Friday, September 21, 2012

I must say, it is very confusing to me why China is constantly portrayed by international media as the aggressor in the Diaoyu/Senkaku conflict, and urged to curb its nationalist sentiment. There is something very strange going on regarding perception or discussion of Japanese agency right now, and I'm sure that it has something to do with our own history of allying with the Japanese. This is not to say that I agree with the way that the Chinese government seems to be participating in riling up the public's nationalist sentiment, as of course I think this is not only quite threatening to the Japanese citizens living in China (and possibly to other expats), but may also limit China's ability to pursue a nonviolent path in the future. But let's for a moment play devil's advocate and talk about this incident in the same manner as the majority of recent media coverage, but only discussing Japan's actions. We should be very worried about Japan right now. They have been manipulating the UN Law of the Sea, making specious claims to islands that will vastly increase their exclusive economic sovereignty in ocean territories. They have also allowed nationalist sentiment to influence their international policy, as in the case of the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands, where the latest incident was incited by the conservative and bombastic governor of Tokyo, rather than a coherent policy decision. Both of these trends, aggressive expansionism and uncontrolled nationalism, are the most feared behaviors on the international stage. They may be particularly worrisome coming from a nation with a history of these types of behaviors. These trends need to change soon, and we need to be involved in ensuring that they change, rather than by tacitly supporting them as we currently do. The UN should be working to ensure that the law of the sea works as it is intended to, preventing disputes over ocean territory, but that territory should be related only to lands truly controlled by a country. And if we truly want to remain neutral on the Diaoyu/Senkaku issue, we should revoke our 1972 granting of administrative rights of the islands to Japan. It seems that the ocean is the space of a new imperialist era at the present, and ocean territories are being carved up like so many continents a couple of centuries ago. Let us try to fight this new trend by preventing the aggressive occupation of islands for the purpose of territorial expansion; the promise of international cooperation should not be undone by manipulation of legislative loopholes, and aggressive behavior should not be ignored simply because it comes from one's ally.