Although Sino-Japanese diplomatic relations is basically characterized by peace and friendship, disagreements between both nations emerged time and again. Recently, some events have escalated into near-military contention. By and large, the main sources of conflict can be organized into four problems: 1) history and reality; 2) territory and sovereignty 3) economy and trade; 4) competition and cooperation.
3.1 Disarray between history and reality
Firstly, with regards to disarray between history and reality, the Right-wing forces in Japan have refused to admit or even tried to distort the fact of Japanese invasion of China and neighbouring countries in the past, thus preventing the young generation from knowing about the facts. In addition, controversies concerning Japanese right-wing efforts at wiping out brutal realities from local textbooks have resulted in serious protests from the victims of Japanese aggression such as China and Japan. This was particularly aggravated by the neglectful attitude of the Japanese education bureau.
Visits of Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni Shrine, which commorates anyone who has died in service of the Empire of Japan, including some A-class war criminals, serve as another source of disagreement between China and Japan. As these visits are perceived as a denial of Japan’s historical misdoings, such activities are similar to Japan’s intentions of rewriting history in local textbooks. Therefore, Japanese refusal to admit wartime aggression has undoubtedly hindered progress in Sino-Japanese relations.
3.2 Disputes in territory and sovereignty
Secondly, there were disputes in territory and sovereignty. As China maintains that Taiwan is a part of the mainland, Japanese intervention in this ‘One-China Policy’ plays another important role in Sino-Japanese conflict. Some Japanese politicians have used the Taiwan issue to influence Chinese diplomatic relations. Moreover, the question of Diaoyu Islands has escalated tension between the two nations since the 1970s. The Diaoyu islands, also known as diaoyutai, were originally under Chinese administration, as part of the Pinnacle Islands of Taiwan, a fishery in the East China Sea. There is also a significant amount of oil and gas reserves in the seabed surrounding the islands. The situation has been aggravated by Japan’s “nationalizing” of the islands. China has always taken a tough stance on territorial and sovereignty issues; Japan, on the other hand, unrealistically strives to settle the matter through negotiation.
Thirdly, there were complications in economy and trade. As China had only begun her economic reform in the 1970s during which China and Japan had just resumed diplomacy, the economic condition of the two countries differed greatly. As such, some Japanese took economic cooperation as a form of assistance towards China instead of equal trading partnership; this resulted in a rather unhealthy situation. Thereafter, because of distorting history and Diaoyutoi issues, economic instead of political cooperation was more practical. This problem eventually hindered the development of economy and trade between the two countries.
The surge of Chinese economy in recent years has brought about conflicts in economy and trade between China and Japan and elevated China’s position to become a competitor of Japan. This is another obstacle to Sino-Japanese cooperation.
3.4 Problem in competition and cooperation
Fourthly, in terms of competition and cooperation, the struggle for energy remains as one of the sources of disagreement between the two countries. Had China, Japan and Korea effectively worked together, a win-win situation could have emerged. Unfortunately, historical problems, realistic considerations, and the confrontation between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have obstructed cooperation to a great extent. In addition, the Six-party talks among China, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the United States and Russia has been to no avail. Furthermore, competition among China, Japan and Korea within the ASEAN area have aggravated the situation. Lastly, America’s revival of her influence in Asia have also greatly hindered the Sino-Japanese cooperation.
Challenges in Sino-Japanese relations can be generally divided into two aspects. External and internal problems encountered by Japan are as follows: 1) Japan’s pursuit of the status of ‘normal country;’ 2) hopes for a more active role in the UN; 3) problems resulted from the strengthening of the military alliance between Japan and the U.S.; 4) the impact of international scene such as the problem in the Middle East on Japan; 5) the rise of China and its influence on Japan; 6) the stance and attitude of Japanese political parties. Remarkably, the 3-11 earthquake and tsunami has imposed greater burdens onto Japan’s economy, while Shinzō Abe’s desire for a “constitutional amendment” might lead Japan to a more difficult situation.
For China, the following pose as upcoming challenges: 1) dealing with the history of the Japanese aggression in China; 2) the importance of Sino-Japanese trade to China; 3) the influence of nationalism and populism; 4) diplomatic problems; 5) China’s national power and military capacity. In comparison, Japan faces greater challenges, and her attitude is crucial for improving Sino-Japanese relations China is not always passive, as the country has been pushing for answers in face of growing Sino-Japanese problems. Whether Japan is able to appreciate Chinese efforts is, however, the crux of the matter.
In conclusion, Sino-Japanese relations serve as a crucial key to preserving peace in Asia. In the world vision and her vision of Asia, it is necessary for Japan to realize China’s importance. Steady development of normalizing relations is important to both China and Japan. As the old saying goes, “two countries benefit the most from staying together, and vice versa”. This is well illustrated in the long-term cultural exchange and friendly interaction between China and Japan.
Relations among China, the United States and Japan are closely related to the future of Asia and will affect the rise and decline of the United States. If the United States emphasizes peace in the East Asia, it will affect Japan’s policy to China in a certain extent. As a great power, China is expected to promote the development of friendly and cooperative relations with her neighboring countries and strengthen her understanding of these countries in the future.
For as long as history permits, China has had close ties with Southeast Asian countries. The Maritime Silk Route contributed to more interaction in culture and trade between China and the Southeast Asian countries. There was a breakthrough in the relations between China and the Southeast Asian countries after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. The Bandung Conference in April 1955 witnessed the dawn of a new system as Premier Zhou Enlai proposed the ‘Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence’ to the leaders of countries in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America, which has positive and lasting effect on international situation. Since the emergence of New China after 1949, her relationship with South East Asian countries has progressed with various ebbs and flows from the 1950s to the 1990s. Whichever way it is, it remains undeniable that China attaches much importance to her ties with the Southeast Asian countries and treats them as her most important friendly neighbours.
1.1 An overview
The term of ‘Southeast Asia’ can be traced back to the Second World War. During the course of the war, the term was used by the Allies in referring to the regions of Indochina and the Pacific which are home to 11 countries: Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Burma on Indochina; the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and East Timor on the Pacific archipelago. Most of these Southeast Asian countries, rich in culture and highly diverse in social, customary and cultural aspects, have a long history of their own. Therefore, it is difficult to have deep understanding of their history, society, customs and culture. However, some countries in Indo China Peninsula are highly agricultural whereas maritime countries are more commercial. This gives rise to a rather different way of development in history and culture. Therefore, it is feasible to have a preliminary understanding of Southeast Asia in this context.
Southeast Asia covers an area of approximately 4.5 million square kilometers, accommodating close to 600 million people. Notably, the geographical location of the region has long been of strategic importance, particularly in the arenas of international geopolitics and global economy. Southeast Asia’s rich natural resources and geographical location have long been the target of western imperial powers. Even after the end of the Second World War, Southeast Asia continued to be a domain for international political and military contention. The diplomacy of the countries in this region is closely linked to the development of Cold War.
Under the war zone concept, a primitive form of ‘unified system’ was gradually molded in Southeast Asia. It was getting mature with the development of Cold War. On 6 August 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established which marked the beginning of integration towards a unified system in Southeast Asia. ASEAN member states witnessed astonishing economic take-off, which was in leading position in the world, since the mid-1970s. The development of Singapore, a member of the ‘Four Asian Tigers’ and Brunei, a well-off country were good examples. Even Thailand and Malaysia manifested a highly industrialized economic outlook. From the later period of 1980s onwards, Indonesia and the Philippines made great efforts in developing economy and during the mid-1990s, new members of the ASEAN like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia began to step out of incessant civil war and domestic unrest, striving to open up and revitalize the economy. Even Burma, under the rule of military dictatorship for a long time and being conservative, moved away from isolation and began to carry out reform to a certain extent. As ASEAN member states interacted more frequently with the rest of the world, they played more and more important role in international political, economic and cultural development.
As neighbour, China should give weight to the rapid development of the ASEAN. Located south of China, the ASEAN covers a geographical area which is one of the gateways of China to the outside world. In light of China’s rapid development, interaction and dialogue on different aspects with the ASEAN in different extent were almost inevitable. In fact, the importance of the inter-relation between China and the ASEAN was self-evident. Nowadays, in the 21st century, an in-depth study of the issue is of great urgency.
2. An introduction to ASEAN
2.1 Nature of its Organization
The term ASEAN is translated in many ways. The followings are some of the most commonly used:
Dongnanya guojia lianmeng (東南亞國家聯盟), also Dongmeng (東盟), seen in Hong Kong and the mainland of China;
Dongnanya guoxie (東南亞國協), also Dongxie (東協), seen in Taiwan;
Dongnanya hezuo zuzhi (東南亞合作組織), also Donghe (東合), used in some Chinese media and less seen in Hong Kong and the mainland of China;
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the official name in English;
A xi’an (阿細安), Ya xi’an (亞細安), used by some magazines like Asiaweek.
In recent years, studies on the ASEAN have appeared myriad because of its rapid growth. The following shall generalize the features and objectives of the organization:
Bringing countries in the Southeast Asian region together in maintaining regional order, security and stability;
Establishing a platform for Southeast Asian countries to converse with the outside community (i.e.: the China and ASEAN (10+1) mechanism and the 10+3 system between ASEAN and China, Japan and South Korea);
An explicit display of ‘Southeast Asian awareness’ after WWII to a certain extent;
Promoting mutual understanding in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural region;
Acting as an example of cooperation and unity for developing countries and small nations and a model organization of regionalism.
2.2 Stages in development
2.2.1 Historical background of forming ASEAN
During the Second World War, the emergence of a “war zone” in Southeast Asia gradually led to the conceptual formation of “Southeast Asia as a region”;
As Southeast Asian countries had achieved independence one after the other, cooperation and mutual support should be strengthened to deal with all those post-independence problems;
During the Cold War, there was intense ideological struggle between the communist and capitalist blocs. In this situation, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) was established by Britain, the United States and France. Its members came from some countries in South Asia and Southeast Asia. It aimed at stopping the spread of communism to southern Asia. On 8 September 1954, the South-East Asia Collective Defense Treaty was signed by Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, East Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines, Britain and America in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. The SEATO with its headquarter in Bangkok, signified the formation of an international anti-communist collective defense that was in force until 30 June 1976. Scholars tend to agree that SEATO is the forerunner of ASEAN.
2.2.2 The formation of ASEAN
The stages leading to the formation of ASEAN are as follows:
31 July 1961: The Association of Southeast Asia (ASA) was founded in Bangkok by Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand;
1963: Disputes arose between Malaysia and the Philippines over Sabah, resulting in the break-off of relationship between the two;
August 1965: Upon Singapore’s independence, relations with Malaysia worsened and the ASA was paralysed;
6 August 1967: the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and Thailand had a conference in Bangkok. Out of the need for cooperation, it concluded with the proclamation of the ASEAN Declaration (also known as Bangkok Declaration), declaring the formal establishment of the ASEAN.
2.2.3 Major developments of the ASEAN
Below is a list of the founding members of the ASEAN (as according to August 1967):
After Brunei had gained her independence on 8 January 1984, the country immediately entered the organization and joined the aforementioned states in becoming the six original members of the ASEAN. It should also be noted that ASEAN members appear equal before the organization (East Timor gained her independence in 2002 and is now a candidate member of the ASEAN). But these six original members played the role of initiating the formation of and elevating the position of the organization. In addition, their economic and overall capacities are much higher which naturally allow these 6 members to assume leadership role.
Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Communist bloc, the 1990s witnessed the entry of four countries in the Indochina Peninsula, which have been deeply affected by socialist ideology to different extent, into ASEAN respectively:
Socialist Republic of Vietnam on 28 July 1995;
Union of Myanmar on 23July 1997;
Laos People’s Democratic Republic (Laos) on 23July 1997;
Kingdom of Cambodia on 30April 1999.
On 20May 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste gained her independence and submitted her application to ASEAN in July 2006 but failed to be admitted. Up to now, she is still a candidate member. In the Pacific region, Papa New Guinea became an ‘observer country’ of the organization. East Timor enjoyed the same right of sending an observer to ASEAN meetings.
The following statistics may help us understand more about the ASEAN.
ASEAN is one of the largest regional organizations in the world, comparable in nature to the European Union (EU);
Its secretariat and headquarter are located in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia;
The ten ASEAN members cover an area of 4.5 million square kilometers;
The total population of the ten ASEAN members as of 2010 stands at 600 million;
ASEAN has external relations with China, Australia, Canada, the EU, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Korea, America and Pakistan.
2.2.4 Major objectives
To promote equality and cooperation in strengthening economic growth, social progress and cultural development;
To promote peace and stability in Southeast Asia through respect for justice and international norm in the relationship among countries of the region and adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter;
To promote active collaboration and mutual support on matters in economic, social, cultural, technical and scientific fields;
To provide mutual support in educational, vocational, technical fields as well as administrative training and research facilities;
To collaborate more effectively on greater utilization of agriculture and industries, expansion of their trade, improvement of transportation and communications and the raising of living standards of their peoples;
To promote studies on Southeast Asia problems;
To maintain close and mutually beneficial cooperation with international and regional organizations with similar aims and purposes, and explore all avenues for even closer cooperation with them.
Apart from strengthening economic cooperation, ASEAN also highlights political and military exchanges, enhancing the notions of working together.
2.2.5 ASEAN and the concept of ‘neutralization of Southeast Asia’
One of ASEAN’s biggest contributions as a regional organization comes in the proposal of ‘neutralization of Southeast Asia.’ The concept was initially put forth by Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak (1922 – 1976).
A meeting among the foreign ministers of the five ASEAN members was held in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, from 26 to 27November 1971. On 27 November, the ‘Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality Declaration’ (also known as the Kuala Lumpur Declaration) stated the intention of participating parties to get the respect and admission of Southeast Asia as a ‘Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality which will be ‘free from any form or manner of interference by outside Powers.’
Subsequently, the ‘Declaration of ASEAN Concord’ was proclaimed in February 1976 after an ASEAN meeting in Bali in Indonesia. According to the declaration, the members would strive to form a peaceful and neutralized region in Southeast Asia as soon as possible. The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) was signed on 24February, aiming at building trust, promoting peace, security and prosperity and strengthening relationship among countries of Southeast Asia.
2.2.6 Aims and Principles of TAC
Promotion of perpetual peace, everlasting amity and cooperation amongst the people of Southeast Asia which shall eventually contribute to strength, solidarity and a close relationship.
mutual respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity and national identity of all countries;
Being free from any external interference, subversion and sanction, and keep the rights of national survival;
non-interference in the internal affairs of one another;
settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful means;
renunciation of the threat or use of force; and
effective cooperation among signatories of TAC.
2.2.7 ASEAN and the Cold War
To a certain extent, ASEAN is a by-product of the Cold War. With the dissolution of the USSR and the decreasing role of socialism, the relationship between ASEAN and foreign countries entered a new phase. After thorough analysis of scholars, the following remarks, on the changes of foreign influence in the Southeast Asia in post Cold War period and the roles of ASEAN and its relationship with the foreign powers, are made.
As the need to safeguard the world from the USSR was not imminent, the US influence in Southeast Asia drastically decreased. As a superpower, the US still assumed a predominant role in this region.
Japan’s influence was on the rise. She played a significant role in different aspects such as economy, politics, military and regional security.
China’s influence had increased significantly. She has become the most influential country in the region.
India’s influence was on the rise continuously. As Southeast Asia is located between China and India, India saw Southeast Asia as a crucial platform in demonstrating her rising power. India’s fast expansion of influence in SE Asia drew the attention of the other countries.
ASEAN plays a key role in Southeast Asia, ranging from directing regional affairs to preserving peace, stability and security, the organization further hastened economic cooperation and social and cultural exchange among member states.
The development of ASEAN after the end of the Cold War was rapid. The following stages of development deserved more attention:
The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) was established in 1992. Officially beginning operations on 1 January 2002, AFTA is the most important platform in promoting economic and financial developments among member states. Inside the free trade area, all-round cooperation in tourism and energy issues is emphasized;
Post-Cold War ASEAN has committed to membership expansion. From mid-1990s onwards, the four Indochina states were absorbed into the ASEAN. Until now, all the Southeast Asian countries are members of the organization, with the exception of East Timor. The ASEAN becomes the only international organization representing Southeast Asia;
The formation of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) has provided a platform for constructive dialogue amongst member states, reducing conflict through consultation;
Initially proposed by ex-Singaporean leaders Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Chok Tong, with support from France, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) was first convened in March 1996 in Bangkok to promote Asia-Europe cooperation, with a vision of forming an international organization of magnitude based on the 10+3 system and a closer cooperation with the EU. The first meeting focused on political dialogue, economic cooperation and educational and cultural development;
ASEAN extended dialogue to countries beyond Southeast Asia such as China (October 2003), India (October 2003), Japan (July 2004) and the United States (July 2009) by signing the ‘Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia’(in order to promote permanent peace and long-term relationship and encourage cooperation in economic, social, cultural and technological development;
From non-regular meetings to the initiation of the annual ASEAN Summit, ASEAN has come up with a system that regulates cooperation amongst member states;
Proposed the blueprint for an ‘ASEAN Community’ to emerge in the year 2020;
The identity of ASEAN was emphasized by encouraging private, commercial and academic research and analysis of Southeast Asian problems in order to cultivate a recognized identity in preparation for the ‘ASEAN Community.’