Now, I generally know better than to go sticking my neck out on issues like this, but I actually agree that China should be in control of the Diaoyu islands. The problem is that I was tempted to side with the Japanese after witnessing the disgusting display of mindless nationalism over the weekend (which in some cases included calls for wiping out all Japanese, and seemed to be state-sponsored).
Hidden behind the calls for boycotts and sanctions, and the embarrassing claim based on the policy of “first come, first serve,” (which can be found in legal texts between “Dibs” and “Finders keepers”) makes it seem like this entire issue is nothing more than a ploy to drum up support for the Party. Or, that perhaps the islands really do belong to Japan, since the Chinese papers keep referring to them as having been “stolen” and that the Japanese gov’t “buying” them from the owners is “illegal,” which make China’s current assertions seem dubious.
However, People’s Daily does have a very calm explanation of China’s claims over the islands, but they last stated the rational case in 2010.
In January 1895, three months before the Treaty of Shimonoseki was signed between Japan and China, after the latter was defeated in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895, Japan illegally took over the Diaoyu Islands and included them in its Okinawa Prefecture. It cannot be denied that the Diaoyu Islands were ceded to Japan as subsidiary islands of Taiwan in 1895 after the Treaty was signed.
However, in December 1943, leaders of the United States, Britain and China signed the Cairo Declaration, declaring that all the territories that Japan had seized from China should be returned. The Potsdam Proclamation signed by China, the United States and Britain in July 1945 (later adhered to by the Soviet Union) stipulated that: “The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out”.
In August 1945, Japan accepted the Potsdam Proclamation and surrendered unconditionally, which means both documents came into effect.
After World War II ended, China took back its territories stolen by Japan, including Taiwan Island and its subsidiary islands. Therefore as part of the Taiwan Islands, the Diaoyu Islands were returned to China under international law.
However, in September 1951, Japan signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty with the US and other allied powers, and single-handedly surrendered the Diaoyu Islands, along with Okinawa, to the administration of Washington.
In response, Zhou Enlai, the then premier and foreign minister of China, sternly declared that a San Francisco treaty signed without the People’s Republic of China’s participation is unlawful and illegitimate.
In June 1971, Washington and Tokyo signed the “Okinawa Reversion Agreement,” parceling up the “administrative rights” of Diaoyu Islands to Japan.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry in response issued a statement in December later that year, which said “the agreement is a blatant infringement on China’s territorial sovereignty that is intolerable for the Chinese people. The US and Japan list China’s Diaoyu and other islands into the agreement’s ‘reversion area’ is completely unlawful. It cannot change the People’s Republic of China’s sovereignty right on those islands.”
Unfortunately, People’s Daily, Global Times, and seemingly every other newspaper (but Caixin, which toed the line), has lost their ability to reason coolly this time around, and are now in the process of trying to contain the firestorm they have ignited.
So why is it that the Party has a fairly reasonable claim that could be argued to the international crowd, and yet they seem to prefer throwing eggs and running military drills to practice capturing islands? Perhaps, the Party isn’t trying to win any of the foreign countries over to their side, if they were the protests would involve a lot less profanity and genocide, and a touch more English. Instead they are simply interested in winning over their own people – even if it means losing the bigger battle over the islands.