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Diaoyu/Senkaku Disputes Between China and Japan:
Retrospect and Prospect
Dingping Guo
Professor of Political Science
Fudan University
Chinese Director of Confucius Institute
Nottingham University
Outline of Presentation
First, historical origins of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes through
some official documents
Second, the root causes of the “purchase” decision by
Japanese government.
Third, the three scenarios of the Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes in
particular and Sino-Japanese relations in general
Historical origins of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
Geographically, Diaoyu islands are located at the northeast of
Taiwan and on the voyage from China to the Ryukyu
Kingdom that was annexed by Japan in 1879 and renamed
Okinawa afterwards.
Historical origins of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
According to Chinese sources the first mention of the Diaoyu
islands is in a 15th-century document now held at the Bodleian
Library in Oxford.
Early sources tended to mention only the islands’location on
the voyage to the Ryukyus from China
By the 17th century Chinese sources clearly named the
maritime boundary between the Diaoyu islands and the
Ryukyus as the Heishuigou (‘Black Water Trench’), an area
of high turbulence which we now know marks the edge of the
continental shelf
Historical origins of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
In 1720 Xu Baoguang, the deputy Chinese ambassador sent to
confer the royal title upon the Ryukyuan king, collaborated
with the local scholars to compile the travelogue Zhongshan
Chuanxin lu (Record of the Mission to Zhongshan), which
demarcated the westernmost border of the Ryukyuan kingdom
at Kume-jima south of the Heishuigou Trench. Deputy
ambassador Zhou Huang identified Heishuigou as the
boundary in 1756.
Historical origins of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
Record of Missions to Taiwan Waters (1722), Gazetteer of
Kavalan County (1852), and Pictorial Treatise of Taiwan Proper
(1872).
National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan.
Historical origins of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
Qing period (1644-1911) records substantiate Chinese
ownership of the Diaoyu Islands prior to 1895.
Envoy documents indicate that the islands reside inside the
“border that separates Chinese and foreign lands.” And
according to Taiwan gazetteers, “Diaoyu Island
accommodates ten or more large ships” under the jurisdiction
of Kavalan, Taiwan
Historical origins of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
Diaoyu Island is recorded
under Kavalan, Taiwan in
Revised Gazetteer of Fujian
Province (1871)
Historical origins of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
The governor of Okinawa, Nishimura, reported to the
Ministry of Home Affairs on September 26, 1885:
“(Diaoyu) Island seems to be the same one as Diaoyutai,
Huangweiyu, Chiweiyu mentioned in Zhongshan Chuanxin
Lu (Record of the Mission to Zhongshan). It is not only
acknowledged by Chinese ambassador sent to confer the
royal title upon the Ryukyuan king, but also given a official
name and placed a national marker.”
From Japan National Archives No. 315 (September 26, 1885)
Historical origin of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
Shanghai Newspaper (Shen Bao) reported on September 6,
1885:“Recently Japanese people erected Japanese Flag on
the islands at the Northeast of Taiwan and tried to occupied it.”
Following the first on-site survey, in 1885, the Japanese foreign
minister wrote, “Chinese newspapers have been reporting
rumour of our intention of occupying islands belonging to China
located next to Taiwan.… At this time, if we were to publicly
place national markers, this must necessarily invite China’s
suspicion.…”
From Japan National Archives (November 21, 1885)
Historical origin of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
“Ever since the islands were investigated by Okinawa
police agencies back in 1885, there have been no
subsequent field surveys conducted,” the Okinawa
governor wrote in 1894.
Japan Diplomatic Records Office.
Letter dated May 12, 1894
affirming that the Meiji
government did not repeatedly
investigate the disputed islands.
Historical origin of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
After a number of Chinese defeats in the first Sino-Japanese
War (1894-1895), a report from Japan’s Home Ministry said
“this matter involved negotiations with China… but the
situation today is greatly different from back then.”
The Meiji government, following a secret cabinet decision in
early 1895, promptly incorporated the Diaoyu islands
Historical origin of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
China was forced to sign the Treaty of Shimonoseki in
April 1895 and cede to Japan “the island of Formosa
(Taiwan) together all islands appertaining or belonging
to said island of Formosa.”
The Diaoyu islands are part of Taiwan
This is to say, Japan annexed the Diaoyu islands as the
war booty.
Historical origin of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
In his biography, Koga Tatsushiro, the first Japanese
citizen to lease the islands from the Meiji government,
attributed Japan’s possession of the islands to “the
gallant military victory of our Imperial forces.”
Historical origin of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
Japanese government claims to have
“discovered” the islands, a terra nullius
belonging to no one, in 1884.
Even some Japanese scholars said it was not
true based on their researches on the official
documents and thought that Japanese
government incorporated the Diaoyu islands
as war spoils.
Historical origin of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
“Japan shall be stripped of all the islands in the Pacific
which she has seized or occupied since the beginning of the
first World War in 1914, and that all the territories Japan
has stolen from the Chinese, such as Manchuria, Formosa,
and The Pescadores, shall be restored to the Republic of
China. Japan will also be expelled from all other territories
which she has taken by violence and greed”
The Cairo Declaration on November 27, 1943
Historical origin of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
through official documents
The Cairo Declaration is cited in Clause Eight (8) of the
Potsdam Declaration in 1945
The Potsdam Declaration (26 Jul 1945) stipulated that:
"(8) The terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried
out AND Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the
islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such
minor islands as we determine."
Root causes of the “purchase” decision
by Japanese government
Why the Japanese government made the decision to
purchase and nationalize the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands
in September 2012 can be explained as follows:
First, the rise of right-wing politicians and conservative
nationalism trying to gloss over Japanese war history
and overturn the fundamental order after the Second
World War.
Root causes of the “purchase” decision
by Japanese government
Obviously, the former governor of Tokyo, an
ultraconservative politician, Shintaro Ishihara’s campaign
for the purchase of Diaoyu islands directly prompted
Japanese government to take further steps.
Democratic Party of Japan and its nationalist and
conservative nature
Root causes of the “purchase” decision
by Japanese government
Shinzo Abe is a right-wing nationalist. Throughout his political
career, he has called for the overturning of Japan's post-war
pacifist constitution.
Abe has also shown a deep ambivalence about facing up to
Japan's crimes against Korean and Chinese people during
World War Two.
He has denied that the Japanese military was involved in the
coercion of hundreds of thousands of Korean and Chinese
women to work as prostitutes in military brothels.
He has openly questioned whether Japan should be defined as
an "aggressor", and he has campaigned for the revision of
school history books to give a more positive view of Japan's
war-time role.
Root causes of the “purchase” decision
by Japanese government
There are a series of defiantly nationalistic comments,
including remarks critical of the United States, by close
political associates of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The new NHK president Katsuto Momii said, Japan should
not be singled out for forcing women to provide sexual
services to Japanese soldiers during the war, and this things
happened everywhere, and the United States military did the
same.
Root causes of the “purchase” decision
by Japanese government
The most provocative comments came from one of Abe
allies, an ultraconservative writer, Naoki Hyakuta, who was
appointed by the prime minister himself to the NHK
governing board.
Hyakuta said in a speech that the Tokyo war tribunal after
the World War II was a means to cover up the genocide of
American air raids on Tokyo and the atomic bombings of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Root causes of the “purchase” decision
by Japanese government
Second, the rise of China and Japan’s concern
about it
While the proximate cause of Japan’s nationalization
of the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands may have been a desire
to preempt a nationalistic mayor, the context in which
it took place suggests it had more to do with Japan’s
concern about the future.
Root causes of the “purchase” decision
by Japanese government
As China’s power has grown rapidly while Japan’s has
declined, the policymakers in Tokyo would not continue to
leave the question of sovereignty to future generations
because they fear that China could someday decide the issue
unilaterally through the use of force
From Tokyo’s perspective, it was imperative to resolve the
sovereignty dispute before China becomes too powerful.
Root causes of the “purchase” decision
by Japanese government
Third, the United States strategy of rebalancing
to the Asia-Pacific
When the US reformulated its global strategy and
placed more emphasis on the Pacific Asia, Japan has
made full use of this opportunity to fortify itself as
America’s petit partner in East Asia and stand up
against China.
Root causes of the “purchase” decision
by Japanese government
“Recognizing that America’s future prosperity and security are
intertwined with the East Asia-Pacific region, President Barack
Obama made a strategic commitment to rebalance our efforts
and investments toward Asia. The United States will remain a
strong, reliable, and active partner in the region and is investing
diplomatic, public diplomacy, military, and assistance resources
in a way that is commensurate with our comprehensive
engagement.”
The East Asia-Pacific Rebalance: Expanding U.S. Engagement
BUREAU OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS
December 16, 2013
Root causes of the “purchase” decision
by Japanese government
Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st
Century Defense (2012) notes that the United States "will
of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region"
“As a Pacific nation that takes our Pacific partnership
seriously, the United States will continue to build on
our active and enduring presence.”
– Secretary of State John Kerry
Root causes of the “purchase” decision
by Japanese government
The rebalancing strategy has brought different
reactions for the Asian countries. Obviously, Japan
welcomes U.S. engagement in Asian affairs and takes
it as an important external force to balance China’s
rise
Bringing the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute to a head at this
time was driven by Japanese right-wing nationalistic
policymakers’ concern about China’s rise and their use
of the US rebalancing strategy.
Three scenarios of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
between China and Japan
Considering the complex nature of the
Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes, the historical animosity
between China and Japan, and the difficult security
situation in East Asia, the following three scenarios
should be taken into account during the short, mid
and long term if we want to maintain peace,
stability and growth in the region.
Three scenarios of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
between China and Japan
First, a crisis management mechanism should be
established between the military forces and maritime
administrations jointly by China and Japan, so as to
prevent the escalation of tensions, especially the
breakout of an unintended war between the two
countries.
Three scenarios of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
between China and Japan
Second, wisdom and courage are needed from Chinese and
Japanese leaders to put bilateral relations back on normal
track and develop the mutually beneficial strategic
partnership.
In contrast with the uninhabited islands in East China Sea,
there are more important and more strategic issues that
need to be addressed by the leaders from China and Japan,
such as FTA negotiations, climate change and
environmental cooperation, and non-traditional security
issues.
Three scenarios of Diaoyu/Senkaku disputes
between China and Japan
Third, the real and ultimate resolution of the
territorial dispute over Diaoyu/Senkaku islands
will take a long time only after China, Japan and
the US establish more balanced great triangular
relations and substantial progress is made in
regional cooperation and community-building in
East Asia.
Thank You !

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