China’s Self-Defeating Arrogance Toward Japan
“Regrettable.” That’s the word both Japan’s finance minister and the head of the Bank of Japan used to describe their Chinese counterparts who canceled appearances at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank this month.
Why would high Chinese officials skip the two gatherings? State media initially referred to scheduling conflicts, but Beijing then went mum.
Yet it’s clear to most observers why Chinese Finance Minister Xie Xuren and central bank chief Zhou Xiaochuan pulled out at the last minute and sent deputies instead. China wanted to register its displeasure at Japan, and the two meetings were held in Tokyo.
Beijing had recently stirred up a nasty territorial dispute over the the Senkakus, a string of Japanese-controlled islets in the East China Sea. Beijing calls the barren islands the Diaoyus, and its claim is far weaker than Japan’s as a matter of international law. Unfortunately for China, Beijing acknowledged the islands belonged to Japan up until the beginning of the 1970s. There are official Chinese maps that show the Senkakus as Japan’s.
Beijing’s prior acknowledgement of Japanese sovereignty does not seem to bother the current crop of Chinese leaders, who are now insistently pressing their claim. Last month, they exerted pressure on Japan by orchestrating nationwide protests, which resulted in firebombings and looting of Japanese businesses, and by employing extra-legal tactics to undermine Japanese business operations in China. At the same time, Communist Party and state media conducted an unrelenting campaign against Tokyo.