Thursday, September 20, 2012

China, Japan and some rocks on Sea – Is it only about islands or past history, leadership transition and domestic politics as well?

Island Group - Google Maps
Continuing tensions between China and Japan regarding the nationalization of [GOJ bought 3 islands from a Japanese family - Kuhihara - for 2.05bn yen] of Senkeku (In Japanese)/ Diaoyu (in Chinese) island group raised an interest in me to see where exactly they are located. I had to search for a long time in Google maps to find their correct positions (see the picture). 

This Island group is located in East China Sea (around 160km east of Pengjia Islet – Republic of China – ROC (Taiwan) not to confuse with her big brother People’s Republic of China (PRC), 410km west of Okinawa Island (Japan) and 170km north of Ishigaki Island (Japan)). Currently, endemic species like short tailed albatross, senkaku mole etc are the only inhibitors in these small islands (in case you can say them islands). 

As explained in my earlier article, it is not the land which makes these islands attractive, but the surrounding sea and it’s Exclusive Economic Zone – EEZ. Already Chinese petroleum companies CNOOC and Sinopec are operating natural gas fields in East China Sea - Chunxiao. 

It is expected that China will protest, and she did. But things are yet to die down; protesters are still raising slogans in front of Japanese embassy in Beijing. According to BBC reports, following the protests, many Japanese companies like – Panasonic, Cannon, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Toyota, Sony, Seven and I holdings, Fast Retailing, Aeon, Komatsu etc  - were either suspended, shut down, stopped production or advised Japanese employees to stay at home. This may affect the bilateral trade between both countries - In 2011 bilateral trade grew at 14.3% to $345bn, as Japanese private companies will hesitate to invest more in Chinese production facilities, at least temporarily.

The crux of the problem is not exactly a small number of stones raising their head above the waters, but history – the violent one; especially the second Sino-Japanese war from 1937-45, which was so much devastating for Chinese. So even a small problem, when looking through the glass of past history, will reach gigantic proportions. It may be comfortable for government officials to sit around a desk and discuss, but once the anger passed to the citizens on the street, it may be difficult for the government to control. For current working class, this will give a window not only to express their anger against the Japan but also against their own government.


Considering the time of leadership transition in China and elections in US, protests are set to continue for some more time. These incidents will certainly give a sample of future for countries - located in South China Sea rim - having conflicting claims with Chinese about the territorial sovereignty of islands and rocks in the area.



1. BBC
2. Wikipedia
3. Google Maps

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