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Sunday, July 8, 2007

In the news ニュース

Several articles related to Taiwan have appeared in the English-language Japanese media over the past couple of days. On Friday, the Japan Times had an editorial on the 10-year anniversary of Hong Kong's handover by the British to China, "Hong Kong, 10 years later". In the last paragraph, it states:

"If the Chinese leadership is disappointed by its failure to win the hearts of Hong Kong residents, even more troubling is the inability to sway thinking on Taiwan. Hong Kong was designed to be a role model for the so-called renegade province and convince it to return to the motherland. Despite its many successes, "one country, two systems" has not worked, if Taiwanese sentiment is any measure."

Unlike many Western media outlets, the JT more often than not gets it right when it comes to Taiwan. Hong Kong has failed as a model designed to win over the Taiwanese public. Why on earth would the people here willingly give up their sovereignty and hard-won democratic system, and let the authoritarian...oops, I mean "benevolent" government in Beijing decide how much freedom they should be permitted to have?

Today, the Japan Times has a lead article headlined "Taiwan seen losing military edge to China". Japan's Defense Ministry 防衛省 is warning in a report that:

"The military balance between China and Taiwan is shifting in Beijing's favor and the qualitative superiority of Taipei's fighting force may soon be lost..."

Clearly, the Japanese government sees a strong Taiwan as an important component of its security policy. The report also notes concern over the annual double-digit growth in Chinese defense spending (19 years and counting), as well as China's efforts to extend the reach of its air and naval forces into the Pacific (North Korea is also a worry for Japan's policy planners). It's reassuring to note that the Japanese leadership is apparently under no illusions about the potential threat from China.

The Daily Yomiuri also has an article in today's issue about the defense report, "Chinese forces' modernization worries govt / Report fears buildup goes beyond Taiwan". According to the DY:

"The white paper says that China's military modernization is aimed at dealing with the Taiwan issue, but its modernization appears to go beyond this."

In a separate editorial, "Govt should increase security talks with China", the Yomiuri's editors write that the government is concerned:

"...over the military expansion in terms of national defense and a potential conflict between China and Taiwan, as well as safety in international waters."

The writers also wonder how many intermediate-range missiles are targeting Japan. Good question.

As the Defense Report demonstrates, the security of Taiwan is also vital to the security of Japan. I imagine there is going to be growing military co-operation between Japan and Taiwan in response to the Chinese buildup, unless the Kuomintang (Guomindang) 国民党 comes to power next year. It would be interesting to read what reports might be circulating in Japanese government circles about that possibility.

And while I'm on the topic of Japan, here's a photo of the sign outside a 回転寿司, a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant. It's the Fengyuan (Fongyuan) 豊原 branch of a chain called Sushi Express.

楽しみください ("Tanoshimi kudasai") = "Please enjoy". As sushi goes in Taiwan, the offerings at Sushi Express aren't too bad. In fact, it's a lot better than what you might find at some more expensive/upscale sushi restaurants in Taiwan.

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