Foreign academics noted increasing Taiwan-Japan ties and urged the nation to diversify away from its concentration on the US to build better relations with other countries at a conference yesterday on the international implications of Saturday's legislative elections.
The Institute for National Policy Research, London School of Economics and Political Science and Taiwan Foundation for Democracy co-hosted the conference.
Phil Deans, director of the Contemporary China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in the UK, said that although Japanese politics toward Taiwan and China are still very much determined in Washington, the last decade and a half have seen remarkable growth in pro-Taiwan sentiment in Japan.
Pointing out that there are now no pro-China members in Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Cabinet, the academic said the strength of pro-Taiwan feelings in Japanese business circles is also extraordinary.
On the other hand, Japanese policy towards China is hardening.
"Today, the Japanese position on the Taiwan question is increasingly sympathetic ... Privately Japanese are moving closer and closer to the Taiwanese position," Deans said. "I think these trends of support for Taiwan will continue to grow. In Japan, over the last four or five years, there has been marked increases in anti-China sentiment both on the popular level and on a broader national level."
Japan is concerned about China's rise and the increasing possibility that it will be a threat to Japan.
"So concern over China in Japan is growing and is translating itself into a new Japanese nationalism which is marked by a strong sympathy towards a rather ideal picture of Taiwan," Deans said.
Byron Weng (
"In that report they announced quite openly China being a potential enemy," he said.
Japan feels the large sum of money invested in China is actually being used to buy weaponry and is unhappy about the highly irrational anti-Japanese sentiment among the Chinese people, Weng said.
Bruce Jacobs, professor of Asian Languages and Studies at the School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics in Australia's Monash University, said he found it rather disconcerting that the US tends to discount everything President Chen Shui-bian (
Explaining that the distrust may be result of various factors, Jacobs said it is important for Taiwan to continue to send signals of moderation.
"Perhaps the results of this election can send an important signal to America, which is that the Taiwan electorate is moderate. It's not an extreme electorate," Jacobs said.
"Taiwan must move beyond its total concentration on the great US power ... Taiwan also needs to look at Europe. It needs to look at Japan and Australia and other countries. In [relations with] all these countries, Taiwan's democratization has been a tremendous asset," the academic said.