V Международная студенческая научная конференция Студенческий научный форум - 2013


Кабдуалиева М.А. 1
1Назарбаев Университет
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The territorial issue between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands is a remarkable subject to study in the field of international relations. Situated in the East China Sea, the islands were given to the Japanese government by the USA in the early seventies; nevertheless, China considers the archipelago to be their primordial land and struggles hard for the conferment of Diaoyu. The discussion about this territory has taken place for more than a century, but the culmination of this question arose in April 2012 when Shintaro Ishihara, the Tokyo mayor, announced making a deal between the government and Japanese businessman Kunioki Kurihara, the owner of the islands for several decades. Later, in September of the same year, Japanese mass-media reported that 3 out of 5 islands have been already bought for $26 million; the rest of them are rented (BBC, 2012). The response of China was obvious: they sent two warships for protecting the land, and directed 1000 fishing vessels to the waterfront of the islands (BBC, 2012). Such aggressive actions between two of the most powerful states not only in Eastern Asia, but also in the world as a whole, have captured global attention. In order to perceive this problem objectively, it is necessary to draw out the cause of the conflict, its impact, and consequences. In this paper, I will try to assess the current political situation using different international relations theories, and explain why this conflict has such remarkable implications for the world in general.

To begin with, it is needed to determine why the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands are so valuable and substantial for these powers. Firstly, the islands abound with precious natural resources, namely hydrocarbons. Gas is known to be one of the most important aspects of world trade; it can positively influence economic potential and foreign investments. Also, the water area around the islands is adapted for fishing, which is undoubtedly significant source of income both in Japan and China. Secondly, the conferment of the islands is politically beneficial affair as long as it can significantly influence the status on the global agenda, and authority of the winner-state among its citizens. For China, which is a contender to be a superpower and regional hegemon, the privatization of Diaoyu is a substantial point for maintenance of Chinese prestige. The area of the islands is not so vast to conquer, and if China cedes Diaoyu, the image of the republic can be damaged to a degree. Japan, in contrast, has been losing international influence with the nominal volume of its debt is now more than 230% of its GDP (BBC, 2012). The ownership of Senkaku can serve as a goldmine for its economic ratings, namely it will help to improve as a financial situation as to regain the status of leading state. Therefore, we can see that both China and Japan have well-grounded reasons for taking an ownership of the archipelago.

The situation is beginning to be extremely dangerous not only for external connections between states, but it also significantly influences domestic social and economic order. It can be clearly seen that this conflict is acquiring a character of two-level game. The win-sets, conditions making international agreement conceivable, are different, and I will discuss them a little bit later. First of all, it is important to say that the reason why the leaders of the states have not resolved this problem yet is a dependence on the reactions of their citizens. China has a one-party system, which way of making a foreign policy is thoroughly tracking down by people. If the Communist Party in China does something that cannot justify wishes and opinions of the society (such as a buyout or indifferent behavior regarding to the dispute,) domestic spites will start. Chinese can either turn against their government or even remove this party from its office that can lead to serious consequences as for domestic as for international politics. For instance, at the present time, some national challenges have appeared in China after the climax of the problem. The people organized anti-Japanese demonstrations and programs in more than 100 cities throughout the whole Celestial Empire (The Globe and Mail, 2012). The Chinese forbade even the publication of the books about Japan, and those ones written by Japanese people (“Guardian”, 2012). Relying on the unrest within the state, and bound with the possible complaints of the citizens, members of government do not want to decrease their political efficacy. For making the regime of the state stable Chinese authorities need the trust and support of their populations. For this reason they reject such an obvious policy option as a purchase of the islands as well as it costs too much politically. The same situation is applicable to the country of the rising sun. If Japanese government makes a concession and sells the islands to China, citizens will perceive it as a dominance of financial values ​​over national ones. One more important aspect affecting the decision is a rational political ambition, the leaders’ aspiration to stay in power. Apparently, the leaders of the state are at the most risky position now. The strategies and measures taken by them will instantly evaluated by citizens. Making wrong step, the heads of the states decrease the opportunity to be reelected next time because the current problem significantly identifies how successfully the executives run their policies. The less members of the society are satisfied, the less the leader’s population is.

It is quite challenging to find a solution that will be able to comply with China as well as Japan simultaneously. The indivisible nature of territory leaves very little room for negotiations and bargain. A peaceful solution to the issue is the most desirable option, but it is usually the least efficient. The strategy of appeasement may be possible only if one of the states manages to reduce its activity and suppose an agreement about usage of the resources of the archipelago, and this diplomatic contract will take not a couple of days or weeks, but years. The negotiations in 2004, for instance, about cooperative extraction of gas did not succeed, and both states continued well-boring ignoring each other, but expressed anxiety and dissatisfaction with this policy all the time (U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2012). Discussed a little before, the presumption about buyout seems unlikely. The bargaining range, regarding to this dispute, is too restricted because both countries are dependent on their domestic situations therefore here is no possibility of win-set. Moreover, the executives of both states do not want to compromise because they consider the archipelago to be a legitimate property, "So far as the Senkaku Islands are concerned, they are an inherent part of our territory, in light of history and international law” (Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, VOA 2012). Application to the help of international arbitration if fraught with unfair assessment because arbitrators, who are representatives of other states, can strive to get some benefits from the sharing of the islands for their own homelands.

In conclusion, the situation between China and Japan is a good example of how international relations may affect the domestic policy. It illustrates that both governments are dependent on their citizens, and how territorial question may estrange the countries with age-old partnership. However, the outcome of this dispute is very difficult to predict. Most possibly, it will be a zero-sum game where only one side will be benefited from the result. Nevertheless, in my perspective, a loser will try to retrieve the lost land and then the conflict may appear again. Undoubtedly, the struggle for the Senkaku/Diaoyu is an important case that has a global meaning and influences the whole world politics.

Works cited:

1.BBC. 2012. “Japan confirms disputed islands purchase plan”. September 10. Online at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-19540469

2.BBC. 2012. “China morning round-up: Anti-Japan protests”. September 17. Online at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-19620085 3.BBC. 2012. “Viewpoint: Why the young should welcome austerity”. June 17. Online at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-18456131 4. The Globe and Mail. 2012. By Mark Mackinnon. “Tossed bottles, staged outrage: China vents its anger at Japan”. September 19. Online at: http://m.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/tossed-bottles-staged-outrage-china-vents-its-anger-at-japan/article4551170/?service=mobile

5.VOA. 2012. “Japan: No Compromise on Island Dispute”September 27. Online at: http://www.voanews.com/content/japan-vows-not-to-compromise-on-island-dispute/1515892.html

6.Guardian”. 2012. By Alison Flood. “Japanese books removed from sale by China in row over islands”. September 25. Online at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/sep/25/japanese-books-removed-sale-china-row-islands

7. U.S. Energy Information Administration. 2012. “East China Sea”, September 25. Online at: http://www.eia.gov/countries/regions-topics.cfm?fips=ECS


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