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Japan, China fishing boat row: a war of words

Just as the Diaoyu Islands row between Japan and China intensifies over the detention of a Chinese fishing captain, whose detention has just been extended by a further 10 days, a war of words has broken out between prominent bloggers Yoshikazu Kato and Zhang Wen.

Yoshikazu Kato, bilingual in Japanese and Chinese, is currently a student at Peking University and writes extensively on international relations, including a column for FT Chinese and a popular blog on iFeng. Meanwhile, Zhang Wen is a leading Chinese journalist, media commentator and blogger, with experience in leading Chinese and Western media such as the Guardian.

Kato recently commented on the incident in a blog entitled ‘The fishing boat row is a good learning opportunity,’ which is viewed by Zhang as a specious argument used for defending aggressive Japanese behaviors.

A good learning opportunity?

First, Kato comments that the incident is a good opportunity for China to learn about how the Japanese government operates:

过去,多数中国人不关心日本的行政制度和司法制度,把政治家、公务员、外交官、检察官全当成笼统的“官” 来看待,觉得他们既然是官就会受到某种统一领导,中国外交部门只要和这个统一的领导机关交涉就行了。但是这次事件与以往东海上的巡逻船、调查船之间的对峙不同,船只毕竟相撞了,日方已经采取了法律措施,把撞船事件的处理变成了一个涉及外交、司法和行政的综合性问题,单靠外交手段已经很难奏效了。日本的体制是,外交由政府负责,而司法系统完全独立于政府,而决定拘留渔船船长的检察官和法官,甚至在司法系统内部都有相当高的自主性。

In the past, most Chinese don’t care about how the Japanese executive and judicial systems operate. They rarely distinguish between politicians, civil servants, diplomats and prosecutors, but rather view them as a single group under the order of one department. Hence, they think that the Chinese Foreign Ministry only needs to deal with one Japanese department. But the current incident is different from past ones. After the crash, Japan has employed judicial measures, which means that the incident is not only a diplomatic problem, but also involves judicial and executive aspects. The Japanese system is that diplomacy is under the jurisdiction of the government, but the judicial system is completely independent. Even the prosecutor and judge, who make the decision to detain the captain, enjoy a high level of independence within the judicial system.

Zhang criticizes the argument as complete non-sense:

这段话真是荒唐,逻辑错乱。且不说在钓鱼岛主权存有争议的形势下,日方以国内法来处置中方船只已经是极不妥当之举,暴露其司马昭之心。再者,对中方而言,这就是一起由日方挑起的外交事件,不靠外交手段,难道加藤是建议中方派出检察官、政府官员甚或干脆出兵?

This paragraph is completely illogical. It is inappropriate for Japan to handle the Chinese captain with Japanese domestic laws, not to mention the fact that the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands is disputed. Furthermore, this is a diplomatic row initiated by Japan. If it should not be resolved through diplomatic means, are you saying that China should send in prosecutors, officials, or even soldiers?

在这件事情上,加藤拿“日本司法系统独立于政府”来说辞,是本末倒置了,或者说是在诡辩。固然我承认日本的体制优于中国,但就事论事,在钓鱼岛主权存有争议的情况下,日方不应该使用国内法,这里没有司法机构什么事。

By claiming that the Japanese ‘judicial system is completely independent,’ Kato is putting the cart before the horse. Although I admit that the Japanese system is superior that the Chinese one, Japan should not employ domestic laws and judicial measures in the first place, especially under the situation that the sovereignty of the islands is under dispute.

The Chinese government and nationalism

Kato then praises the Chinese government for its control of anti-Japanese protests within China, so that the strategic and economic relations between the two countries will not be damaged:

越是在这样的情况下,中国政府肯定越要约束民间关于外交的态度,而不愿被一部分政治投机者“狐假虎威”。政府希望人们认识到:无论国家在外交上取得了什么进展,都取决于政府创造和拥有的强大政治、军事、经济实力,并非归功于少数具有冒险精神的“保钓人士”或“反日人士”,所以应当“先谢国家”。而如果暂时不能“亮剑”,已经具备了“亮剑”能力的政府也不愿意被这些人推着陷入被动。

The more difficult the situation is, the more the Chinese government should do to control citizens’ attitudes on foreign affairs, and not to let political opportunists to benefit from the incident. The government should let the people know that achievements in foreign affairs are dependent on political, military and economic strengths, not the adventurism of a few Diaoyu Protection and Anti-Japan activists. Therefore, citizens should first thank the state. Even if the government has the ability for a military showdown, it is not willing to be forced by these activists to do so.

Zhang again claims that Kato’s argument is dubious, and has hidden agenda:

这段话充分证明了加藤的日本人属性:大大的狡猾。在看似肯定实则暗讽中国政府的同时,也极大地贬低了中国的民族主义。并且挑拨了两者的关系。可谓一石多鸟。

This paragraph shows the cunning nature of the Japanese. Beneath the praise, it is satirizing the Chinese government. It is also belittling Chinese nationalism and damaging its relationship with the state. Killing two birds with one stone.

不可否认,这段话的确包含中国政府的意思,但夹带着加藤自己的私货,借中国政府去打压“反日人士”。诚然,我反对极端的民族主义,但认同理性的民族主义,例如在此次事件上,如果中国人保持沉默而不抗议,那才会令我失望呢!我要纠正加藤的是,此次“反日人士”不在少数,而是很多。尽管由于管制的原因,反日抗议未能大范围爆发,但被侮辱的感觉相信很多人都会有。

No doubt, this paragraph describes the intention of the Chinese government, but it also has a hidden agenda of using the Chinese government to clamp down on anti-Japanese activists. I am opposed to extreme nationalism, but I support rational nationalism. I will be disappointed if the Chinese keep quiet in this incident! I have to correct Kato that anti-Japanese people are not only a few, but many. Although anti-Japanese protests are not wide-spread due to government control, I believe that many Chinese feel humiliated by the incident.

加藤自作主张地替中国政府为某些“反日人士”定性:政治投机者。更不堪的是,加藤竟不知其为谁地为中国政府代言起来:(中国)政府也不愿意被这些人推着陷入被动。

By his own dubious conclusion, Kato equates anti-Japanese people with political opportunists. Worse still, he is speaking on behalf of the Chinese government: the [Chinese government] is not willing to be forced [into a military showdown] by these activists.

The verdict

Finally, Kato concludes that this incident is a good opportunity for both countries to understand each other better:

日中之间围绕着撞船事件展开的交涉是一个案例,给了两国国民深入认识,并学习对方国内政治的机会。如果此事得到比较圆满的处理,它必将成为日中两国走向相互理解的一个契机,甚至反过来推动双方解决各自内政中涉及对方的问题。

The fishing boat row is a good chance for the citizens of Japan and China to learn about each other’s domestic politics. If it is dealt with satisfactorily, it will be a juncture for a rapprochement, and could even further lead to solutions to internal domestic problems which involve the opposite side.

And Zhang reiterates that Japan should be held responsible for the row:

我固然也严厉批评了中国政府以往的“无所作为”,导致日方一步一步掌握了钓鱼岛实际控制权。但我的立场是清清楚楚、明明白白的,日方主动挑起事端,要对由此导致的中日关系大倒退负历史责任。正如当年的侵华战争,在这上面,没有什么可以辩护的余地。

I criticize the Chinese government for not acting more toughly, with the result that Japan is gradually grasping material control of the Diaoyu Islands. But my stance is real clear – that Japan starts the incident, and should bear historical responsibility for the deterioration of Sino-Japanese relations. Like the Japanese aggression on China during World War II, there is no room for Japan to defend.

11 comments

  • zhuzidi

    Well that’s just missing the point.

    China’s point of view: Japan started this row because they arrested our fishermen in our territory.

    Japan’s point of view: China started this row because their fishermen were fishing in our territory.

    Both sides think they’re on the defensive against an aggressor. That’s the dispute, people. If everyone saw it the same way we wouldn’t be fighting over this.

    • tron

      釣魚島問題專家、香港中文大學亞太研究所研究員鄭海麟從釣魚台列嶼的歷史地位切入,直指釣魚島隸屬中國毫無疑義。他指出,中日兩國大量歷史文獻表明,最早發現、命名和使用釣魚台列嶼的是中國人,而不是琉球人或日本人。釣魚島列嶼並不屬於「舊琉球王朝的勢力所及範圍」,該列嶼在明朝便被納入中國海防及行政管制區域。

      一九五一年的《舊金山(三藩市)合約》根本沒有涉及釣魚台列嶼的主權問題。一九五二年美國託管當局將釣魚島列嶼劃入琉球列島地理境界的經緯度內,是極不適當和不合國際法的。因此,日本聲稱擁有該列嶼主權在國際法上不能成立。

      中國大陸學者近年來對釣魚島議題的研究下了很大工夫。清華大學當代國際關係研究院副院長劉江永教授指出,事實證明日本早在甲午戰爭前十年已知釣魚台列嶼屬於中國。

      日外務省當年編撰的《日本外交文書》第十八卷和第二十三卷中,對明治政府竊取釣魚島的決策過程有非常詳實的記載。換言之,釣魚台列嶼是日本乘甲午戰爭之機,未等簽署馬關條約而從中國竊取的。如今,日方稱其與馬關條約,即甲午戰爭無關,根本站不住腳。

      二戰後釣魚島問題懸而未決與美國介入密不可分。劉江永指出,一九七一年美國擅自決定將釣魚島的行政管轄權交給日本政府,遭到全球華人的強烈反對,掀起保釣浪潮,迫使美國迄今迄未承認日本擁有釣魚島的主權,而希望中日雙方和平協商解決。

      然而,二零一零年以來美國政府多次明確表示,釣魚島適用於美日安保條約第五條,「這是造成日本政府在釣魚島問題上有恃無恐採取強硬做法的重要外部因素」。

      事實上,東京法院曾經判定釣魚島屬於台北州。台灣光復前一年,台灣與琉球為釣魚島發生歸屬權之爭,當時該法院將釣魚台列嶼判決為台北州所有,更加證明釣魚島主權屬台灣。

      此外,中國大陸學者、上海社會科學研究院法學研究所副研究員、海洋法研究中心主任金永明,上海國際問題研究院學術委員會副主任、上海市日本學會會長吳寄南等,也發表論文,探索釣魚島的國際地位,力證釣魚島主權屬中華民族。

      台灣師範大學東亞系助理教授林賢參則從戰略意涵分析釣魚島問題的本質。他說,中國大陸追求成為「海洋強國」,企圖掌控西太平洋海域之制海權,會壓縮日本防衛之戰略縱深;政治大學亞太研究所副研究員李瓊莉,也提出國際經驗的比較。

      政大外交系教授趙國材說,釣魚台列嶼問題迄今無解,指出釣魚島問題不論從歷史地位或法律地位探討皆無意義,因為國際政治乃強權政治,關於釣魚島主權誰屬是老大哥美國說了算。

      趙國材又表示,台灣願意依聯合國憲章及國際法和平解決國際爭端的規範,從主權、戰略位置、海洋權益與維護資源等面向,以確保釣魚台列嶼領土主權完整,與日本談判,並保護台灣漁民權益。唯日方無意願與台灣談判主權問題,只願和台灣談判漁權,想透過台灣獲得漁權用來騙取釣魚台列嶼的主權。但保釣出身的總統馬英九並未上當,既要漁權也要主權。

      台灣有人主張拉攏美國介入東海爭端,使日本、中國大陸、台灣、美國形成四方機制,能更有效解決釣魚台列嶼主權問題,並提升台灣之國際地位。趙國材認為,這種做法可能會引狼入室,不見得對台灣有利,因為美日在外交上皆承認北京,與台灣沒有邦交,且釣魚台列嶼附近之海域處於防衛美國本土的第一島鏈上,可能牽動東北亞安全情勢和美日的戰略布局,美國在釣魚台列嶼問題上一向表態中立,骨子裏其實偏袒日本。

      台灣政治大學國際法學研究中心研究員邵漢儀首次全部全文公開日方釣魚島的新史料,掀起高潮。邵的父親邵玉銘當年留美時亦曾參與保釣運動,如今父子兩代同台參與釣魚島會議,傳為佳話。

      日本外務省於一九七一年提出的《我國關於尖閣諸島領有權的基本見解》聲稱﹕「自一八八五年以來,日本政府通過沖繩縣當局等途徑再三在尖閣諸島進行實地調查,慎重確認尖閣諸島不僅為無人島,而且沒有受清朝統治的痕跡。在此基礎上,於一八九五年一月二十一日,在內閣會議上決定在島上建立標樁,以正式列入我國領土之內。」

      為了調查日方說法的真相,邵漢儀曾親往日本查閱相關原件,包括仍未公開的明治時期史料。他從日本外務省外交史料館、防衛省防衛研究所圖書館,以及國立公文書館尋得近四十件原件,首次全部公開。他歷時兩年餘發現明治政府從未派員至釣魚島進行實地調查,所謂「再三」調查純屬捏造。

      韓國外國語大學教授黃載皓認為,今年三月中國發表國防白皮書,確立戰略目標是國家現代化、力主防禦性國防、與他國建立軍事互信,他懷疑中日會爆發大戰,也不認為日本會放棄二戰後的現代化貿然掀起戰端。不過,另一位韓國學者國家安保戰略研究院研究員朴炳光指出,韓日兩國近年提出擴大交流合作關係的「新時代」理念,但對於韓國,獨島攸關經濟及軍事戰略國家利益,不可能讓步。

  • RMilner

    When an incident like this occurs in disputed territory one solution is to allow a neutral third party to arbitrate.

  • RMilner

    The other issue is that if either boat was committing an error of navigation, then international law of the sea will have a concern.

  • Hmm

    Ok, I’m a third party so I’ll rate the various actors in this play:

    Chinese government – C
    Wants better relations with Japan but now has to overreact angrily to satisfy their public. They started the anti-Japan anti-West sentiment 20 years ago though, so they’re also responsible.

    Chinese media – F
    Stoking nationalism to sell papers. Firing anyone who isn’t “patriotic” enough (such as Chang Ping) Even faking news:
    http://www.japanprobe.com/2010/09/14/chinese-media-graphics-vs-japanese-media-graphics/

    Chinese netizens – D-
    The occasional rational post is drowned in an ocean of crazy.

    Japanese government – B-
    Should have realized how things were playing out in China and bent the rules to let Captain go. However at least they are acting calm and not playing tit-for-tat.

    Japanese netizens – C
    Peace, peace, love, love. Don’t you know how much China hates you?? Well, it’s partially the media’s fault because they go out of their way to hide Chinese opinion. The far right knows what’s going on, but they’re a bunch of nationalist troublemakers.

    Japanese media – A-
    The only rational actors. Minus a mark for hiding the true crazyness from the populace.

    Chinese intellectuals – C- Why is it that they lose all reasonableness when it’s a nationalist issue? Zhang Wen is the perfect example – arguing for democracy and the rule of law one day, and then suddenly frothing at the mouth. Seem unable to escape the “victimization” narrative.

    Japanese intellectuals – C
    Same as Japanese netizens above

  • tak

    As being a Japanese living outside of the country for more than 10 years, it is very frustrating to see how the Japanese government reacted upon the issue. Let’s lay down the issue, the Chinese ship intentionally hit the Japanese coast guard boat. Anyone tell me who can rationalize this act? I want to ask people in China, is it something that can be justified in China? hitting cost guard boat? If it is so, It is not definitely a country where the rights are protected.

    What frustrate me the most is that the Japanese government did not broadcast the video and GPS information to at least prove what really took place. At least. I have no clue why they did not show and if they ever intend to show? I have already lost the confidence in the Japanese government long time ago since they are too passive and reactive other than proactive. As a country, Japan is great. People live in Japan are very nice, polite, and good people (anyone who visited Japan can prove this to me). But I really hate and dislike how the government works in Japan. No good parental care provided to the family, no prime minister can speak up for the people of Japan, and no guts to say that “government will protect the people of Japan” in front of the world like Obama, Sarkozy, or Wen do. I really feel that Japanese government do not care to protect and support people of Japan, only care if their party is in power, lame and frustrated. cannot stop complaining about them, stop wasting our tax money and do the right thing for people of Japan.

  • clearminder

    Grace G- for the American government. It is the historical deed of Ameican hanging illegally the occupied Japanese Diaoyu Island to Japanese after the WWII. The whole Taiwan and Diaoyu Island should be returned to China after Japanese’s defeat in WWII. Japanese’s forceful occupation of the land through unjusticed treaty was ended after China defeated her after the eight years’ fight in WWII. American troops returned Taiwan but not the Diaoyu island to China after the WWII. Is it American’s purpose usually to leave something disrupted to bring dispute between countries when American due with international issue.
    Don’t fool others by claiming third party but not pointing the issue in a righteously way. Either a hypocrite or an idiot will do that.

  • […] cinese del Financial Times, questo incidente ha indignato gli utenti del web [cinese] più del conflitto sulle isole Diaoyu [en] che si è recentemente riacceso fra la Cina e il […]

  • Jean

    Just wondering what the Japanes citizens think about the slaughter of Dolphins by fishermen in the Cove at Taiji Japan? Do the citizens of Japan know that this is being done? Do they care at all that these intelligent inncent creatures are being slaughtered in such a horrible way?
    video:
    http://www.craftysue.com/wordpress/2010/10/10/video_taiji_dolphin_hunt/

    • Darin

      Give it a rest.

      Delete Jean’s comment, please. Off topic hate mongering.

    • InJM

      Most Japanese people don’t care one way or the other about the fishing in Taiji. Not that this has anything to do with China’s fishing boats or Japan’s coast guard.

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