On Monday, some people on a street in Beijing blocked the path of a car in which Japanese Ambassador to China Uichiro Niwa was riding, and pulled off the Japanese flag that was mounted on the car. The Japanese embassy has lodged a strong protest about the incident with China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There have been demonstrations and protests against Japan in big cities all over China recently, with protesters damaging Japanese cars and shops on some occasions. Now, it has risen to the level of the Japanese ambassador’s car being stopped and the Japanese flag insulted. Evidently, anti-Japanese sentiment in China is not dissipitating, and is instead getting stronger. In addition, China’s leaders, who are always pontificating about how people should act in a civilized manner, are not interested in talking about international law.
A few years ago, people around the world started talking about the “China threat,” predicting that China, which was quickly rising as an economic and political power, would start to threaten the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. Judging by China’s overbearing attitude toward the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) issue, the ongoing disputes over sovereignty in the South China Sea and, especially, the increasing seriousness of these once-latent crises, the “China threat” theory is more than just a shot in the dark.
In an attempt to conceal its hegemonic ambitions in the region, China responded to worries about it being a threat by trying to charm the international community with talk of a peaceful rise. However, China continues to cause headaches for Western democratic countries over issues such as nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran. China wants to keep Western countries occupied so they will stay out of the Asia-Pacific region. Then China can be top dog.
China’s standpoint is very clear: It wants other countries in the region to accept all of its demands, otherwise there will be no talk of peace. If they do not comply, China is ready to wage a war of words, or, failing that, a real war. In its recent dispute with Japan, China has not gone beyond verbal attacks, but has made threats of military action.
Is the same not true of its approach to Taiwan? Pro-independence parties and groups in Taiwan have never accepted the so-called “1992 consensus” or the idea that Taiwan and China both belong to “one China.” Taiwanese have long since grown accustomed to China’s verbal bullying and military threats.
Only since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his government started acquiescing to China’s ambitions regarding Taiwan by promoting the “1992 consensus,” and then proposing the idea that China and Taiwan are two areas of a single country, has an illusion of peace appeared over the Taiwan Strait. China, for its part, takes a mile for every inch that it is given.
If Taiwan’s government ever decides not to accept China’s every demand, China will go back to its usual methods and put the disobedient Ma government firmly in its place.
During his term as Japan’s ambassador to Beijing, Niwa has been friendly to China. He criticized Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara’s plan to buy the Diaoyutai Islands, saying that such a deal would create a very serious crisis in relations between China and Japan. Some people in Japan have even accused Niwa of betraying Japan’s national interests by going along with China’s standpoints, but that has not stopped China from using Niwa as a whipping boy when it wants to insult Japan.