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You might be right, but you’re wrong with that tone of voice

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.

The current banner of People’s Daily, which doesn’t seem to be promoting a peaceful solution

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.


10 Comments

  1. The Chinese nationalism that is Happening now in China is like the German nationalism that happened under Hitler. Jews were subjected to it under Hitler and Japanese are being subjected to it now.
    Chinese need to look to Jesus Christ for forgiveness then they will learn how to forgive Japanese.
    Jesus is the model of an inverted values though he was rich he became poor for our sakes.

  2. Vernierengine says:

    You don’t have to read beyond even the first two sentences in this People’s Daily quote to spot the fatal flaw in China’s argument:

    “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.”

    So “it cannot be denied…” except that it can, and is. From Japan’s MOFA website:

    -From 1885 on, surveys of the Senkaku Islands had been thoroughly made by the Government of Japan by the agencies of Okinawa Prefecture and by way of other methods. Through these surveys, it was confirmed that the Senkaku Islands had been uninhabited and showed no trace of having been under the control of the Qing Dynasty of China. Based on this confirmation, the Government of Japan made a Cabinet Decision on 14 January 1895 to erect a marker on the Islands to formally incorporate the Senkaku Islands into the territory of Japan. These measures were carried out in accordance with the ways of duly acquiring territorial sovereignty under international law.
    -Since then, the Senkaku Islands have continuously remained as an integral part of the Nansei Shoto which are the territory of Japan. These islands were neither part of the island of Formosa nor part of the Pescadores Islands which were ceded to Japan from the Qing Dynasty of China in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty of Shimonoseki which came into effect in May of 1895. Accordingly, the Senkaku Islands are not included in the territory which Japan renounced under Article 2 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty.

    From this point on, the Peoples Daily assertions that Senkaku/Diaoyu islands (and by extension all of Okinawa, apparently) are subject to return “as territories seized from Taiwan/China” basically collapse like dominoes.

    And just in case you were curious, claims of “historical” connection (whether substantiated or not) are not accepted by UNCLOS as a determinate of sovereignty. In fact, there are maps/articles issued by Chinese government and printed in the People’s Daily itself that called Senkaku Islands “Senkaku” and recognized them as Japan (or at least not China), only in the 1970s when resources were discovered did China/Taiwan start claiming them. UNCLOS rules require that rival claims to contested areas have to have been continuous, which would not be the case here because China/Taiwan recognized the Senkaku as Japanese (or at least didn’t contest it) for over 70 years.

    • Vinc says:

      I agree with that statement. From the first sentence on, the pledge for China to be righteous about its claim is biased. On top of that, the treaties mentioned in the blog entry are, according to other sources, never really that specific about the Diaoyu islands.

      But the quote is from a China newspaper, and Vernierengine quotes the Japan MOFA. History is different in every countries’ school books isnt it ?

      Now, which side is right, which side is wrong ? Territorial gain/loss is a terrible thing for governments in the face of the population they administer. It seems that previously, the islands were co-managed (Were there anybody really doing anything about it ? Is there an office with people dedicated to these rocks ?) by both countries via negotiations and mutual agreements. Why couldnt they continue in such a fashion ?

    • Tom says:

      My point isn’t that China has an airtight case for claiming the islands, it’s that China has a reasonable case but they aren’t sticking with that – instead opting to pressure the Japanese gov’t to back down. This is more of what I’m trying to get at.

      • Vinc says:

        Your point is made clear, and it is accurate that my reaction was not on that specific point.

        On the other hand, you must realise that the Gov’t here can not look weak, especially in this transition period, so it does not choose to go the soft diplomatic way. The higher spheres of diplomatic bodies in this country do not know yet how to deal with a situation like this with an international stature.

        Finally, it is always convenient to point outside your own yard in order to cover the issues happening within your property.

      • justrecently says:

        A practical thing to do would be to let the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea decide (if they take the case). But neither wants to take chances, it seems. I’m much more inclined to believe that Tokyo rightfully controls the Senkakus, but beliefs can’t replace an independent decision. It’s certainly not rule of law that limits the conflict so far – it’s the economy. In a protracted recession, that would be very little to rely on.

  3. […] Seeing Red in China Your guide to modern China Skip to content HomeAbout…About TomAbout Yaxue CaoAbout CaseyComplete ArchiveSuggested SitesChina Books to ReadThe Best China Movies中文 ← You might be right, but you’re wrong with that tone of voice […]

  4. […] other day, I highlighted China’s argument for why it should be considered the rightful owner of the Diaoyu Islands – in […]

  5. Hua Qiao says:

    The overriding determinant in settling these disputes under international law is which nation shows the most evidence of recent administration. Historical wars, arguments that go back hundreds of years are nice to know but are irrelevant.

    Actually, my understanding is that the US actually offered the Diaoyutai back to china during its postwar administration of okinawa. But chiang kaishek demurred and said essentially “not now.”

    I think the record shows that recent eidence of administration probably supports Japan’s claim.

    No one cared much until 1968 when the geological studies showed oil and gas reserves in the area.

  6. […] other day, I highlighted China’s argument for why it should be considered the rightful owner of the Diaoyu Islands – in […]

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