On Sept. 29, the 40th anniversary of the restoration of diplomatic relations between China and Japan, Sankei Shimbun editorial writer Ryutaro Kobayashi asked how it would be possible for Japan to continue discussions with a China that had “lost its national dignity.”
Kobayashi was referring to the sometimes-destructive renhai (human wave) demonstrations in over 100 cities in China protesting Japan’s nationalization of the disputed islands in the East China Sea, which resulted in billions of yen in damages to Japanese-owned businesses.
Scenes of angry mobs trashing stores and factories have led, not surprisingly, to viscerally emotional reactions in Japan’s media. One common response has been a palpable sense of victimhood, of which perhaps the most extreme example appears in a 98-page “mook” (a short book in glossy A4 magazine format) from Shukan Asahi Geino devoted entirely to China, under the headline “Chugoku, fuyukai na shinjitsu” (“China: The unpleasant facts”). Superimposed over a photo of the ransacked branch of the Heiwado supermarket in Changsha, Hunan Province, is a caption that reads, “Sept. 16, 2012 will be inscribed in history as China’s version of the Kristallnacht” (a reference to the notorious pogrom against Jews in Nazi Germany and Austria on Nov. 9, 1938).
Shukan Post (Oct. 12) considered the possible repercussions of a complete withdrawal of the estimated 150,000 Japanese currently living and working in China. During last year’s Arab Spring, some 500 Japanese were safely evacuated from Egypt on chartered planes, but their much larger numbers in China would present major logistical problems. A business consultant also points out that unless proper legal procedures are taken — unlikely in the case of mass flight — Japanese-owned assets will probably be confiscated by the Chinese government, along with intellectual-property rights.
Some weekly magazines have taken it upon themselves to fight back, at least verbally, against the Chinese onslaught. “Yarerumon nara yatte miro. Tsubureru no wa Chugoku da” (“If you think you can do it, go ahead. It will be China that collapses!”) taunted Shukan Bunshun (Oct. 4). A week later the same magazine followed up with an expanded article on this theme that asserts that much of China’s manufacturing sector is dependent on Japanese equipment. “Without Japan-built sewing machines,” it claimed, “China’s apparel plants couldn’t produce even one shirt.”
Bunshun opines that Japan is left with no other course they to adopt a policy of datsu-Chugoku (pulling out of China). Over the previous two years, notes Bunshun, China attempted to put the squeeze on Japan by reducing exports of rare earth minerals, which are needed in mobile-communications equipment. Japan has since diversified its sources to reduce dependency on China. Likewise, Japanese light-industry manufacturers are in the process of shifting investments to Myanmar, Indonesia and other Asian countries.
Sapio (Oct. 3-10) takes Bunshun’s proposals a step further, going so far as to suggest it may be time for Japan to resuscitate its vision of a “Great East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.” The original concept was launched in June 1940 by foreign minister Hachiro Arita, with the aim of wresting control of former European colonies in Southeast Asia by installing puppet governments.
The vernacular business magazines have devoted extensive space to analytical approaches, in attempts to get a handle on what’s been occurring. Shukan Toyo Keizai (Sep. 29) ran 54 pages of China-related content under the headline “Chugoku enjō“ (“China erupts in flames”). Shukan Economist (Oct. 9) ran 25 pages under the headline “Rekishi kara manabu” (“Learning from history”). Its articles suggested the key to understanding China’s behavior from historic and cultural perspectives. One featured an article by author Atsushi Moriya about how the lessons of “The Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” the Confucian Analects and other classic works show that when Chinese form close relationships these will never be betrayed.
Following is a roundup of other articles of interest covering the Japan-China imbroglio:
• Friday (Oct. 12) suggests China actually has its eyes on an even more remote group of islands, Okinotorishima. Located 567 km west-southwest of Minami Iwo Jima, they are administered as part of the Ogasawara Islands group by the Tokyo government. In 2004 China raised objections to Japan’s claim to EEZ (exclusive economic zone) status, claiming Okinotorishima is an atoll, not an islet. Along with strategic military potential it is also believed to have rich deposits of rare earth minerals amounting to 6.8 million tons — enough for more than 200 years at the present rate of consumption — and deposits of methane hydrate, a possible future source of hydrocarbon fuel.
• Shukan Asahi (Oct. 12) surveyed 45 Japanese companies on their reliance on business with China and concluded “Nihon Kigyo wa Chugoku-nashi de daijō bu” (“Japanese businesses will be fine without China”). Market analyst Tsutomu Yamada is quoted as saying, “Nearly 10 million Chinese are said to be employed, either in tie-ups or through indirect business. Should Japan pull out, large numbers would lose their jobs, and I suppose this would lead to even wilder riots.” Citing data from the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), Yamada added that China has been the recipient of less than 10 percent of Japan’s direct investments worldwide, and should it leave China, the blow to Japan’s economy would be “painful” but not fatal.
• The front page of the Oct. 3 issue of the tabloid Yukan Fuji carried a story by journalist Takahide Kaga under the headline “Scoop! China’s military making preparations for attack on the Senkakus in November.”
• Shukan Shincho (Sep. 27) and several other magazines have run hypothetical scenarios of a military clash between Chinese and Japanese forces. While its sea and air forces are untested in battle, Japan at present is said to boast superior technology and could more than hold its own in brief skirmishes. However, former Air Self-Defense Force officer turned journalist Masato Ushio predicts that by 2020 China’s military forces will be fully modernized, with stealth fighters, several aircraft carriers and early-warning aircraft systems. A clash over the Senkakus, the magazine concludes, may be “just a matter of time.”
• Shukan Jitsuwa (Oct. 18) claims that Japan’s security agency has upped its alert for “food terrorism,” out of fears over a repeat of the incident involving poison-laced frozen gyoza (pot-sticker dumplings) imported from China, which sickened around a dozen people four years ago.
• Urging Chinese “not to forget gratitude toward the person who dug the well,” Flash (Oct. 16) lists Japanese aid projects and corporate investments in China since Premier Deng Xiaoping began liberalization of the economy. Aside from ODA (official developmental assistance) of ¥6 trillion over the past 30 years, these include yen-based bonds valued at ¥3 trillion for the nation’s two largest airports at Shanghai and Beijing; resource-development loans of ¥3 trillion; and direct investments of ¥980 billion in 2011 alone. Women’s foundation garment manufacturer Wacoal currently operates 722 stores in the country; Toyota employs 22,900 workers.