James Farrer

The attention of the US is unfortunately drawn to the middle-east, as the Gordian knot of territorial claims of China and Japan continue to hamper international relations, writes Tokyo-based scholar James Farrer in Policy Innovations. 

James Farrer:

China meanwhile has experienced its own a political transition. Last week we saw the emergence of a new Politburo headed by Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, both of whom we might expect to harbor some positive feelings towards America. Xi sends his daughter to Harvard University. Li is a graduate of Beijing University who has translated law texts from English.

The Chinese transition does little, though, to reassure the world about China’s relations with America’s closest ally in the region, Japan. The problem in China is deep-seated popular sentiment. As seen in the fierce anti-Japanese protests in September 2012, many Chinese protesters displayed a gut-level hatred of Japan that went beyond the usual politics. Whether profound anti-Japanese feeling is the result of post-1990s Chinese nationalist education campaigns, as many Japanese analysts argue, or the direct legacy of Japan’s invasion of China in the 1930s, as many Chinese claim, is a moot point. Both are true. Japan brutally invaded China, and the Chinese Communist Party has unrelentingly used anti-Japanese propaganda as political cover for its own atrocities and failings.

The immediate problem is that many Chinese people are simply unwilling to stomach any kind of compromise with Japan on territorial claims. And China’s young, disproportionately male population is restless, angry, and overtly itching for military conflict. No Chinese politician wants war with Japan, but if war erupts—by accident, or by provocation—no Chinese politician could afford to back down. Forget the old Maoist categories of “left” and “right.” Chinese politics, too, is driven forward by a nationalist and populist right wing, one younger and potentially more volatile than the aging right wing that is leading the rightward charge in Japan.

More in Policy Innovations.

James Farrer is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

This week, on November 22, the China Weekly Hangout is about the future of nuclear power in China. You can register at our event page here. (Two weeks earlier we missed the change in daylight saving time in the US and had to cancel.) First part will focus on the resumption of building nuclear power stations, the second part of the chances NIMBY protests can derail this ambitious program. Planned participants: Richard Brubaker and Chris Brown.
You can access all editions here.

The China Weekly Hangout discussed on November 1 the US-China relations. Featuring: Janet Carmosky, Greg Anderson and Fons Tuinstra

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