Can Noda Get Win-Win Ties?


Last month, when newly-elected Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, stated that Japanese-Chinese ties should become ‘win-win’ relations, he expressed his strong intention to improve the countries’ bilateral ties.

Since the ugly conflicts over the Senkaku Islands last September, Tokyo-Beijing relations have remained strained. The Japanese, however, were heartened by China’s swift offer in March to help those displaced by the huge earthquake and tsunami, as well as by Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to the devastated site. Still, according to a recent joint survey by Genron NPO and China Daily, the percentage of Japanese who feel unfavourably toward China has increased from 72 percent in 2010 to 80 percent in 2011.

What factors are hindering the improvement of bilateral ties? Many Japanese were dismayed by the Chinese government’s reaction to the Senkaku incident. It claimed, falsely, that its fishing vessel had been struck by the Japan Coast Guard vessel, when in fact the reverse was the case, as videotapes leaked on the Internet clearly showed.

Many Japanese felt betrayed by China. Although Beijing had talked about building ‘strategically mutual relations,’ Beijing seemed to go back on its word when it suddenly suspended its exports of rare earths, a strategically vital material, to Japan. This was apparently a way to secure the immediate release of the Chinese fishermen taken into custody by the Japan Coast Guard. In addition, to achieve the same purpose, approximately 10,000 Chinese ‘voluntarily’ cancelled planned vacation trips to Japan. These events have helped spur Japanese mistrust of China.

China’s military, particularly naval, expansion also worries Japan and its like-minded partners such as the United States, Australia, and ASEAN countries. The People’s Liberation Army Navy now has a noticeable presence in the East China Sea, sailing through Japan’s southeast islands in the Pacific and conducting exercises near Japanese territorial waters and near Guam. The Chinese fleet in the South China Sea, meanwhile, already has had skirmishes with the fishing and naval vessels of those ASEAN nations with claims to small islands there.

The prevailing view in Japan, and the region, is that China has begun to flex its muscles unnecessarily. China seems to be trying to control the Western Pacific on its own terms, rather than trying to build mutually respectful relations through diplomatic channels. China’s first, refurbished, Soviet-made aircraft carrier, which was tested in August, reportedly will be followed by more Chinese-made carriers over the next 10 years or so.

Another source of Japan’s mistrust of China is China’s lack of military transparency. Can the Noda government have ‘win-win’ relations with such an opaque and hegemonic China? Noda’s outlook on Japan’s defence is conservative but reasonable. In an article in the October issue of the monthly magazine Voice, Noda stresses the importance of the Japanese people’s defence of their own nation, as well as the alliance with the United States.

Unlike former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio, who was in office for less than a year, Noda places low priority on building an East Asian community. Rather, his concern is protecting Japan’s territorial integrity. In order to limit China’s military activities in the East China Sea, Japan finds it strategically important to seek a stronger alliance with the United States. Indeed, one of the positive outcomes of the earthquake and tsunami in March was that it brought together the Japanese and US armed forces, which worked together to clean up the devastation and, in the process, strengthened their alliance.

Many Chinese may also assume that Noda will visit Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 wartime leaders sentenced by the international military tribunal as war criminals, are enshrined. Visiting the shrine has been a source of severe tension between the two countries. But Noda has already indicated that he won’t visit the shrine.

Thus, whether Japan can improve ties with China depends mainly on China. We should remember our joint communiqué of 1972, which urged us—among others—to respect the principle of non-interference in our relations. Unfortunately, China has consistently violated this principle by dictating how Japan should honour its war dead and how its school textbooks should teach history.

Such matters are Japan’s internal affairs. ‘Win-win’ relations between Japan and China can only be achieved only when our nations truly respect each other.

Prof. Masashi Nishihara is president of the Research Institute for Peace and Security in Tokyo. This article also appeared in CSIS Pacnet.
November 18, 2011 at 21:26

“japan’s ” superior to other asian races and bending over before white masters” paradoxical mentalities that make the warmer ties with any asin nations impossible”- well articulated Davida. The main reason the Japanese have been in depression for the past 2 decades. The US is tempted to allow Japan to have nuclear arms as a check on China, but then maybe not, as Japan might just have the capacity to exact revenge on them sometime in the geopolitical future.

November 2, 2011 at 18:56

You are a lone voice. Funny enough, Chinese are crazy about Japanese products.

November 1, 2011 at 09:28

You surely scored a point. You certainly made me hit the roof(s).

And you know why?
How could you put in an innocent child’s brain something useful about history between Japan and China, when you could not Google “Joint Communique China Japan”?
What could you teach a vulnerable child about friendship when you insinuate that a Chinese can have a biased opinion simply by assuming that he might be influenced by a hypothetical relationship with a non-Chinese?

Anybody serious about documenting on Imperial Army’s conduct of war, better google “Unit 731” (for example), rather than “Ozivan’s personal stories on The Diplomat”. You may learn that there are patriotic Japanese today who are hunting for concealed evidence about WWII atrocities committed by the Imperial Army.

One of the things I hate most is the misuse of the Internet as a Chinese Whispers game.

October 31, 2011 at 18:48

@Nirvana. Why don’t you look it up instead of asking ME???
What would your grand children think about your ignorance on such an important historical milestone?

Nirvana. When you stated the above, you are obviously bent on being rude despite a polite request for details.

Certainly, I have done my own checkup, but am unable to find any mention of apology in the Joint Communique between Mao & PM Tanaka or in any leaders’ summits between China and Japan. What I had in mind when I asked you was that, since you have done some serious research on the subject, you might be able to direct me to a link where I can read more, thus shortcutting my endless search for the “apology” issue.

Unfortunately, you Nirvana took it in bad light.


On your characterisation of my person. I say most of the facts are true,.. Thank you… except when you added the following ( obviously again meant to be rude and sarcastic ) :-

Now we know that he wants to teach his grand-children patriotism, “with Ozivan characteristics”. That is glorifying Chinese militarism, in the “relative safety” of Australia.

Nirvana. By and large after following all your previous comments, I can see that you have been a hardworker, doing much research and often provided valuable information and numerous good analysis to us bloggers in the Diplomat.

Hence, I don’t intend to return your compliment, believing you are a meaningful effective contributor/debater.


Re: Revelation of personal details. I am mindful that some bloggers may think that it is not necessary to reveal too much personal details, which might be correct; but I choose to do so because I don’t think it’s a shameful thing.

Ex-Prime Minister John Howard of Australia once replied to remarks by detractors that Australians were children of convicts. To which he deflected in humour and with great amusement, that such history is a fact that need no statement of defence. In fact, he said that Australians wear it like a badge with pride of their historical origins.

Nirvana. You were unhappy with this :

>>” Or is Shen Liang also speaking for his other half…a Japanese woman ?”

Please ponder further. A few other bloggers frequently made ugly remarks, especially the racial types about Indians, which I ocassionally rebutted. What’s the MOTIVATION ? The motivation for my rebuttals obviously was because they were unfair, as I have many good Indian friends. I felt compelled to stand with them.

Likewise, Shen Liang may have a Japanese person dear to him or a Japanese experience dear to him that he comes out to defend the Japanese. It was my guess with nothing sinister about it when I raise the point ?

Are such positive driven motivation to act in certain way a wrong thing ?

October 31, 2011 at 09:35

(replies to Yang zi, Ozivan & John Chan)
@Yang zi,
I would rather let Shen Liang explicit why Chinese history textbooks “are ideological and revisionist to the core”. Your reactions are self-explanatory to me.

-On the Yakusuni shrine and Hirohito:
China, Taiwan and Korea are right to condemn the political use of the shrine. My opinion is that any nation has the right to mourn their fallen in wars, on the condition that this remembrance must not be diverted into glorification of militarism. The problem with the Yasukuni is not because it is a place of worship, but that it used to be an institution and a symbol of Imperial Japan. But any one making a casual web search would know that Hirohito ceased to visit the shrine as from 1978. Akihito is following his father’s example.
So, the Japanese psyche on this is evolving in the right direction, considering also the Shintoism dimension of it.

For me, there is no doubt that Hirohito, as the supreme commander that he was, shared the largest responsibility in Japan’s conduct of war (and its undeniable extreme atrocities). He did not deny this. After the surrender he volunteered to apologize (as Emperor) to the Allied and to abdicate so that he could be tried as an ordinary citizen, the result of which would be death by hanging. But General McAthur talked him out of this. Had the General not have this wisdom, Japan would have been the first Iraq-like occupation quagmire to the US army, perhaps until today. I don’t know how Japanese judge Hirohito today. Considering Japanese well known sense of honor, personally I don’t think that, as a man, his soul rests in peace. Nevertheless, I take my hat off to the stateman after WWII who inspired Japanese through the “unbearable”, so that we have the modern Japan of today.

-On the core issue of reconciliation between Japan and China:
Let me complement with this: being in the victorious camp that dictated the terms of surrender to Japan (which accepted without condition), having signed the “Treaty of Peace & Friendship” in 1978, what is China asking exactly now? How can a surrender of any country be obtained in future, if the terms of surrender can be continuously re-interpreted by the victor(s)?
I think that being a victor, if you made a miscalculation when you sent out your terms to your enemy, you have to live with it. This is parole.

>> “@Nirvana. Good work. In case, I may have missed out, were there any mention of a public apology in the Joint Communique ? If none, any idea why it was excluded ? It would be helpful knowledge.”
Why don’t you look it up instead of asking ME???
What would your grand children think about your ignorance on such an important historical milestone?

>> “@Shen liang… Unfortunately, they[there] are some bloggers in Diplomat who think it is fun and hype to chide from the relative safety of the internet”
Glups… Run Shen Liang, run !

>>” Or is Shen Liang also speaking for his other half…a Japanese woman ?”

What a shocking mentality you showed here Ozivan!

For readers who are not familiar with Blogger Ozivan, please note that he has been prolific about his (juicy) personal details. We know that his family immigrated from Malaysia to Australia, that he speaks but does not read Chinese, that he has a Filipina maid (with high education and good-looking(!?), he insisted), that he treats well his Indian employees (hard-workers, he said), that he knows CPC cadre and people with connections with Chinese opium traffickers (in the time of Mao), that he has “40 years of working experience” for hire. Now we know that he wants to teach his grand-children patriotism, “with Ozivan characteristics”. That is glorifying Chinese militarism, in the “relative safety” of Australia.

@John Chan,
>> “@nirvana, You are showing typical lackey mentality, any independent thinking and behaviour have to be denounced at all costs in order to cover their own ugly characters.”

October 30, 2011 at 17:58

Or is Shen Liang also speaking for his other half…a Japanese woman ? No offense meant. Shen Liang argues well, for sure…although I disagree with some of his views and facts.

October 30, 2011 at 17:07

@Mark Murata. Don’t forget to include that Japan has unresolved disputes with South Korea over the Dokdo/Takeshima islands and with Russia over the Kurile Islands.

October 30, 2011 at 16:16

@Shen Liang You replied to Nirvana : Unfortunately, I don’t think any amount of apologies would ever be enough. I think the Japanese know this as well, which makes it more tragic. I do know the Japanese have apologized repeatedly,

I may have missed out on the apology that you said that Japan has repeatedly given ? Was it specifically to China ? I am well past 60 years old now and in the last 45 years (even as a teenager, I love reading world news and political news) but I cannot recall that Japan has specifically apologised to China for her war atrocities. But I do recall there was one given to the South Koreans.

Could you provide more details ? And was the Japanese Statesmen you mentioned who started his speech in Washington with an apology meant them for China or USA ?

However, I disagree with your view that : Unfortunately, I don’t think any amount of apologies would ever be enough.

I once had an encounter with a visiting Japanese of my same age and we shared views of the war. His view was that Japan need not apologise to any one any more because she had already suffered from the 2 atomic bombs.

Further to that, I was stunned when he also added that he hated the Americans for deploying the 2 atomic bombs on Japan, although it was then clear that Japan was already loosing the war. Besides, he stated that Japan attacked Pearl Harbour because US & Britain embargoed oil and raw materials to Japan.

Of course, I have read and seen documentaries by US sources, why they had to use the bombs on Japan.

Such were the diversity of views all round. Hope, more Japanese could offer more versions of their story.

On apologies.

If I am not mistaken they were some offered, rather more of expression of regrets than real apologies, and they were largely made by lower level Ministers like Foreign Ministers at less formal forums or conferences.

None so far by the Emperor or by Japan’s Prime Minister at a formal meeting between China or Korea & Japan’s Heads of State or Joint Communique. That is why, even the Chinese and Koreans still argue that Japan had not ” sufficiently ” apologise.

Please keep on sharing.

October 30, 2011 at 15:22

@Nirvana. Good work. In case, I may have missed out, were there any mention of a public apology in the Joint Communique ?

If none, any idea why it was excluded ? It would be helpful knowledge.

October 30, 2011 at 14:30

@Shen Liang. Here’s my story.

Sometimes a public apology or admission of wrongdoing would put an issue
to an end more than just using money, like what Germany did.

I am a post WW2 child, but what I have learnt from my parents, teacher
and elder remain deep and long in my memory of the atrocities committed by the
Japanese invasion forces.

First, my parents had told to me and all my older siblings of stories when I was young of Japanese soldiers who forced Malayans (my parents included) to come out from their homes to watch a parade of a number of British/Australian
soldiers being marched through the main streets, with their hands not
tied with ropes or handcuffed, but their two palms were pierced through with iron wires. As they were marched down the road, some of their wives trailed behind in tears. My dad and all other menfolks were then ordered to follow the parade for another 10 miles or so to a jungle grove, where the captured British/Australian soldiers were hanged from a large tree, and the women were bayonetted.

One of my maternal relation died of shock when he was forced to watch
many Chinese men were beheaded by Japanese forces.

Second, some 20 years ago, I came to know of a school teacher who would
be some 90 years old today if he was still alive. He was a student of
the Victoria Institution (famously known as VI) in Kuala Lumpur, which
at one time for 100+ years, the pre-eminent school in Malaya and during
World War 2. In later years, he became a senior school teacher of the

He told me that one day on his way by bicycle to school taking the way
by Pudu Road, which still exists by its same name today; he hit towards a
T-junction which intersected with Bukit Bintang Road, which still
exists today by its same name. And in even more detail; at this
intersection, there stood Kuala Lumpur’s first cinema called the
Pavilion (only demolished some 20 years ago). He saw half a dozen of
heads of Chinesemen hung from half a dozen of milestones on both sides
of the road, around and along the way to the intersection.

This intersection and VI still exist today and are in the centre of Kuala Lumpur city, capital of Malaysia.

It was the Japanese invading forces way of terrorising and intimidating
the local population to obey and submit to Japanese military rule. He
opined that it was little wonder that those beheaded were innocent
bypassers who were just seized and beheaded for display at milestones.
They were at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Third, when I was in my year 10 in Anderson School, one of the 3 biggest English schools in Ipoh city, Malaya then some 45 years ago, one of my secondary school teacher told the class that our school was an ex-Japanese Kempetai headquaters. My school was opposite the main General Hospital where there were also many living quarters for hospital staff, and in one of which my teacher stayed with his parents when he was a student of my school. This teacher was a Malay indigenous, and he actually pointed us to the second main gate of our school, one of the 3 main entrances, where he told us that each time he cycled past the
Japanese Kempetai guards at the gate, he and any one else had to get down from their bicycles, made bows to the military guards, failing which one would be hit with rifle butts. Most of all, he said there were always 2 bamboo poles at the said gate with 2 Chinesemen fresh heads hung from it. Furthermore, he would often hear of screams of torture coming from our school from where he stayed which was opposite the school.

Stories of extreme water boarding by Japanese forces were common.

Such was the extreme cruelty of Japanese military rule.

And these happened in wartime Malaya, not even in China.

In my case, it’s hard to forget such stories till this day, especially when I read of some anti-China bloggers in Diplomat take great pleasure in chiding Chinese about the Japanese treatment of Chinese during the war, especially when they sometimes even challenged the authencity of the massacre in Nanjing. Hence, when the Japanese government tried to whitewash their war atrocities from their history books, the Chinese and Koreans were furious indeed.

Nevertheless, in my opinion it shows a fact that without an official apology from Japan, many Chinese still find it hard to forgive the Japanese. The ending is left suspended in the air. It is not always money that can provide healing, a true expression of sorrow would do best.

Rest be assured that I am aware of the call by many, and from my inner voice too, that the past should be bygones and that the children of ex-war Japanese should not be held responsible.

I am for it.

Nonetheless, I plan to tell my story to my grandchildren when they grow up, and it would be splendid if I could end….by saying,….However, the Japanese Government has apologised publicly…so we should close the chapter.

Indeed, it is very ironic and good that I have not read any taunting or chide remarks from true Japanese, Koreans or Westerners bloggers of how the Chinese were treated during WW2. Thank you to all of them. It’s good for healing.

Unfortunately, they are some bloggers in Diplomat who think it is fun and hype to chide from the relative safety of the internet.

It is also my call that China must grow stronger economically and militarily so that misfortunes of the past must never fall on China again. It doesn’t matter to me whether China is communist or democratic…as in Deng’s words…” so long as it catches the mice ” ie stay stronger as each day passes.

I hope young true Chinese can share the history and reconcile with the aspirations of the older generation Chinese.

yang zi
October 30, 2011 at 05:03

@John Chan, I don’t agree shen liang is Wang JinWei, we shouldn’t use that kind of words so randomly. I can see he is a good person and with the open mind that many of our countrymen lacks. but he is just naive and thinks the best of other people. yes, there are good people all over the world, but there are many bad people too, they will bring you down in a heart beat if they have a chance. shen liang is just too naive to realize this.

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