As for the historical issues, China seems to be in a more favorable situation, although it must be handled skillfully or Beijing may spoil it. It may be easier for China to gain international support by focusing on Abe’s “ghost worship” and connecting it to Japan’s political and social “right deviation,” thus emphasizing that his visit to the shrine is a challenge to the post-World War II order. However, if China directly links Abe’s shrine visit or the “historical issues” to a threat to world peace, this may have negative consequences.
Although Japan’s political “right deviation” is becoming increasingly obvious, and the Abe administration is preparing a military buildup, it has not caused any military conflicts. On the contrary, China’s marine police repeatedly patrols the waters within 12 nautical miles (22km) of the Diaoyutai Islands. It established the East China sea air defense identification zone and its Hainan Province has issued new regulations for the management of the South China Sea. Japan has said that these measures are provocative attempts to “change the ‘status quo’ by force or coercion.”
The Japanese claim has been recognized by the Philippines and Vietnam, and the foreign ministers of the US and Australia with some other countries have issued a joint statement in support of the claim.
In addition, if China accuses Japan of posing “a serious threat to global peace,” it will be difficult for Beijing to gain the support of the rest of the world. The mainstream international opinion is that Japan remains a peaceful country, whose peace index is much higher than that of China.
As the battle for global public opinion between China and Japan continues to grow, who will be the ultimate winner in this new Sino-Japanese war? The key to that answer lies in which party can handle the issue more skillfully and with more sophistication.
John Lim is an associate research fellow in the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica.
Translated by Eddy Chang