Trouble was stirred up last week over China‘s new passports in regards to disputes in the South China Sea, however, they surprisingly managed to leave Japan out this time around. The country has issued new passports which feature a map that highlights territories belonging to India, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Taiwan as Chinese. This incident has understandably upset the neighboring countries, but it also highlights how China continues to say one thing and do another, all while criticizing Japan for disrupting regional stability.
The new Chinese passports, which actually began being issued back in May, displays a map that identifies all of Taiwan, India’s Arunachal Pradesh state, and the waters belonging Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia as China’s territory. Officials from Taiwan have stated that such claims are completely ignorant of commonly accepted reality, and only further provokes territorial disputes in the region. The governments of the Philippines and Vietnam have also filed protests with their Chinese embassies over the passports, and strongly condemn their continued use.
At last week’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Cambodia, the international community warned China that it needed to abandon its advancing and aggressive claims over the South China Sea, as it is clearly becoming hostile to its Asian neighbors. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda also spoke in support of using the International Court of Justice to enforce laws and resolve any conflicts in the region, not just the dispute over the Senkaku / Diaoyu Islands that Japan and China are currently engaged in.
The next step Japan should take is in supporting the other Asian countries in resisting pressure from China. The Japanese government also needs to make sure it doesn’t back down from any dealings or threats from the Chinese, especially with regard to its own disputes. China, or rather the Chinese government, has been carrying on for too long with saying one thing and doing another. Just last week Beijing issued comments about Japan’s upcoming general election and that the rightward shift in politics and nationalism should strive to not damage the stability of the region. That’s rich, coming from a country that issued a map on a national document that presents Taiwan as Chinese territory in the year 2012.
This certainly isn’t the first time China has resorted to more child-like behavior. In the heat of the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute in mid-September, Beijing stated that Japan’s purchase of the islands, which it had already maintained control over, was a hostile act and could not be accepted. Chinese military leaders then made statements about defending their sovereignty with any force necessary and used displays of troops preparing in order to pressure Japan into backing down. Since then, almost without respite, Chinese patrol ships have been seen in the waters just outside the disputed territory, often clashing with the Japan Coast Guard. The Chinese government repeatedly says it is protecting its own land and its actions are legal and necessary. Yet it tries to say Japan is the one disrupting stability?
As for China’s passports, India has decided not to accept the map, so to speak, and now imprints its own version of the map on all visas issued to Chinese nationals entering the country. India’s foreign minister said they felt they had to do something after no response from previous protests.
As the second-largest economic power in Asia, Japan can support the other nations being bullied by China. Japan’s current dispute with China resulted in the eruption of wide-scale anti-Japanese protests, including many violent riots and demonstrations that dealt destruction to Japanese property and businesses. The large car manufacturers from Japan, including Toyota, Nissan, and Honda, are quickly looking to set up factories in other countries to lessen the reliance on Chinese manufacturing. Even better, many have announced relocations to the other countries disputing with China. Car manufacturing has been announced in Vietnam and the Philippines, and agreements between Japan and India have been reached to harvest rare earth minerals, another factor that keeps many countries reliant on China.
With relationships and cooperation like this forming among Asian neighbors, China will have no choice but to soon realize it can’t continue to bully in order to get what it wants, and that its neighbors are tired of putting up with its antics.