Editorial: Diplomatically, U.S. ignites dispute on Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 21:09
Within the last month, a crisis has erupted in the East China Sea over a dispute involving three tiny islands. Depending on where you live, the Islands change names. Japan calls them “Senkaku” and says they are Japanese. China calls them “Diaoyu” and calls them Chinese. On the most recent American diplomatic trip to China, the American delegation used the Japanese term for the islands, thus reigniting the international crisis that has been lingering since World War II.
What followed was widespread looting, rioting and nationalist frenzy against all things Japanese. Sushi shops were destroyed, Japanese made cars and car dealerships were burned and Japanese people fled for their lives back to Japan. Millions of dollars of property damage was the message thousands of young, unemployed Chinese men used to send to Japan. Racist signs and slogans became the norm in the People’s Republic of China as signs were put on buses saying, “No Rides for Japanese Dogs.”
It is questionable whether the Chinese government, an infamous police state where any public demonstration is counter-normative, was actually behind the riots as a display of nationalism against Japan and the United States. Chinese police forces are famous for putting down dissent long before it begins. In a few cities, Chinese police did clash with rioters, but a Toyota dealer was not alone when his calls to the police and fire department went unanswered while his business burned around him.
Leon Panetta, still in China as of this writing, has urged Beijing to seek a diplomatic and peaceful solution to their conflict with Tokyo. He’s also ignored the riots, disregarding them as any sort of a legitimate diplomatic tool.
While the American delegation in the People’s Republic can use these riots as a measure of how high-tension this Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute is, we can only commend the difficult and delicate work of the Defense Secretary and the State Department to seek a peaceful mediation between China and Japan.
The unfortunate reality of the People’s Republic of China is that they are a highly nationalistic state with Japan also being a very proud country. Japan is also an American ally, and the conflict only began because of an American treaty with Japan (dating back to World War II) that lists the Senkaku Islands as a part of Japan. The completely disproportionate response the Chinese population took over the name of the island used by the American delegation (Japan’s response was to nationalize the islands by buying them from their private Japanese owners) was unnecessary at best, and childish at worst. It’s important and commendable that the United States will only deal with other nations in a civil, diplomatic and non-violent manner especially in the face of a rising power.