Looming Sino-Japanese naval Clash possible?
January 2, 2007 3:00pm CST
The recent furor over Japan's refusal to acknowledge its wartime crimes against humanity against the Chinese people has manifested itself in an upsurge in anti-Japanese sentiment throughout China in the form of protests, oftentimes violent, in front of Japanese consulates and boycotting of Japanese products. It is important to bear in the mind though that the Chinese people are not directing their ire against the Japanese people in general but against the Japanese government and a segment of the Japanese people who are bent on being partisans of their government's tilt towards the country's pre-WWII jingoistic attitude. An important underlying issue between the current Sino-Japanese dispute is the disputed East China Sea which is contested by the two countries which is home to rich gas reserves, most of which remain unexploited. After over 30 years, the Tokyo has given the green light to Japanese companies to tap gas reserves in what it claims to be part of its economic zone. Beijing, on the other hand, holds on steadfastly to China's rightful claim that the area lies in sovereign Chinese territory. Japan, has thus no legitimate right to lay claim over its so-called economic zone. The wartime history textbook issue may have been deliberately sparked off by Tokyo to test Beijing's resolve over the disputed economic zone in the East China Sea. It is highly likely that this may signal a return to Japan's old policy of sabre rattling in tandem with its increasing power, which includes military clout, which would never have been possible in post-War Japan without Washington's support and guidance. Although a major military conflict over the East China Sea, including the Diaoyutai island chain, is highly unlikely at this juncture of time, the possibility of naval clashes involving patrol boats of the two countries cannot be ruled out. One may compare this to the past naval clashes between China and Vietnam over the Paracels and Spratley islands which did not escalate into all out war. Again, Japan may want to provoke a military conflict on a minimal scale as part of its plan to probe Beijing's resoluteness in deploying the PLA to defend China's rightful territorial claims which Japan, the US and other countries are suspicious of and cannot accept as legitimate due to realpolitik. It can also be determined with certainty that Tokyo still underestimates the Chinese determination and ability to win in a military conflict due to the disdain certain Japanese still have towards Chinese martial prowess. Many quarters of the Japanese government have not come to terms with the reality that China is no longer the "Sick Man of Asia" and live in self-delusion that China can never stand up against Japan. One example of their delusionary mindset is evident from how they only regard China's coastal cities as advanced whereas in actual fact, cities further inland in China have been making subtantial social and economic progress, even though not always at the same pace as that of littoral areas of the country. Recently, there have been positive indications that the level of Chinese technological advancement is improving significantly in that there is a shift from low to high-tech products. One prominent example of which is a recent sale for the first time ever of a communications satellite to a foreign country. The Dongfanghong IV satellite which contains 28 transponders made by the China Great Wall Industrial Corporation is to be sold to Nigeria and it will be lanched by a Chinese Long March 3B carrier rocket from the Xichang Space Launch Center. In relation to the prime importance of technological advancement in China's growth, it is foolish to argue that she can continue to rely on cheap labour, cheap products and low exchange rate to develop into a first world modern nation. Compare this to Japan which would have a standard of living today on the same level as that of Indonesia or the Phillippines had it continued to rely on its exports of low-tech products made with low-cast labour. China needs to draw a lesson from the Japanese economic miracle of the past in that she has to advance her technologies and shift from exporting low-tech cheap products to exporting high-tech military equipment/avionics/cars, high-end electronic goods and all kinds of other high-tech products. The Japanese exchange rate increased from 360 yens to the US dollar to some 120 yens today - an increase of around 30)% which enabled Japan to import 3 times more goods for the same amount of physical exports, thus enabling the Japanese people to enjoy 3 times more imported good with the corresponding increase in their standard of living. On the other hand, the low exchange rate of the renminbi forces the entire Chinese populace to subsidise the low-tech exports, which leads to an overall slowing down of internal development compounded by environmental degradation. The way for China to develop herself into an economic powerhouse is to first of all advance her technologies to the highest possible level in the world and then expand her internal economy through urbanisation of rural areas which will then raise the productivity of the Chinese farmers and workers to the highest level in the world, thus raising their standard of living and quality of life to the highest in the world. Given such an advanced technological level and the biggest and most efficiently productive economy in the world, a rich and powerful China will be able to face aggression from the rest of the world combined and in such a situation, little Japan even with the backing of its American master will not have the gall to provoke China into a military conflict.