Skip to comments.The Japan-China Stew: Sweet and Sour
Posted on 01/18/2005 9:46:57 PM PST by neverdem
TOKYO, Jan. 16 - Like many Japanese businessmen these days, but particularly as co-chairman of the 21st Century Committee for Japan-China Friendship, Yotaro Kobayashi is worried about the state of affairs between Asia's two most powerful nations.
On one hand, since the committee was formed in October 2003 under an agreement between the countries, Mr. Kobayashi, 71, who is also chairman of Fuji Xerox, has watched political relations fall to their lowest point in years. On the other hand, economic ties have continued to deepen, and China's rise has kept buoying up the Japanese economy.
"Japan Inc.," the voguish term of the 1980's that described an economic juggernaut in which politicians, businessmen and bureaucrats moved in balletic unison, may have never been completely accurate. But as Japan confronts two realities - the rise of China's economy and its rise as a political and military power - the term may become history once and for all.
In Japan today China has come to be regarded as a partner by the business class and a rival, if not outright adversary, by the political class. Indeed, the dichotomy in Japan's view toward China has widened to such an extent that, in recent months, leading businessmen have begun publicly expressing misgivings about Tokyo's policy toward Beijing: bad politics is hurting business.
A flash point has been Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's continued visits to the Yasukuni Shrine here, where Japanese war dead are venerated along with Class A war criminals. Chinese leaders have demanded that he stop, essentially making that a condition for full-fledged Japanese participation in the world's most coveted market. For China, the visits symbolize Japan's lack of repentance over its militarist past, which includes the brutal colonization of Manchuria and the infamous "Rape of Nanjing," in which between 100,000 and 300,000 Chinese were massacred.
"Prime Minister Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine could spread negative views about Japan and cause adverse effects on Japanese companies' activities" in China, Kakutaro Kitashiro, chief of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives and chairman of I.B.M. Japan, said at a recent news conference.
After a meeting of his committee in September, Mr. Kobayashi, expressing a personal view, said the "visits are rubbing against the grain of Chinese people's sentiments and are also preventing Japan and China from having a summit meeting."
After that comment, hard-line nationalist groups flooded Mr. Kobayashi's office with angry faxes and harassed his home with loudspeakers.
The factors that are tearing apart Japan Inc. are only gathering strength, beginning with China's exploding economy.
Indeed, with Japanese exports to China growing at a 20 percent annual rate in recent months, China is set to replace the United States as Japan's largest trading partner. Companies ranging from Canon to Matsushita Electrical Industrial, the maker of Panasonic brand products, are building factories in China and posting an increasingly larger share of their Japanese employees there. The recent recovery of Japan's economy would have been impossible without growth in China, economists agree, and it could quickly deflate with a Chinese downturn.
"Rather than seeing China's economic growth simply as a threat, as it once was, the view to take it as a challenge and chance is emerging recently," Mr. Kobayashi said. "In fact, this is one of the major elements that has been supporting the Japanese economy for the last few years."
In stark contrast, political ties are described as plumbing some of the lowest depths since relations were normalized in 1972. An unfortunate turning point was reached at last year's Asian Cup soccer final in Beijing when young Chinese fans - emboldened by an anti-Japanese nationalism and angered by the Yasukuni visits - aggressively harassed Japanese fans.
A series of incidents followed, each making matters worse. In November, a Chinese Navy nuclear submarine intruded into Japanese waters. To the surprise and delight of Japanese conservatives, as well as United States officials who want Tokyo to act more assertively against Beijing, Japan chased the submarine and criticized China.
At a meeting later in Santiago, Chile, President Hu Jintao urged Mr. Koizumi to stop visiting Yasukuni; so far, the Japanese leader has kept his intentions vague. Calls are also rising here for Tokyo to cut aid to China - Mr. Koizumi said it was time for China to "graduate" from Japanese assistance - drawing protests from Chinese officials, who have always considered the aid more like de facto war reparations.
Last month, Tokyo took two steps that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. In a rare adjustment of its National Defense Program Outline, Japan described China as a potential threat, drawing condemnation from Beijing. Then the Japanese government capped the year by granting a visa to Lee Teng-hui, the former Taiwan president, for a private visit, a move that infuriated the Chinese.
"I wonder if it's Japan's strategy to worsen its relationship with China," Huang Xingyuan, a counselor at the Chinese Embassy here, said in a recent interview. What Japan may have intended as a new show of power, Mr. Huang said, would lead to both sides losing.
In keeping with Beijing's strategy toward Tokyo, Mr. Huang quickly made the link between politics and business. In October, China closed a deal to buy $1.4 billion worth of trains.
"For China, it was ideal to buy them all from Japan in terms of technology and maintenance," Mr. Huang said. "But given Chinese political sentiment - the people's opposition was too strong - we could give only half of the project to Japan."
Pride of Tokyo, rancor of Beijing. Japanese Navy veterans marking Pearl Harbor Day last month at a shrine for war dead, including war criminals. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi continues to visit the shrine, angering China.
Gotta love Koizumi. He's been re-defining "self defense" to include pretty much everything sort of invading Seal Beach.
". . . SHORT of . . ." Duh.
Can you see the pic I tried to post in comment# 1?
Yup. I bet they wore those at Tsushima vs. the Czar!
Thank you for letting me know that my computer is jammed up. Adios