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China-Japan relations

  • Published
    29th Sep, 2022
Context

Japan and China recently mark the 50th anniversary of the 1972 normalization of their ties.

About

Areas of Conflict between China and Japan:

  • Territorial disputes
    • A huge source of contention is an uninhabited group of Tokyo-controlled, Beijing-claimed East China Sea islands called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
    • Japan insists that the islands, which once hosted a Japanese seafood factory, are part of its territory, both historically and by international law.
    • China says they were stolen by Japan in 1895 and should have been returned at the end of World War II.
    • The 1972 normalization communique did not deal with the issue, but the dispute intensified after Japan’s government in 2012 nationalized the Senkaku islands, leading to violent protests across China.
    • Chinese coast guard and fishing boats are regularly found in the area, routinely violating Japanese waters.
  • Fear of Taiwan Emergency
    • Japan, along with its security ally the United States, has openly criticized increased Chinese activities in the South China Seas.
    • Tokyo has also pushed for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait. China claims Taiwan, a self-governing democracy, and has threatened to annex it by force if necessary.
    • With a U.S.-China trade war and naval tensions on the rise in the area, Japan is increasingly worried about Taiwan emergencies.
  • Wartime History:
    • Japanese atrocities during the Sino-Japanese war include the Rape of Nanking, the use of chemical and biological weapons and grisly human medical experiments in Manchuria, where Japan’s imperial army had a secret biological weapons unit.
    • Japan also brought nearly 40,000 Chinese laborers to Japanese mines and factories, where many died of malnutrition and abuse.
    • In the 1972 communique, China waived the right to war compensation, which some experts say was in exchange for Japan’s apology and recognition of China as the only legal government. Japan, however, has provided official development aid totalling 3.6 trillion yen ($25 billion) to China over the past four decades.
  • Yasukuni Shrine
    • China considers Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine — which honors 2.5 million war dead, including convicted war criminals — as a symbol of Japan’s wartime militarism.
    • Beijing views visits by Japanese ministers and lawmakers to the Tokyo shrine as indicative of a lack of remorse over Japan’s wartime aggression.
    • China, along with South Korea, which Japan colonized from 1910-1945, routinely protests against such visits.
  • Economic Security
    • As a top U.S. ally and a major trade partner with China, Japan is in a delicate situation and must balance its position between the two superpowers.
    • China has been more assertive about pressing other governments to embrace Chinese-led initiatives, including a trade group called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
    • Japan, along with the United States, is seeking ways to stand up to increasing Chinese economic influence in the region.
    • Tokyo also wants to reinforce economic security with other democracies in areas such as supply chains and the protection of sensitive technologies, apparently as a counter to China.

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