Could the verbal sniping between Japan and China be headed towards an open war? The phrase “say it ain’t so” might well be apropos, considering what has recently gone down between the two nations. Tensions have been rising in the South China Sea over contested territory, with China asserting its claim on islands shared with Japan and Taiwan. The Philippines is understandably nervous about China’s military buildup, which recently has seen the voyage of its single aircraft carrier. Last year, US B-52s flew across a section of airspace that China had claimed, citing they had a right to defend what they perceived as their sovereign territory. As of yet, there has been no response to that particular action. The reason why may simply be that China was gearing up to butt heads with Japan over a number of issues.
One of those issues is Japan’s overture to Africa with the pledging of some $320 million in aid to a number of countries there. This has China bristling because they have been the top country in trade with the African Union since 2009. Chinese leaders see Japan’s ‘sudden’ interest in Africa as an attempt to ‘contain’ China. Far be it for the AU to turn down an additional source of aid, and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the head of the AU’s executive council has expressed her gratitude for Japan’s pledge, which will also include humanitarian aid for the conflict-torn countries of Central Africa and South Sudan.
Another issue has to do with China’s increased military budget, which has been steadily growing for the past 20 years and its announcement that it is developing a hypersonic missile transport system able to deliver nuclear payloads at unheard of speeds. Japan recently increased its military budget and Abe wants to upgrade the Japanese military to a more conventional one. Currently, Japan’s constitution, drafted by American occupation forces at the end of World War II, prohibits Japan from maintaining an offensive army. Those elements alone could have Japan and China headed towards war.
Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to a shrine that venerates Japan’s war dead, including convicted war criminals, sparked international condemnation as well as a heated exchange of op-ed articles in The Telegraph between Japan and China’s diplomatic corps, with each side likening the other to the role of ‘Voldemort,’ the infamous villain of the Harry Potter books and movies. Abe was noted as renewing a pledge for “everlasting peace” and was in no way paying homage to war criminals.
Other incidents of Japan and China clashing in a war of propaganda include Xie Xiaoyan, China’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, during a press conference in Addis Ababa, exhibiting photos of Chinese massacred by Japanese troops, citing Japan’s attempt to create an excuse to resurrect ‘Japanese militarism.’
So, is all of this back-and-forth drama between Japan and China really just a prelude to war between the two countries? In a world where terrorism touches places such as America and Russia, and in a world where violent civil conflict is the flavor of the day, it would seem two superpowers are setting the stage for a good old-fashioned declaration of war between one another.
Editorial by Lee Birdine