Discourse Power | May 19 2022
First development, then South China Sea, Okinawans as cannon fodder, and Ukrainizing Taiwan
Today’s issue of Discourse Power coincides with President Biden's weekend visit to South Korea and Japan, where he will meet with his counterparts. The meeting will likely focus on China and the Indo-Pacific, in addition to regional issues, with a joint statement expected to be released on Monday. Biden’s itinerary includes a Quad Leaders’ Summit with his counterparts from Japan, India, and Australia.
Some of the following stories should also be read in light of the talks between Chinese top officials and their American, Japanese, and Korean counterparts over the last couple of days. In both exchanges, the Chinese side warned the opposing party about the "dangerous situation" brewing over Taiwan.
Comments, suggestions, and article recommendations are always welcome.
Have a great weekend,
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"Russia's war in Ukraine will consume the power of the US and the West for a long time to come and will contain and delay their smooth strategic pivot to the Indo-Pacific. As long as we avoid any blunders, this can become another period of strategic opportunity for us"
Professor Zheng Yongnian of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (Shenzhen) writes that China's modernization process should not be interrupted by disputes with neighboring countries in the South China Sea.
"Internal affairs are an extension of diplomacy, and diplomacy must serve internal affairs... From a long-term historical perspective, what we need to do today is ensure that our modernization process is not impeded by concerns like the South China Sea and Taiwan.
“Although, since reform and opening, we were able to handle a slew of thorny diplomatic issues well, internal and external forces have slowed the pace of China's development in recent years.
“Despite the odd humiliating episode that we had to bear in silence, we have maintained a largely calm and stable international environment, taken advantage of all development opportunities, and progressed to our current brilliant stage.
“The South China Sea issue calls for a dynamic approach. The way we look at the South China Sea issue now will be very different in 2035. As long as we maintain domestic sustainable development and the modernization process is not interrupted, we will have a winning hand in resolving the South China Sea issue by then.” (Aisixiang)
"Japan and the United States, who are constantly pointing fingers at other countries for human rights violations, should look in the mirror and begin by respecting and improving Okinawa's human rights situation"
Biden’s first visit to Asia as President is what likely inspired the Global Times to commission Tsinghua University historian Sun Jiashen to write on Japan's and America’s “long-standing human rights violations in Okinawa.”
The Ryukyus are a chain of Japanese islands stretching southwest from Kyushu right off the coast of Taiwan, with Okinawa being the largest. They have a population of 1.5 million people, the majority of whom are ethnically Japanese, but there are also native Ryukyuan people who speak a variety of local languages.
Quibbles between China and Japan regarding Ryukyuan governance date back to the late 19th century when the late Qing Dynasty relinquished suzerainty over the chain to the latter.
In recent years, due to territorial issues and geopolitical tensions with Japan, particularly over a Chinese takeover of Taiwan and the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, Chinese media and pundits have entertained the idea of Ryukyu independence or the Chinese conquest of the islands.
”The "50th anniversary of Okinawa's return to Japan" fell on May 15. While the Japanese official staged a celebratory event, a large number of Okinawans held protests, demanding that the US military presence on Okinawa be reduced in size, with some urging that all US military bases be removed.
“These images cannot help but remind the rest of the world of the Okinawan people's tough position, as they are caught between Japan and the US. It also puts to light the long-running human rights violations perpetrated against Okinawans.
“Okinawa was historically called Ryukyu. Ryukyu was seized by Japan in 1879, and Okinawa Prefecture was henceforth established. Following WWII, the US military occupied and ruled Ryukyu, and the US built a large-scale military installation on the island.
“Even after America handed over "administrative control" to Japan in 1972, Okinawans' rights and interests were not fully guaranteed, and they experienced hardships such as the excessive presence of US military bases, pollution, the "extraterritoriality" of American soldiers, and racial discrimination.
“The high rate of sexual abuse [of Okinawan women] by US servicemen is a well-known example. Between 1972 and 2020, 6,029 crimes were perpetrated on US military posts in Okinawa…In Japan, racial discrimination against "Ryukyu natives" is also rampant.
“In 1969, Japan and the United States signed a "secret nuclear treaty," exposing Okinawans to nuclear threats.” (Global Times)
“Okinawa is presently being molded by Japan and the United States as a security "front" against China, essentially turning it into a vanguard for a military confrontation with China”
Prof. Jiang Feng, a senior editor for the Chinese Communist Party's state media and a Japan expert, believes that Tokyo is too eager to sacrifice the people of Okinawa and that Biden's visit is a "journey for making enemies and for nuclear proliferation."
Jiang Feng is the editor-in-chief of the Japanese version of the People's Daily Overseas Edition and of Xinhua Daily for Overseas Chinese in Japan, in addition to being a Visiting Scholar at Peking University's Department of History. He has lived in Japan for over two decades and is a leading commentator on Sino-Japanese affairs.
Following are excerpts from two essays by Jiang. The first post, published on May 17:
“It is only natural that China, which has been a victim of imperialist incursions and atrocities, would have a special affinity for Okinawa. Furthermore, Okinawa and China have a historical tie that "cannot be severed, even if the mind is disheveled" [剪不断，理还乱, Li Yu of the Southern Tang Dynasty].
“ "Everybody needs something to hate," as the saying goes. Okinawa is presently being molded by Japan and the US as a "frontier" for security against China, and it has essentially become a vanguard position for a military confrontation with China.
“In an editorial published on May 15, the Tokyo Shimbun noted that when Okinawa was handed back to Japanese control 50 years ago, the greatest goal of Okinawans was for it to become an "island of peace without military bases."
“However, despite the fact that Okinawa prefecture makes up only 0.6% of Japan's total landmass, it is home to 70% of Japan-US military infrastructure, including military bases. US military facilities still occupy and use 15% of Okinawa's main island area, and as most of these military bases are located near households and schools, they have been labeled "the most dangerous US military outposts in the world."
“The policies of Japan are truly baffling. Approximately a fifth of the island's population was killed during the US-led Battle of Okinawa [AKA Operation Iceberg, Apr 1, 1945 – Jun 22, 1945]. There is a saying that if you dig anywhere in Okinawa, you will unearth a mound of skeletons of those who died in the war. As such, why is Japan attempting to turn Okinawa into a battleground yet again?
“According to the Sankei Shimbun, China now has over 1,250 medium-range missiles capable of striking the Japanese mainland; it now has a blue-water fleet centered around its aircraft carriers, and in late March of last year, the commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command [Adm. Philip Davidson] predicted that war in the Taiwan Strait would occur within "the next six years."
“To Chinese observers, Japan's justifications for such conduct must appear juvenile and ridiculous. What really saddens me is that the Japanese government is willing to turn the people of Okinawa into cannon fodder by putting them back in the firing line. This is the crux of the issue.
Quotes from the second post, published on May 18:
“The US president's visit to Japan is not a "peace tour," but rather an "enemy-making journey" designed to turn China against both the US and Japan. They are certain that the only way to overcome the rift in the US-Japan military alliance is to clearly identify a common adversary in their sights, (and so that more money can be extracted from Japan's pocketbook).
“At the same time, the US president's visit is also a "nuclear proliferation expedition." On the surface, the US and Japan aim to build a "nuclear deterrence" capability, but in order to do so, they will have to increase their nuclear strike capabilities, and more clearly, give Japan the ability to acquire nuclear weapons.
“For these reasons, we must be extra vigilant and wary of the American-Japanese strategy to "mess up" 搞乱 Asia, as well as their overt and covert ploys to force Asia to take up the cudgels on their behalf.” (Jiang a. | Jiang b.)
"The United States is meticulously preparing for a showdown with China. As we face the formidable enemy, it is more important than ever to draw our swords"
Armchair Major-General (ret.) Luo Yuan, a conspicuous military pundit, looks back on a historic military campaign against the Nationalists that resulted in Communist victory in order to muster courage for the upcoming battle against America, the “powerful enemy”.
The preparations made by the US to gain the upper hand, according to Luo:
“One, attempting to drag NATO and Europe into Asia in order to Ukrainize the Taiwan issue so that they can intervene collectively and uniformly to blockade and sanction China once it moves to reunify with Taiwan.
“Two, relocating their assets, capital, and supply chains from China.
“Third, pressuring ASEAN to pick sides and driving a wedge between it and China by transferring supply chains from China to ASEAN.
“Fourth, forming a mini-NATO in Asia by first trying to incorporate Japan and South Korea into NATO. It continues to stir trouble in China's neighborhood and trample on China's bottom line [=core interests].
“Five, moving to relocate Taiwan's semiconductor industry in order to have countermeasures in place when Taiwan is reunified with the mainland.
“Sixth, saying one thing and doing another in order to portray Taiwan as a sovereign state, laying the groundwork for Western audiences to perceive China's reunification as an invasion of Taiwan.
“Coming events cast their shadows before them. In times of national crisis, the brave and tenacious spirit of those who draw their swords and dare to fight is urgently needed.” (Huashanqiongjian)
"Russia cannot simply avail itself of any opening to annex the territory of a sovereign state, and the US must introspect about the security risks of NATO's eastward expansion as well as the grave implications of abusive sanctions and vindictive military aid"
While condemnation of the US-led NATO and its eastward expansionism as the "origin" of the conflict is nothing new among Chinese intellectuals, Prof. Tian Feilong's veiled critique of Russia's role in the war is refreshing.
Tian, who specializes in Hong Kong and Macau affairs, is an associate professor at Beihang University’s Law School in Beijing and the executive director of its One Country Two Systems Legal Studies Centre.
Excerpt: "If Russia's operational aims are found to be outside the sphere of legitimate security concerns, it will be difficult for it to win world understanding and support, for the same reasons that it will be difficult to rationalize and legalize its activities under international law." (Aisixiang)
Playing in the Background
Discourse Power is written by Tuvia Gering, a research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security and a Krauthammer Fellow, specializing in Chinese security and foreign policy, and emergency and disaster management. Any views expressed in this newsletter, as well as any errors, are solely those of the author.
Follow Tuvia on Twitter @GeringTuvia