Friday, July 30, 2010
Ranting, Part 2
The China Post is a rag. Sure, it prints a wider variety of wire service articles, and has more comprehensive coverage of Major League Baseball games, than the Taipei Times, and its ineptly translated local news stories can put a smile to one’s face (when was the last time you read the word “ruffian” in an article?). But that grin can quickly dissipate once the Post’s editors turn their attention to politics. First published in 1952, the China Post served as the English-language mouthpiece for an authoritarian regime that arrested, imprisoned and executed tens of thousands of people. Taiwan and most of the rest of the world have since moved on, but the people behind the Post struggle at times to keep with the times. They still believe in the Nationalist 中國國民黨 ideology, and in their world, the word “mainland” isn’t an adjective, but a part of a capitalized proper noun (“Mainland China”). When it comes to Japan, the newspaper’s commentators, particularly Joe Hung and Dr. William Fang, can’t seem to write about contemporary events in that country without slipping in completely irrelevant references to the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere 大東亜共栄圏.
Ah, Japan. With the exception of the Taiwan localization movement and former president Chen Shui-bian 陳水扁, there’s nothing that the China Post’s editorial writers despise more than Taiwan’s former colonial ruler. At times, it seems the paper is still waging the Second Sino-Japanese War, instead of trying to make sense of what’s going on in the 21st century. Wednesday’s editorial was a prime example of the head-scratching nonsense the paper can spew out when the wrong buttons get pressed.
“Why try to rock the boat?” starts out thusly:
“Japan seems to have made a truly incomprehensible decision, which can only be interpreted as an inane attempt to rock the boat in the East China Sea. If implemented, the decision would make it necessary for Japan to deploy its soldiers on two of the Ryūkyū Islands 琉球諸島, which are administered as the prefecture of Okinawa 沖縄県.”
The editorial was written in reaction to the announcement made last week by Japan’s Defense Minister 防衛大臣, Toshimi Kitazawa 北澤俊美, that the government is considering deploying personnel from the Self-Defense Forces 自衛隊 to Miyako 宮古島 or Ishigaki Islands 石垣島 in the next five to eight years, and stationing a 100-member coastal surveillance unit on Yonaguni Island 与那国島, the closest island in the Ryūkyū chain to Taiwan, in response to growing activities by China’s navy. This comes on top of Japan’s unilateral extension last month of its Air Defense Identification Zone 防空識別圏 from Yonaguni westwards to overlap with parts of Taiwan’s zone.
From a Chinese nationalist’s point of view, it’s understandable why these actions could get someone riled up. Both China and Taiwan claim the Senkaku Islands 尖閣諸島, which would also be covered under Kitazawa’s proposal. But the Post’s editorial (inadvertently?) lays out the reasonable justifications for Japan to consider such action:
“The PLA Navy certainly is very active in the East China Sea. It wants to show its flag in the Western Pacific, and one way to reach its waters is through the southernmost part of the Ryūkyū chain. That is cause of concern to the Japanese…”
It what follows the “…” that starts to raise eyebrows for this reader:
“…who boasted one of the world's strongest navies prior to the Second World War. China is building a blue water fleet including an aircraft carrier, which even when combat ready in years, cannot match the Imperial Navy that destroyed the entire U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor and secured air and sea supremacy in the Pacific during the first year of what the Japanese used to call the Great East Asian War.”
In one long sentence, the China Post has managed to reference the Imperial Navy, Pearl Harbor and the Second World War! Actually, the Japanese didn’t destroy the entire fleet at Pearl Harbor, but what does that have to do with the announcement made by Kitazawa?
It gets worse (or funnier, depending on how you look at it):
“Beijing never even tries to match the American sea power.”
Let’s see – annual double-digit increases in the Chinese defense budget every year for the last 20 years, combined with purchases of modern vessels and weaponry from Russia, have turned the 225,000-strong People’s Liberation Army Navy into Asia’s biggest fleet. Most defense analysts would agree that China is concentrating now on expanding its naval power further out into the Pacific, and thus poses a challenge to the US’ long-standing supremacy in this area. Countries like Singapore and Vietnam are worried, but not the editorial staff of the China Post, it seems.
After acknowledging that Japan has the right to station troops anywhere it wishes on its territory, and noting that following the end of the Cold War, Japan’s main threats in this region are China and North Korea, the editorial nonetheless questions why the country wants to station troops in Okinawa 沖縄:
“To guard against Chinese missile attacks, a surveillance unit may be necessary, but not foot soldiers either on Miyako or Ishigaki. Incidentally, both islands are far off any possible route of North Korean missile attacks. So why should Japan positively consider a troop deployment on either of the islands?”
In its own schizophrenic manner, the newspaper answers its own question:
“The only serious dispute between Tokyo and Beijng is over the natural gas and oil reserves in the East China Sea. Japan does not like any Chinese show of force that may affect the long, almost interminable, negotiations to solve the dispute over the overlapping exclusive economic zones, but the assertion of the determination to defend the Sakishima chain 先島諸島 and deploy personnel on Yonaguni to keep an eye on Chinese naval activities makes no sense whatsoever.”
There are other, equally serious disputes between Japan and China, with the Senkakus being the most notable. The Post makes no reference to this or to the increasingly aggressive actions by Chinese military forces towards Japanese vessels that have occurred in the area in recent months. It makes perfect sense for the Japanese to want to keep an eye on China’s growing naval belligerence, but the editorial writers bizarrely retreat into the irrelevance of events that took place a couple of centuries ago:
“The PLA does not even dream of conquering either Ishigaki or Miyako, whose fishermen massacred in Taiwan after a shipwreck gave Meiji Japan 明治時代 a handy excuse to attack and occupy Hengch’un 恒春 in 1874. Beijing does not want a revenge for the (Mutan) Incident 台湾出兵, for which US$500,000 was paid to Japan as ‘indemnity’ and no condemnation of aggression was declared as a concession which implied recognition of Japan's claim to sovereignty over the former Kingdom of the Ryūkyūs 琉球王国, a vassal state of China for hundreds of years. Moreover, islands are hard to defend. And if ever an invasion were considered, Okinawa rather than any of the Ryūkyūs would be attacked. Well, the United States did just that in May of 1945, and at the last leg of General Douglas A. MacArthur's island-hopping campaign, thousands of innocent Okinawans, regarded as second-rate citizens, were slaughtered by the retreating Japanese troops. Japan annexed the Ryūkyūs in 1872 as a prefecture, where the people still remain a disadvantaged ethnic minority group.”
Like the earlier references to the Imperial Navy and Pearl Harbor, the Mutan Incident has zero relevance to the topic at hand. Neither do the attempts to bring up the tragedy that befell the people of Okinawa from April-June 1945. All of this is a somewhat lame attempt at reminding the readers of some of the things that Japan did in the years before World War II in an attempt to prejudice their views regarding Japan’s legitimate modern-day security concerns. And notice the remark about the Ryūkyūs being a vassal state of long-gone Chinese empires. Japan may have formally annexed the kingdom in 1872, but it had been under its control since 1609, when troops from the Satsuma domain 薩摩藩 in Kyūshū 九州 took over the islands. In the eyes of the China Post, though, once a Chinese vassal state, always a Chinese vassal state.
The editorial concludes in this manner:
“Hard as it may be to understand why, we do not object to the Japanese deployment of troops on either of the two islands, particularly at Miyako where there is a coastal guard command. Probably it is aimed at boosting the local economy. But we do not feel comfortable with the surveillance unit on Yonaguni. Though we do not believe it will keep an eye on our air traffic, Taiwan needs no foreign military air surveillance at the door. Japan has to remember Taiwan is no longer its docile colony.”
I think I can safely assume that the writers on the editorial staff of the China Post never took college courses on expository writing or logic. Sad to say, however, that these are probably heady days for them. China is a rising, resurgent power, eager to assert its claims to islands in surrounding waters, and no longer shy about backing up its claims with shows of strength. Taiwan may no longer be a docile colony of Japan, but it is turning into a docile junior partner to the authorities on the mainland, which should warm any Chinese nationalist’s heart. For the Japanese, the China Post seems to be implying that now that the Middle Kingdom is on the rise, the Little Dwarves need to remember their proper place in the old, er…new order that’s about to be restored, I mean established. Put up and shut up, and everything will be fine.
In its defense, the China Post does do a good job of cleaning my windows.