1. If China could work successfully with the U.S. to manage conflicts and resolve issues to maintain a good U.S-China relation, then the Japan-China relation would improve by default. This places the U.S.-China relation as China’s first priority.
2. If China would face up the permanent threat from Japan and develop a clear strategy to deal with Japan and make the U.S. understand China’s real worry then the U.S.-China relation would improve. This forces China to deal with the Japan issue more openly.
However, current events are the consequences of past actions. It is necessary to bring the historical background into the picture to analyze the current situation and to discuss all possible scenarios of future course of foreign relations. In this column, we do not pretend that anyone has a crystal ball to predict the future, but we do believe that any rational analysis brought to the open may be helpful to the foreign policy makers. From historical and geopolitical perspectives, we believe that China is facing a central question – ‘Who is really targeting China? Is Japan or the U.S. targeting China as an enemy?’ China must understand this question thoroughly then she may formulate a viable strategic plan and a foreign policy to deal with the U.S. and Japan. To find answer to this question it is essential to peel off the surface of the current ‘apparent’ US-Japan-China relations and analyze their intrinsic issues between US-China and Japan-China, separately, from a broad historical and geopolitical perspective. Is Japan’s national interest regarding Asia Pacific really coinciding with that of the U’S.? If so or not so, is it based on a short-term view or long-term objective? Perhaps the long-term objective is far more critical since near-term foreign policies should be driven by the long-term objectives. Then, what are the fundamental issues between the U.S. and China that will dictate a long term objective in their relationship? The same question must be asked regarding Japan and China? A nation to nation relationship will be ultimately good in the long run if there is no fundamental (long-term) conflict between the two nations. For example. Canada is a close neighbor of the U.S. but no fundamental problem between them. Hence they have excellent relation. Same cannot be said about China’s neighbors.
China-Japan has had a treacherous relation since many centuries ago, even though China has strongly influenced Japan in her culture and nation development, including writing system, architecture, customs, religion, philosophy, governmental and legal systems. As early as the third century, Wu people (Today’s Jiangsu and Zhejiang area) was reported as ancestry of inhabitants in Japan. In Qin dynasty (221-206 BC), Emperor Qin Shi Huang had sent several hundred young people to Japan to search for medicines of immortality but they never returned. The major Chinese influence to Japan occurred during Sui and Tang Dynasties when Japan had sent many students to China to learn the establishment of sovereignty and they brought back philosophical and religious teachings, Chinese customs and culture, including clothing, political system, architecture and city planning. Tang Dynasty was a “flowering dynasty” in Chinese history with prosperity, rich culture and strong national military. Japan involved in her first battle with China when one of the three Korea kingdoms, Silla, allied withTang to dominate the entire Korean Peninsula. Japan (Yamato) supported Baekje and Koguyo (the other two Korea kingdoms) but was defeated by Silla-Tang forces with 300 vessels destroyed. This history laid an intrigue background of the China-Japan-Korea relationship. Silla later united the Korean Peninsula and forced Japan (Yamato) to seek ties with Tang against a hostile Silla. Japan had a prosperous trade with China from Qin to Ming dynasty nearly over 1000 years.
Ming designated Ningbo as the trading port for Japan hence many Japanese emissaries were set up there with rivalry between them. In 1523, while Japan was in a civil war period, one Japanese emissary in Ningbo involved in a disagreement with a rival Japanese trade representative led to the Ningbo Incidence where the Japanese looted and robbed the vicinity of Ningbo. The Ming dynasty then closed the Ningbo port to Japan. The China-Japan relationship became more treacherous as some of the Japanese islanders turned into sea pirates, robbing the ships and looting the towns and villages on the Chinese seashore. This situation lasted from Ming Dynasty to Qing Dynasty. The Chinese emperors were annoyed by this type of hit and run terror but could not rid them off completely.
In 1868, Japan finally became one sovereign nation under Meiji Emperor who consolidated the feudal factions, in the mean time, Qing dynasty was weakening due to incompetency of the court and the government corruption. The West made contact to China and took advantage of a weak dynasty. On contrast, Japan went through the Meiji restoration period (1868-1912) had made Japan learn and copy the West and became industrialized. Japan then set her eyes on China with the ambition to conquer China. Japan became an imperialistic nation practicing colonialism with the ultimate goal to rule the conquered regions. Japan’s ambition eventually resulted in WW II, however, even though Japan was defeated on 1945, but the Japanese Imperialistic spirit never died as evidenced by the current Japanese administration’s effort in revising Japan’s peace constitution to permit Japan to enhance armament and take initiative to engage in war. This is the fundamental issue between China and Japan. Japan historically had been aggressive towards China openly expressing that they were a superior race but dealt with poor land resources in contrast to the vast mainland China. China learned from her history that she must be strong to fend off her aggressive neighbors.
The China-US relation is an entirely different set of stories. True, the U.S. had joined the Western powers in invading China but she was sympathetic to the Chinese revolution. The U.S. revolution, Monroe doctrine and her constitution inspired the founding father of modern China Sun Yat Sen, who was educated in the U.S. The Chinese people admired the Americans especially during the WW II period. There was no fundamental conflict between the U.S. and China. The two nations are far apart on two separate hemi-sphere with no territorial dispute. There is economic competition but that is universal between all nations, existing between Japan and the U.S. and between Japan and China as well.
From the above historical perspective, one may conclude that the current US-China problems are not rooted in any fundamental issue between the two nations. Hence they are solvable problems. On the other hand, the Japan-China relation was clearly hinged on a fundamental issue that Japan has always been targeting China like a prey. There is no good (honorable) reason for the U.S. to side with Japan to solve any problem in the US-China relation and there is no reason for China to hide her concern on the fundamental issue with Japan. To put this issue in the open is beneficial to the foreign policy makers in the U.S., Japan and China to develop their future foreign policies.