Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

The Eyes of the World are on Japan-China Relations
NISHIKAWA Megumi  / Journalist

November 27, 2012
I was in Europe recently on business. In Spain I attended a symposium and exchanged views with businesspeople and fellow journalists from various countries, and in France I dined with scholars of international relations. And before I could broach any subject, people wanted to know my view on Japan-China relations.

In Europe, in a world apart from Asia, the Japan-China relationship was on everyone's minds. While I have been a long-time observer of Europe, this was the first time I encountered such interest. It was easy to see that all eyes were trained on the conflict between the world's second- and third-largest economic powers, and its implications for the regional balance of power and the global economy.

A senior member of a French research institute had an interesting opinion: "In China, some youth went out of control and destroyed Japanese supermarkets and restaurants. It was fortunate that no retaliatory incidents occurred in Japan. In the catastrophic earthquake that struck last year, the Japanese people demonstrated admirable self-restraint and maturity to the world, and they have again shown this national character. It had the effect of calming other Asian countries, and I think it also has a great significance for regional stability."

Emphasis on order and discipline, self-restraint, and perseverance. These national traits not only contribute to stabilizing Japanese society, but the entire region as well. The Japanese people did not lower themselves to the ranks of some rioting Chinese by retaliating in kind. And in his opinion, this bolstered confidence in Japan. It was the first time I heard someone speak of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Senkaku Islands in terms of the "national character" of the Japanese people.

Incidentally, France shares a similar experience with Japan. Prior to the Beijing Olympic Games in 2009, human rights activists obstructed the torch relay in Paris to protest the Chinese government's oppression of the Tibetan people. In retaliation, anti-French demonstrations spread throughout China, and French supermarkets were attacked amid a consumer boycott movement.

As this researcher says, quite a few Asian countries must have felt relieved by the restraint shown by Japan in the dispute over the Senkaku Islands. All the same, they are undoubtedly monitoring the conflict between Japan and China with keen eyes. Particularly for countries locked in territorial disputes with China, such as the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, whether Japan manages to hold its own under Chinese pressure or be forced into retreat will have serious implications for their own future.

At present, China is concentrating its political and economic pressure on Japan, thereby alleviating the pressure felt by other countries. However, China may resume raising the heat in the South China Sea. And in such an event, the Philippines for one will not stand a chance if Japan had already succumbed to China over the Senkaku Islands.

Japan has the responsibility to collaborate with those countries and to take the leadership role in establishing the importance of maritime security based on rules and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, while keeping up its resistance against Chinese pressure. The dispute over the Senkaku Islands is an issue that concerns not only Japan but the future shape of maritime order in East Asia as a whole.

Megumi Nisikawa is Expert Senior Writer on the Foreign News Desk at Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

西川 恵 / ジャーナリスト

2012年 11月 27日








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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > The Eyes of the World are on Japan-China Relations