In the news recently have been all sorts of stories about Chinese people protesting "spontaneously" the approval of some history text books in Japan. In this they seem to have been joined by the useful idiots in both the Korean governments but not, as far as I can tell, by anyone else. Indeed the rest of the former Coprosperity Sphere seem to be ignoring the entire event completely and appear, in general, to be far more concerned about the Middle Kingdom that the Land of the Rising Sun.
Curiously these protests seem to be being sparked by a couple of things that seem to be barely related to Japanese atrocities in WWII and any subsequent denial or lack of apology by Japan. The first is the mooted UN reform where Japan would gain a permenant seat on the security council and the second is potential oil and gas fields in disputed waters. With regards to the former China is on extremely shakey ground, Japan has an enormous GDP (3rd in the world behind the US and China according to the CIA) and has devoted considerably more of it that China to aid for the developing world. Japan has also backed numerous UN institutions, provided heads to a couple of them and generally done considerably more as a world citizen than China. Moreover it isn't as if Japan is the only country being proposed. Germany, India and Brazil have also been suggested and it would, IMO, be ludicrous to accept some or all of those nations without accepting Japan. The root cause of the second dispute is even more clear. Neither Japan nor China are well endowed with local energy resources and if there is gas in the East China Sea both would like to get their hands on it.
The second point dovetails nicely in with my recent post about the potential alliance amongst the former Coprosperity Sphere with Japan against China, and indeed with the identical point made today by Wretchard about the vulnerability of the Chinese economy to disruptions in its oil supply. Students of the Asian part of WWII should be only too well aware how resource vulnerability affected Japan in that war and nothing in the last 60 years has altered that calculation.
Japan: China's Israel?
Tying somewhat into the previous post on this blog about the Chinese suppression of alternative information, it occurs to me that the Chinese communist regime may be attempting to use its control of information to blame future internal troubles on an external source in much the same way that Arab nations attempted to blame Israel for everything. There are, fortunately, significant differences between the Chinese and the Arab nations when it comes to religion and creativity which means that I suspect that this attempt will be doomed to failure but I do believe that the Chinese leadership are attempting to build up external scapegoats with Japan as the primary one. For example, depsite all the complaints about Japanese atrocities in China, they were far less deadly in absolute numbers than Maoism and especially the "Great Leap Forward" which caused a famine that killed upto 30 million Chinese. Somehow I rather doubt that Chinese history textbooks today contain those numbers even though Maoism is discredited even within China, but you can be sure that all Chinese textbooks contain details of the rape on Nanking in great detail. There are some other points of similarity; for example Japan, like Israel, is a key regional ally of the great Satan - the USA. On the other hand in terms of territorial claims Taiwan is much more suitable since China claims to rule Taiwan but makes no such claim with respect to Japan.
Of course this scapegoating could become self-fulfilling. Japanese companies have made large investments in China and import a lot of stuff from China. If the majority of Japanese believe that China is picking on them unfairly (a totally unscientific poll of certain in-laws of mine indicates this could be the case already), then the pressure to look at other suppliers and other places to invest could indeed put a hole in the Chinese economy. The hole could probably be filled over time but this economic change would almost certainly be combined with stronger and more explicit support by Japan for Taiwan, thus making that goal of the communists even less plausible and thereby removing even more lustre from the communust party.
China Begins The Next World War?
The problem here is that Japan as a whole seems to have decided that it has apologized and grovelled enough. The traditional guilt trip tactics simply aren't working any more and indeed seem to provoke the opposite. In some ways this helps the communists in their propaganda but the problem is that Japan may move from symbolic acts that show that it has had enough of apologies to more concrete measures. All in all I think that with regards to both Taiwan and Japan, the leadership of the PRC are playing with fire and that unless they chance course they are highly likely to end up in a war that they will eventually lose. I have no doubt that in losing it they will cause major damage to their neighbours but the cost to their own infrastructure and population is likely to be catastrophic. A fuel and trade blockade combined with selective destruction of key roads and railways and dams would probably put China back into the situation it faced during the "Great Leap Forward" with a stalled economy and mass starvation. As Saddam Hussein and the Taliban demonstrated to the world large armies are more likely to be seen as "target rich opportunities" than threats to modern militaries and despite its low spending as a percentage of GDP, Japan's self-defence forces are about as well equipped with modern toys as the US military. Taiwan is similarly well equipped and there is no doubt that, as Wretchard points out, the US would come to their assistance in the event of Chinese attack.
Update:The Daily Demarche in a post full of Sino-goodness provides a link to a Xinhua news item with the following interesting statement:
Dong said the 41-page white paper only focus on China's own development of human rights cause. China has never pointed its finger at other country's human rights issues in white papers.
One can't help thinking that complaints about Japanes behaviour in China effectively boil down to complaints about the Imperial Japanese Army's lack of respect for human rights but clearly that is different