Yu Bin's recent
article for Asia Times Online is a very Sinocentric view of the growing
pains East Asia will face as the region grows increasingly more influential
and substantially richer.
Yu Bin goes into three major problems: China's relationship with its own poor
and underemployed, China's relationship with Japan, and China's relationship
with Taiwan. Again, with rather Sinocentric suggestions for how these problems
could be best solved.
Although a Chinese-style solution to the problems – namely calm acceptance
of the inevitable peaceful rise to leadership of East Asia's largest nation
– would be splendid if it ensured peace and stability and prosperity for all,
it is quite uncertain whether or not China can handle East Asia's affairs any
better than it handles its own.
Japan's steps away from its pacifist constitution and embrace of the US missile
defense plan have nothing to do with increased militarism and dreams of invasion.
Rather, North Korea firing missiles and kidnapping Japanese, China encroaching
into what Japan considers its own territory and a very, very nationalistic Chinese
population coupled with the US inability to truly do anything about it scares
the Japanese into action.
The Yasakuni Shrine
issue would be a non-issue if the roles were reversed. China whips out the
"domestic affair" card with impunity. The Yasakuni case is a symbol,
a lightening rod of nationalism that is being used by the Chinese side to keep
emotions high in China and, if Prime Minister Koizumi ever gives in, a massive
loss of face for the Japanese. Koizumi is being placed in a very tight spot
by Beijing: bow down or else. One result has been the galvanization
of Japan's own nationalists, a veritable devil's circle.
Japan has little choice but to shake off its "pacifism" in the face
of military threats from a broke little demon to the north and vigorous political
maneuvering laced with "controlled" nationalism from the west. But
by shaking off pacifism, Japan, as Yu Bin points out, should be joining the
"normal" nations of the world.
Acknowledging this, perhaps China, as the inevitable dominant power in East
Asia, could ease back on the nationalistic politics. Dropping the Shrine, for
instance, and exacting a reward from Koizumi for releasing the stone from his
back and gaining the admiration of all as a country above jingoistic symbolism.
The world is considering dropping the dollar for the euro – Japan must act
for itself. And China can either help or hinder.
A Family Affair
For the Mainland, the Taiwan issue is a family
affair. Much of the rest of the world have signed economic agreements stating
that they see the issue as Beijing does. As long as it stays peaceful across
the Straits, most of the world will continue nodding with the Chinese and shrugging
with the Taiwanese.
Yu Bin accuses Taiwan of "burning the China bridge," but like Japan,
Taiwan is a driving force behind China's productive and technological revolution.
Taiwan is burning the bridge to the Chinese political system, which is as Imperial
in nature domestically as the US is internationally. Here as with Japan, Beijing
keeps discussions at a high octave, keeping the emotional stakes high on the
Many a Mainlander has expressed hatred for Koizumi and/or Chen Shui Bian, and
thereby the "Japan" and "Taiwan" that these two figures
represent in the eyes of Beijing. Not only does this keep the pressure on, but
it also fuels the only solution Hu and the Fourth Generation can fully utilize
to tackle the biggest and most explosive issue of all, if East Asian problems
are to be view through a Sinocentric lens: China's downtrodden poor and the
ruthless businessmen and gangster-officials who stomp all over them.
This may actually be the true crux of the Japan-Taiwan-China problems. China's
increasing reliance on nationalism to bind the country together comes because
wealth creation is not doing the trick. China welcomes aid, investment and technology
from both Japan and Taiwan in the hopes that China's booming economy may eventually
reach gangster-held, official-plundered spots in the hinterland like Lanzhou,
But until Beijing can provide economically for its own, nationalism will be
the force that binds China together. And this, as much as forgetful Japanese
and rebellious Taiwanese, will be a major issue for East Asia in the future.