in such areas as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; interoperability; ballistic missile defence; and amphibious landing.
President Obama has stated publicly that the disputed islands are covered under Article V of the US-Japan Security Treaty. The US-Japan alliance has been strengthened with the issuance of updated guidelines for defence cooperation that underscore the 'global' nature of the alliance and enable the Abe Government to pursue 'proactive pacifism' in its security policy, among other things. Heightened concerns about China's policies and intentions was the major impetus for most, if not all, of the above moves.
Recognising that Chinese pressure on Japan was not succeeding, Xi Jinping has changed course. In addition to engaging directly with Prime Minister Abe, China resumed the high-level security dialogue with Japan after a hiatus of almost four years, restarted the Sino-Japanese parliamentary dialogue, and revived the trilateral mechanism among Chinese, Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers.
Abe's decision to forego a visit to the Yasukuni Shrine since he paid his respects there in December 2013 has helped to create a more positive atmosphere. In addition, although Prime Minister Abe did not repeat key phrases from the 1995 Murayama Statement in his speech delivered at the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference in Jakarta, he nevertheless alluded to the topic of 'aggression' in sections citing the ten principles agreed upon at the inaugural Bandung Conference in 1995. Later, speaking to the US Congress, Abe explicitly said that Japan's actions in World War II 'brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries' and pledged he would 'uphold the views expressed by Japan's previous prime ministers in this regard.'
The favorable turn in Chinese policy toward Japan is welcome. The protracted downturn in Sino-Japanese relations has engendered hostility in both countries toward the other and increased the risk of accident and conflict.
More needs to be done to put the Sino-Japanese relationship on an enduring positive trajectory. First, Tokyo and Beijing need to faithfully adhere to the four-point agreement reached last November. Second, the bilateral maritime crisis management mechanism should be established as soon as possible to avert inadvertent clashes over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. Third, as a gesture of goodwill, China should reduce its patrols inside the territorial waters of disputed islands. Fourth, Beijing should avoid using the upcoming commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, including the ceremony in Beijing planned for 3 September, to inflame anti-Japanese nationalism and inject new tensions in China-Japan relations. Fifth, Prime Minister Abe should use his speech this coming August to make a clearer statement of apology for his country's war crimes so as to achieve reconciliation with China, as well as Korea, Taiwan, and other neighbouring countries that were occupied or attacked during the war.
If the anniversary of the end of the war can be managed well and opportunities are seized to further improve bilateral ties, a summit between Abe and Xi might be put on the calendar for late 2015 or early 2016 that would provide impetus for more progress. Such a scenario would make a significant contribution to security in the entire Asia Pacific.
Photo courtesy of Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet.
by Merriden Varrall
China and the US have both been described as countries that consider themselves to be exceptional. China, so much so, that some analysts argue it sees itself as 'uniquely unique'. What this means in China is that most Chinese understand themselves to be part of a culture that no-one else can truly understand, let alone ever be a part of.
This sense of 'us versus them' is politically expedient, and serves to build and reinforce a powerful sense of national identity. Indeed, so strong is the adherence to an exceptionalist national identity in China that when I was doing my PhD research on Chinese foreign policy, I seriously considered using the methodological approaches offered by the anthropology of religion to analyse and interpret my findings.
Another country which has been the subject of examination through the anthropology of religion is of course the US, for similar reasons.
The sense of national identity in the US is just as powerful and unquestioned as in China. Both 'flag waving' as well as more banal forms of nationalism are ubiquitous. Just as in China, where there exists a powerful logic of Chinese-ness, including the narrative of victimisation and humiliation at the hands of Western powers, in the US the commitment to values like freedom and democracy as being central to how the world should work are apparently largely unquestioned and unwavering.
In my current trip to the US, I started to notice in myself what I presume is the same sense of moral certainty that many Americans feel. I am both by proclivity and training a relativist, and I was surprised to find myself feeling pride and moral confidence as I toured such venerable institutions as the Library of Congress.
Over the course of a number of meetings with US think tanks, government employees and academics, I began to see an acceptance of a certain fundamental bottom line of truth as being the base of many US views about China and its activities in the Asia Pacific. Namely, that China is 'behaving badly' and it is up to the US to stop it. This can be seen in, for example, the recent Washington Post article in which the author casually assumes 'America's job of containing China'.
In Australia, increased Chinese activity in the South China Sea raises questions about what we want as well as how we should go about trying to achieve it. Among many influential China thinkers in the US, it seems to me, the question of 'how' to deal with China largely subsumes the questions of 'what' or 'why'. It is taken for granted that the US is, and should naturally continue to be, the predominant power in the region, simply because it is, unquestionably, better for everyone that way.
China's activities in the region, generally accepted as being 'bad behaviour', bump up against not only US interests such as trade and political influence but also against America's sense of self.
Australia, on the other hand, is concerned less by anxiety about its national identity and what it considers to be its rightful and appropriate role in the world. It is more concerned about practical exigencies. Australians welcome China as an economic partner, but fear China's geopolitical intentions, particularly regarding possible changes to existing norms and institutions. As the 2014 Lowy poll clearly showed, Australians see China as being equal with Japan as our 'best friend in Asia'; yet at the same time, Australians fear that China could pose a direct military threat to Australia in 20 years.
I am not arguing that Western liberal values are not worthy, and I am not proposing that Chinese behaviour has only the purest and most benevolent of intentions. The point is that we don't actually know what China is trying to achieve.
I would argue though that at this moment, precisely as China is rapidly increasing its activities and expanding its presence in the region, it would be wise for the US not to respond hastily or in ways that fail to reflect an awareness of both their own views and biases, as well as China's. It would also be valuable for the US to reflect that not everyone, even old allies like Australia, let alone actors like Indonesia, view the region or feel the same concerns about it as they do.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user ehpien.
by Brendan Thomas-Noone
Australian drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were executed in Indonesia this week, along with six others. The Abbott Government responded by recalling Ambassador Paul Grigson on Wednesday. Aaron Connelly wrote on the motivations behind Jokowi's decision to proceed with the executions, despite significant pressure from Australia and the international community:
There is also a streak of 'victimhood' in Indonesian politics, writes Catriona Croft-Cusworth:
Jane McAdam from the University of Sydney responded to Khalid's paper:
Rodger Shanahan on Tareq Kamleh, the Australian 'medical jihadi' that appeared in an ISIS propaganda video earlier this week:
Did the IMF learn it's lesson with Greece? Stephen Grenville:
Chinese firms will most likely be the biggest benefactors from Beijing's regional development initiatives, argues Julian Snelder:
Samir Saran from the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi reviewed Modi's first year in office:
Two presidential aspirants, Aung San Suu Kyi and Hillary Clinton, need each other, said Elliot Brennan:
And Sam Roggeveen on Julie Bishop's speech to the Sydney Institute early this week:
Photo by Flickr user Moe-tography.
by Sam Roggeveen
To end what has been a tragic week in Nepal, a touching video portrait of its people (nb. this was filmed and posted well before the earthquake):
If you would like to help the people of Nepal, there are any number of aid organisations that have launched appeals. But here's aid blogger Chris Blattman's advice on the most effective way to donate.
by Danielle Cave
The Asia Pacific is the most dynamic digital landscape in the world, home to the fastest adopters of new technologies and the largest concentration of mobile and social media users. An escalation in online activism, changing cyber dynamics, developments in digital diplomacy and the exploitation of big data are shaping the region's engagement with the world.