Tag Archives: China-Japan

Staging for the Beijing Olympics—in Japan

Noted without comment.

A large travel agency is planning a big promotion overseas to get foreign sports teams to stay in Japan before going on to Beijing for the start of next year’s Olympic games. They are touting the facilities, the lack of pollution, the variety of food, the public safety, and the ease of access to Beijng.

The agency is serious–and they report the British swimming team has already decided to stay in Japan first!

Via Ampontan.

Japan's New Foreign Policy: Step Back and Focus on Asia

Fukuda tells the Washington Post that Asia is Japan’s top responsibility, sending a signal to the United States on Japan’s expired Afghanistan refueling mission. This is also a departure from Abe and Aso’s aspiration to “Eurasian” reach.

It wasn’t too long ago that then-Foreign Minister Aso Taro declared that Japan would work for an “arc of freedom and prosperity” (自由と繁栄の弧) reaching across the Eurasian landmass. Aso’s rhetoric, which was to set out a foreign policy framework for the newly minted premiership of Abe Shinzo, made some people uncomfortable because of its echoes of history—no doubt partially because of Abe and Aso’s general hawkishness.

Now, after the implosion of the Abe government and the rocky start for Prime Minister Fukuda Yasuo, a man who was initially seen as an agent for stability, Japan is changing its foreign policy footing. Ahead of Fukuda’s first visit to the United States as prime minister, he gave an interview to the Washington Post. “I believe the heaviest responsibility for Japan is to see to it that there is stability and prosperity in Asia,” Fukuda said, while also calling the U.S.–Japan alliance the “very foundation” of his foreign policy.

Japanese-U.S. ties have been destabilized (if only slightly) recently by the refusal of the Japanese legislature, where the upper house is controlled by Japan’s opposition, to renew Japan’s refueling mission in support of a primarily U.S. military action in Afghanistan. Predictably, this drew attention from U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates on his trip to Asia last week. But as Tobias Harris writes, changes in China loom large in the U.S.–Japan alliance. Here’s Tobias, quoting Gates’ speech last week at Sofia University in Tokyo:

Most pressingly, the alliance has yet to coordinate an approach to China. To some, it is a bulwark against China. To others—and I think it’s safe to include Mr. Gates in this category—the stronger the U.S.–Japan alliance, the better able it will be to reach out to China and work on incorporating China into the regional security architecture. As Mr. Gates says of China, “I do not see China as a strategic adversary. It is a competitor in some respects and partner in others. While we candidly acknowledge our differences, it is important to strengthen communications and to engage the Chinese on all facets of our relationship to build mutual understanding and confidence.”

Fukuda’s emphasis on Asia, if not an isolated statement, could represent at least an orientation toward improving its relations with regional powers. It certainly would seem to reflect the reality of Japanese politics over involvement with U.S. military action.

Footnote: Gates’ not-adversary-but-competitor line also reminds me of Obama, for what it’s worth.

Hillary Release Sets Up China–U.S. Competition

A press release from the Hillary Clinton campaign uses China as the primary “other” for the United States, a nation to which the United States should compare its progress.

An Oct. 10 press release outlining Clinton’s agenda on “Rebuilding the Road to the Middle Class” comes with several policy proposals and an attempt to frame the country’s economic challenges. And in the process of framing, China is set up as a main challenger for the United States, and a main point of comparison for U.S. development. Here, in full, is the section outlining “The Challenges”:

Other nations are increasingly investing in their innovation infrastructure, positioning themselves to challenge our leadership. In the last 12 years, China has doubled the percentage of GDP dedicated to R&D, and over that same period GDP itself doubled. Also, our share of the world’s scientists and engineers is declining, and too few American college students are preparing themselves for these careers. Fewer than 20% of American undergraduates are earning degrees in science or engineering, compared with more than 50% in China. Between 1970 and 2000, our global share of PhDs in science and engineering declined from 40% to 20%. And today, our global ranking in broadband has deteriorated to 25th.

Here, China is the primary “other” to which U.S. achievements are compared.

Later, in a section outlining a proposal for more education funding, China again is the only country named in comparison. “Education is the ultimate innovation prerequisite, but we are ceding ground to other nations,” the release states. “For example, 50% of undergraduates in China are earning degrees in science and engineering, but in America the rate is less than 20%. Our global share of PhDs in these fields has declined from 40% in 1970 to less than 20% today.”

Clinton’s rhetoric in this document compares the United States to China and to the world at large. But notably, no other country or political unit, not even the European Union, is mentioned by name. This is not an overt statement on China, but it tells us something about the way Hillary’s campaign views the rhetorical landscape: Among world powers, they apparently believe, the media and voters are concerned about China above all others.

Tomorrow, Clinton calls the U.S.–China relationship the world’s most important for the coming century, and Japan faces a demotion from the position of the United States’ most important Asian counterpart.

A Textbook Demonstration … In Japan

Japan’s history problem (歴史問題, rekishi mondai) is well-known in Asia, and it’s a common topic of discussion in Japanese political journals. Many are familiar with international criticism of Japan’s reckoning with its 20th century aggression, and the repeated approval by the Education Ministry of textbooks that underplay or gloss over the Nanjing Massacre and other incidents has been a cause for diplomatic and public protests in China since the 1980s.

Most recently, in April 2005, Beijing saw what media* reported to be the largest protest the city had seen since 1989. Anti-Japan demonstrations in 2005 began with an online petition against Japan’s bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), but a quieter campaign was in the works calling for a boycott of Japanese businesses that they said supported a nationalist group in Japan known as the Committee to Make New History Textbooks (新しい歴史教科書を作る会, atarashii rekishi kyoukasho wo tsukuru kai)—Tsukurukai for short.

Then, a new edition of Tsukurukai‘s textbook was approved by the Education Ministry. This coincided with an shift in the rhetoric of both the Chinese government and demonstrators in Beijing and elsewhere. The highest estimates of how many attended the largest Beijing protest were around 20,000.

But, the Japanese textbook protest does not oppose denials of Japanese atrocities outside of Japan…

This week in Japan’s distant island prefecture of Okinawa, 110,000 people reportedly turned out to protest the removal of language from seven history textbooks. The passage in question has to do with whether a mass suicide by Okinawans occurred with “military coercion.” (Coercion is a key term these days in Japanese historical politics. Abe Shinzo tried to get himself out of trouble over his “comfort women” statements by squabbling over the definition of “coercion.”)

I have not studied the Okinawa incident in question, nor have I watched closely the politics behind this dispute, so I can’t speak to the facts. But here are some other places to look:

  • Ampontan has explored it at some length and his post includes background on the battle over the specific passages and language.
  • Shisaku has a comment (with photo) and links to a Canadian Press story
  • … which reports that this is the largest protest on Okinawa since the United States returned it to Japan in 1972. The runner up? “In 1995, 85,000 people took part in a rally following the 1995 rape of a schoolgirl there by three American servicemen, according to [Kyodo News].”

The size of demonstrations isn’t usually of great interest to me, but it certainly is useful to remember that Japanese textbooks don’t just rile Chinese and Koreans.

* This was mentioned in various places. Here’s one. Jiangtao Shi and Jane Cai, “Japanese Warned to Avoid Campuses; Embassy Urges Its Citizens to Stay Away after Call on Students to Protest in Beijing Today,” South China Morning Post, April 9, 2005.

Back to Blogging: Some Things I've Missed

After almost two months in China (Friday makes it official), I’ve settled in to a rhythm of life in Beijing and I think it’s time to revive this site. I’ve missed a lot of news, which is OK with me. In the future, this blog will be less news-oriented (though as a journalist I can’t imagine I’ll leave it all behind). I’m also still working on a new format and identity for the site which I think will fit my interests. But for now, let’s just review some of the things I’ve missed in the last two months.

In no particular order:

  • As we all know by now, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo is finished. I’ve found Observing Japan to be the best source for detailed news on the selection of Fukuda Yasuo as the next prime minister. Most recently, the tireless blogger-scholar behind OJ gives us analysis of how Fukuda has made some peace in the party by appointing faction-heads to the cabinets.
  • Very little has been said about China in the U.S. presidential contest over the last few months, but …
  • Sen. Hillary Clinton‘s trouble with a fugitive donor changed triggered some conservative criticism of her and her husband’s connections to Chinese (really, Chinese-American) money. See here for a representative example. I wrote about Clinton’s most prominent statement on China so far in this election cycle back in March.
  • A recent violent roundup of black drug dealers and many other innocent black people in Beijing brought disquiet in the expat community. Though I was in the area the same night, I left too early to see it first hand. A first report came from Jen Brea, and a later, more detailed one from Chris O’Brien. A Newsweek blog has another first-hand account from an expat who was forced to delete photos of the event.
  • A correspondent in Kyushu e-mailed with some interesting survey results (via Japan Probe and Jun Okumura, another great blogger on recent political developments).
    • In a survey of Chinese, 78 percent saw Japan as a threat, followed closely by 75 percent perceived a U.S. threat.
    • Forty-six percent of both South Koreans and Japanese saw China as a threat, and more than 70 percent of both of those populations saw North Korea as a threat.
  • W. David Marx and friends launched Néojaponisme, an online journal that will eventually supplant Marxy’s Néomarxisme “post-blog.” I highly recommend the first week-long series, a detailed and interesting interview with Patricia Steinhoff, a sociologist and professor at University of Hawaii who has studied student radicalism in Japan with some of the best sourcing around. Start reading here. And I’m not just plugging this because you’ll see my work on the site in the future as a contributor from Beijing.

That’s all for now.