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Author: Ed Griffith, University of Leeds
The Sino–Japanese relationship has been in something of a tailspin for some time now. Since the Noda administration nationalised three of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in September 2012, China and Japan have been at each other’s throats. The nationalisation sparked angry — sometimes violent — protests across China, while the political response was only slightly more measured. Increased activity of Chinese vessels and aircraft around the islands raised fears that a miscalculation could spark a conflict that nobody really wanted. This was underlined when a Chinese military vessel locked its radar onto a Japanese destroyer in the area in January 2013.
Thankfully, cool heads prevailed.
But this was not the end of the mutual provocations and recent months have witnessed a depressingly predictable reopening of old wounds. This has included a denial of the Nanjing Massacre by a board member of Japan’s national broadcaster. Most notably, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Yasukuni Shrine on 26 December 2013 — becoming the first serving prime minister to do so in more than seven years. The last prime minister to visit during his tenure was Junichiro Koizumi who paid six visits to the shrine in five years. This brought Sino–Japanese political relations at the highest level to a virtual halt.
These events are taking place against the backdrop of Japan’s increasingly assertive foreign policy discussion that inevitably raises concerns in China.
To seasoned observers of Sino–Japanese relations, this could easily feel like déjà vu. Abe was an ardent supporter of Koizumi’s visits to the shrine and perhaps the biggest surprise is that he did not visit during his first spell in office after succeeding Koizumi in 2006. Similarly, the other historical slights are nothing new; diplomatic ‘slips of the tongue’ have dogged Japan’s relations with its neighbours for decades. The latest round of the Senkaku/Diaoyu dispute certainly looks serious, but so did many of the other incarnations of this thorn in the side of bilateral relations. From the fleet of armed Chinese fishing ships that approached the islands in 1978, to the lighthouse incident of 1996, and the more recent boat ‘collision’ of 2010, this issue has never gone away.
If the issues are not new, then neither is the pessimistic and occasionally hysterical tone of much of the commentary that has accompanied them. Predictions that the two countries were preparing for war in 2013 plainly did not come to pass. Still, just weeks into 2014 there are similar warnings circulating, including from a senior figure in the US Navy. Such predictions are understandable — they fit much of the short-term evidence and the academic discipline of international relations is so preoccupied with military conflict that it looks for it wherever relationships do not run smoothly — but they are consistently wide of the mark. The resilience of the Sino–Japanese relationship and its ability to withstand seemingly intolerable levels of discord should not be underestimated. It is easy to find possible causes of a conflict between China and Japan, but it is substantially more difficult to find evidence that senior decision-makers on either side would allow that to come to pass.
China’s increasingly assertive activity in the East China Sea and its declaration of the Air Defence Identification Zone are clearly matters of concern for anyone who cares about regional stability. Similarly, the increased willingness of leading Japanese figures to engage in insensitive acts and undiplomatic language over the thorny issue of history while continuing to push for constitutional reform can only further antagonise a sensitive China. So we should not dismiss recent events as just another round of Sino–Japanese cyclical tension.
China’s reaction to Abe’s Yasukuni visit might have appeared relatively restrained, but China reacted in much the way that it always has on this issue: with rhetorical indignation from relatively low level foreign ministry spokespeople and critical commentary in official media. The real cost to Abe of his shrine visit was to break what appeared to have become an institutionalisation of prime ministers staying away from the shrine. This certainly will harm his ability to conduct relations with Japan’s neighbours — in particular China — in any worthwhile manner for the remainder of his tenure.
Still, one of the most remarkable aspects of the damage done to the bilateral relationship by the Yasukuni issue under Koizumi was just how quickly it was repaired once he was out of office.
It certainly feels like Japan and China have been here before, but that is because they have. We should not casually dismiss the current situation as a storm in a teacup, but it benefits nobody — least of all China and Japan — to overplay the potential for the situation to spiral further.
Ed Griffith is a postgraduate research student at the University of Leeds, UK and a fellow of the White Rose East Asia Centre.
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Abe’s Chinese diplomacy déjà vu
Author: Paul Gillis, Peking University
The US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) administrative trial judge banned the Chinese member firms of the Big Four accounting firms from practice before the SEC in a bold ruling on 22 January. This move could lead to significant difficulties for US-listed Chinese companies and multinational corporations with operations in China.
Chinese companies have flooded US stock markets over the past decade, as China’s immature financial markets were unable to meet the capital needs of its rapidly growing entrepreneurial sector. Many of these companies faced allegations of fraud and malfeasance, leading to numerous attacks by short-selling research firms. The SEC’s efforts to investigate alleged frauds and the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s (PCAOB) move to inspect the work of auditors met resistance from Chinese regulators who considered allowing foreign regulators to enforce foreign law against Chinese persons on Chinese soil to be an unacceptable impingement on its national sovereignty.
Stymied in its efforts to obtain access to the people and records of alleged frauds, the SEC turned to the auditors. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act required auditors to cooperate with the SEC, and the SEC requested that they turn over the working papers that were created as part of the audit process. The auditors refused, citing Chinese regulations they said forbid them from sharing working papers with foreign regulators. The restrictions on sharing working papers with foreign regulators were rooted in China’s vague — but expansive — restrictions on disclosure of state secrets. In December 2012, the SEC brought administrative charges against the Chinese members of the Big Four firms, together with a local member firm of BDO. In a strongly worded 112-page decision, the judge imposed a six-month ban on the Big Four practicing before the SEC. BDO’s member firm was only admonished, mainly because it has withdrawn from the market.
The PCAOB was formed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to regulate auditors of US-listed companies. Central to the PCOAB’s function is the inspection of auditors to ascertain whether they are following the auditing standards that the PCAOB have set. China has blocked the PCAOB from conducting inspections of Chinese accounting firms, including the Chinese member firms of the Big Four, on grounds of national sovereignty. Instead, China wants the US to follow the practice of the EU and grant regulatory equivalency, which would allow US regulators to treat the work of Chinese regulators as if it were their own. The SEC and PCAOB do not recognise regulatory equivalency. The PCAOB offered to conduct inspections jointly with Chinese regulators, which the Chinese have rejected.
There was a breakthrough in US–China regulatory relations in May 2013 when the PCAOB reached a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Chinese regulators to share documents in connection with the PCAOB’s investigations. Investigations are a small part of the work of the PCAOB, which focuses primarily on inspections. No progress was made in allowing the PCAOB to commence its core function of inspections. The MOU also restricted the PCAOB’s ability to share documents it obtained with the SEC. Audit documents began to flow to the PCAOB and the SEC following the MOU, although they were subject to an extensive redaction process to make certain that no state secrets were disclosed. The PCAOB has continued negotiations to obtain access for inspections. For the SEC, the MOU did not fill its need for unfettered access to source documents in order to enforce US securities laws.
The Big Four have announced their intent to appeal the decision, which is likely to indefinitely delay its implementation. Meanwhile, members of the PCAOB have indicated they cannot negotiate forever on access for inspections. Absent a breakthrough, there is a risk that Chinese auditors, including the Chinese member firms of the Big Four will be banned from auditing US-listed companies. That would likely lead to Chinese companies being kicked off of US exchanges and could cause serious difficulties for multinational corporations with significant Chinese operations.
A solution to this crisis is only likely through diplomacy. Regulators on both the US and Chinese sides have probably made all of the concessions they are able to make. China’s leaders need to decide whether they wish that Chinese companies could continue to access US capital markets. Longer term, China’s own domestic capital markets will be best suited to meet the capital needs of China’s private sector. But those markets need another decade to develop before they will have the depth and expertise to do this, and in the interim Chinese companies will need to continue to tap foreign capital markets. Agreeing to foreign regulation as a condition of access to foreign markets should not be considered an affront to national sovereignty.
Paul Gillis is Professor of Accounting at the Guanghua School of Management, Peking University.
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The US and China square off over cross-border listings
The United States’ top diplomat on East Asia has suggested China’s wide-ranging territorial claims in the South China Sea do not comply with international law and should be clarified or adjusted.
China claims nearly the entire 3.5-million square kilometer South China Sea, by virtue of what it sees as its historical rights within the so-called nine-dash line. Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also claims parts of the region.
In congressional testimony…
US Official to China: Clarify or Adjust South China Sea Claims
Author: Kishore Mahbubani, NUS
In 2019, barely five years away, the world will pass one of its most significant historical milestones. For the first time in 200 years, a non-western power, China, will become the number-one economy in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms. America will become number two. Yes, it will take longer for China’s economy to overtake America’s in nominal terms but the trend line is irresistible. And in PPP terms, China’s economy could be twice that of America’s by 2030.
The big question for our time therefore is this: is America ready to become number two? Sadly, it is not, even though Bill Clinton wisely tried to wake up his fellow Americans as far back as 2003. In a very subtle speech at Yale, he asked whether ‘we should be trying to create a world with rules and partnerships and habits of behaviour that we would like to live in when we’re no longer the military political economic superpower in the world’.
Unfortunately, Bill Clinton was too subtle. He was trying to hint to his fellow Americans that America should create a model of rules-based behaviour that would then serve as a model for China when it emerged as the number-one power in the world. His hint was ignored. Hence, few Americans today are aware that America’s national interests change dramatically when it becomes number two in the world. When it is number one, it is in America’s interests to see that the number-one power has complete freedom to do whatever it wants to do. When it is number two, it is not in America’s interests to see that the number-one power has complete freedom to do whatever it wants to do. Catch the difference?
Why have American leaders failed to prepare the American population for this significant change of interests? There are at least three reasons. Firstly, it is political suicide for any American politician in office to speak on America as number two. No serving American politician can use the words, ‘If America is number two’ or ‘When America becomes number two’. In the land of free speech, there is no effective freedom for serving politicians to speak undeniable truths.
Secondly, most American intellectuals continue to indulge in wishful thinking. In their minds, there is a deep ideological conviction that democracy represents the future and Communism represents the past. Since China is still run by the Chinese Communist Party, it can only represent the past, not the future. Many American intellectuals also believe that since they live in the world’s freest society, they cannot possibly be prisoners of any ideology. This is massive self-deception. When it comes to understanding China, Americans have allowed ideology to trump mountains of empirical data. This is why they cannot even conceive of China becoming number one.
Thirdly, and very sadly, China’s emergence is taking place at a moment of great political paralysis and disunity in the American body politic. If Nixon and Kissinger were managing American foreign policy today, they would have focused on the most critical challenge that America faces and found ingenious ways and means of implementing the wise advice that Bill Clinton offered in 2003 and prepared for a new geopolitical environment. The days of wise foreign policy management are long gone in Washington DC. Furthermore, with Washington DC being completely divided and polarised, the challenge of dealing with becoming number two is the last thing on the minds of American policymakers.
Sadly, the last thing on the minds of American policymakers will come true in five years. Will America wake up to this new reality before or after it happens?
Kishore Mahbubani is Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore. He is the author of The Great Convergence: Asia, the West and the Logic of One World. This article was first published here on The World Post.
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When America becomes number two
Author: Ron Huisken, ANU
The first pivot to Asia in recent times was an intellectual one in the years immediately following the end of the Cold War. When the academic and policy world pondered an international landscape devoid of the superpower standoff, two points of strong consensus emerged fairly quickly. First, the end of the Cold War made the world much safer. Second, within this generally positive assessment, East Asia loomed as the region likely to experience both the strongest economic growth and the greatest relative turbulence on the security front. The features of East Asia in the early 1990s that drove this consensus included the coincidence of rising and declining powers, an abundance of outstanding border and/or sovereignty disputes, a welter of still-intense historical animosities, and a weak to non-existent regional propensity to address issues collegiately in multilateral forums.
It may have been academe’s finest hour. Over the past 25 years, East Asia has realised expectations that it would become the world’s new economic centre of gravity. Economic interdependence developed strongly and generated compelling instincts of common interests and regional cohesion. These positive forces were supplemented by a consistent endeavour to develop stronger multilateral processes. In fact, however, these transformational developments have also led to, or been accompanied by, an intensifying disquiet on the strategic and security front that, in the broadest sense, is proving to be the equal of the forces pulling the region together.
Broad net assessments of disparate constructive and disruptive forces are fraught with risk. One suspects, however, that most observers today would be inclined toward the judgement that, at best, East Asia has managed a draw over the past 25 years: one does not have the sense that East Asia today is characterised by expectations of peaceful change that are either alarmingly weaker or encouragingly stronger than was the case in the early 1990s. In short, we are not winning.
The US–China relationship lies at the heart of this issue. If this relationship continues to slip toward mutually accepted adversity and antagonism, it can be expected to decisively darken the outlook for East Asia and, indeed, beyond. The debate on order and stability in East Asia since the mid-1990s has taken as given that the United States and China would have to arrive at a new accommodation of some kind. For too long, however, the mainstream debate was conducted with this accommodation as a future prospect. A great deal of that accommodation was natural and has already occurred. China’s influence and authority has blossomed, closely tracking its spectacular economic and trade performance. And this process still has some distance to travel, perhaps another 25 years, before we again see relative stability in the economic weight of the major players. By that time, China will be easily the largest economy in the world, with only India having even the potential to match it.
It seems clear that both the United States and China have been conscious that some overt management of their intersection in East Asia would sooner or later be prudent. China, having the momentum of the rising power, has naturally preferred to deflect and defer US endeavours to strive for more explicit understandings, the Bush administration’s 2005 ‘responsible stakeholder’ proposal being a case in point. The United States has found it difficult to step away from the vision it has of its role in East Asian affairs, notwithstanding the devastating trilogy of events — 9/11, regime change in Iraq and the global financial crisis — that so diminished its poise, confidence and capabilities. Equally, China has found it hard to sustain its preferred image of a new model major power devoid of hegemonic aspirations and committed to stability and reassurance, succumbing periodically to the temptations to use its newly acquired power and influence to accelerate the acquisition of more.
Peering into the gloom of the immediate future does not offer strong reassurance. It could be argued that there has been some stepping back as regional states sought to defuse the rash of disturbing developments that unfolded over the period 2009–12. It has to be acknowledged, however, that this was only the latest, albeit the worst, period of deterioration in regional order since the end of the Cold War. We cannot easily dismiss the possibility that this is not a dependable turn for the better but at best a pause in what could become a prolonged phase in which regional affairs are dominated by geopolitical competition between the United States and China.
US–China competition in the regional security arena certainly appears to be increasingly unstable. Moreover, the countervailing forces embodied in economic interdependence may have peaked and could weaken appreciably over time, under the combined pressure of a more complex regulatory environment and the continuing high risk of loss of intellectual property. Political and strategic actors in the region have been at pains to signal their awareness of the ominous historical record when dealing with transformations like that underway in the region and their confident determination to preclude any replays. The region’s statesmen would be well advised to regard strengthening the foundations of that confidence as unfinished business.
Ron Huisken is an Adjunct Associate Professor at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University. This article is based on the author’s introduction to the CSCAP Regional Security Outlook 2014. The full document can be viewed here.
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Peering into the gloom of East Asia’s future
Author: Jochen Prantl, ANU
On 1 December 2013, Australia took over the 2014 presidency of the G20, succeeding Russia and preceding Turkey.
Under the troika arrangement, the immediate past, present and subsequent chairs are expected to coordinate closely in providing continuity to the G20 process. Australia, Russia and Turkey are faced with a lot of unfinished business. Most importantly, the IMF is still awaiting the doubling of its capital; with most of its resources tied up in the euro zone, there would not be adequate resources to respond to a potential major financial crisis elsewhere. Furthermore, IMF governance reforms agreed to at the G20 London summit in April 2009 will not be implemented until the US Congress approves them. New momentum is needed to push governance reforms to a successful conclusion. In a nutshell, Australian diplomacy is challenged to demonstrate that it is able and willing to cooperate with emerging powers inside and outside the G20 troika.
Australia needs to learn the new rules of the 21st-century multilateralist game in order to master the tall agenda of the G20. This will be a litmus test for its relevance in global and regional governance. If the G20 wanes, Australia will lose its primary permanent multilateral forum for the exercise of global influence.
Canberra’s diplomatic approach to recent crises — for example, its handling of revelations that Australian intelligence services tapped the phone of the Indonesian president and his inner circle, as well as its handling of China’s declaration of an East China Sea air defence identification zone — suggests that there is significant room for improvement in engaging major non-Western countries. At the heart of the problem are assumptions about the continuity of an Anglo Saxon-led Western liberal order that seem to inform Australian approaches to diplomacy. However, with global power and production shifting to the East, it is important to appreciate that multilateralism and transnational diplomacy are no longer exclusively centred on and underwritten by US hegemony.
Especially after the 2008 global financial crisis, shifts in the distribution of power have not only led to a diffusion of power but also to a diffusion of principles, preferences, ideas and values. Post-World War II-style multilateralism is now heavily contested. Contestation is part and parcel of collective action. A good multilateralist must therefore have a strategy to win the discourse that champions one path of collective action over another, that generates authority to enforce a particular collective action outcome and makes the outcome acceptable to a wider audience. There is a strong tendency among Western powers to engage in self-centred collective action, driven by the expectation that liberal rules and standards will ultimately prevail.
The BRICS countries are extremely concerned about the delay in implementing G20 decisions to strengthen the representativeness of the IMF. Although Brazil, China, Russia and India agreed to become key contributors to the Fund’s emergency loan pool (the New Arrangements to Borrow, or NAB) after the global financial crisis and now provide 15.5 per cent of NAB resources, the promises of greater voice and voting power have not been delivered. Emerging countries have three basic choices. First, they can directly confront Western liberal ordering, which they haven’t done thus far. Second, they can contest liberal ordering by constructing governance signposts outside the Western liberal institutional architecture, which can be transformed into real institutional alternatives, if needed. The BRICS’s decision to establish a development bank points in this direction. And third, the BRICS can assume the role of ‘responsible stakeholders’, as frequently demanded by leading Western countries. Yet, this would require that countries agree on the terms and conditions of ‘responsibility’. Looked at from the perspective of the BRICS countries, the 2008 global financial meltdown is a clear indication of the ideological crisis of Western capitalism within which non-Western countries have had only limited stakes. Hence, ‘responsibility’ for collective action constitutes a two-way track, and must be based upon a shared vision and a new bargain between Western liberal powers and emerging countries.
In sum, the G20 needs to begin a new quest for authority in achieving effective multilateralism, addressing three central questions. What are the sources of power necessary to effectively address collective action problems? How can compliance with collective action outcomes be accomplished? Which processes are necessary to make those outcomes acceptable to a wider audience? There is no one-size-fits-all strategy for effective multilateralism. As it stands, Western G20 diplomacy operates on terms that seem to resemble 19th-century American poet Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself: ‘I celebrate myself, and sing myself, / And what I assume you shall assume …’ Multilateralism clearly needs a change of tune. Western terms and conditions cannot simply be extended to and imposed upon emerging powers. Australia’s geography and heritage put the country in a unique position to build bridges between Western countries and emerging powers. Learning alternative forms of multilateralism in order to manage shifts in the distribution of power and production is the key challenge of peaceful order transition in the early 21st century.
Jochen Prantl is Associate Professor in International Relations at the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies, The Australian National University.
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Australia learns how to be a good multilateralist
Author: Chit Win, ANU
The confused usage of ‘Myanmar’ and ‘Burma’ helps to portray some of the uncertainty surrounding Myanmar’s development in 2013, and was most obviously on display during the visits of President Thein Sein and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to Australia at the beginning and end of the year.
The Australians had a hard time getting used to the term ‘Myanmar’, having switched from ‘Burma’ in 2012. ‘Burma’ did occasionally slip out, though they tried hard to stick with the change. During Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit, meanwhile, the Australians again tried not to offend, opting for ‘Myanmar also known as Burma’. Yet the opposition leader seemed to get particularly frustrated by this, at one point responding bluntly that for her it is still ‘Burma’, at least until the people decide otherwise.
So how do we decipher the past year of transition in Myanmar? The reform commitments of Thein Sein’s government have finally earned international recognition, yet the international community is still very much hoping for a day when Aung San Suu Kyi leads the country. For now, regional actors are working closely with the president to help Myanmar escape from its political and economic troubles.
Much has happened in Myanmar in 2013. There are many positive developments, such as the constitutional review process, a possible country-wide ceasefire that could eventually lead to peace talks, and an inflow of multi-billion dollar foreign direct investment for local infrastructure projects. Thein Sein’s visit to the White House in May, Myanmar’s assumption of the ASEAN chairmanship for 2014 and its hosting of the Southeast Asian Games have also boosted the country’s profile. Taken together, these developments put Myanmar in a respectable position in the region. Most remarkably, Myanmar’s transparency rating has also risen. But there are other factors undermining these changes, such as the ongoing Kachin conflict, the recent attack on protesters at a copper mine in northern Myanmar, and communal violence in Rakhine and Meikhtila states, which have all cast a dark shadow on the country’s reform agenda.
Unlike other transitions around the world, Myanmar instigated its reform process through a ‘triple transition’ — in the political, economic and national reconciliation domains — and no one element is any less important than the other. Myanmar still has much to learn from the failures and experiences of other countries, and has not managed to avoid challenges such as land scandals or a clash of the executive and legislative branches — or the rise of ultra-nationalism as a side-effect of transition. But these may just be the challenges the country has to go through in order to make Myanmar — especially its government, political stakeholders and the people — mature and worthy of tasting the fruits of transition.
Looking over the horizon, Myanmar will likely start to emerge politically and economically in 2014, but not without confronting considerable growing pains. Whether or not Aung San Suu Kyi is eligible to become the country’s next president will not be the litmus test for Myanmar’s reform, but rather how she responds if it does not turn out according to her expectations. Securing country-wide peace may be achievable, but it may also be a situation where the country muddles through as everybody, including the international community, tries to take credit. Ethnic parties are gearing up for the 2015 election, but they have forgotten how their ethnic credentials can easily be compromised by Aung San Suu Kyi’s charismatic figure. On the other hand, not everyone continues to hold Aung San Suu Kyi in the same regard, as she has now become a political player, and a polarising one at that. The stakes are also getting higher as the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party decides on its presidential candidate. In the meantime, much of the country’s non-humanitarian aid assistance is being directly or indirectly channelled toward supporting the 2015 election as a free and fair contest. Everyone has their own agenda.
At least there is one thing that Myanmar can be really proud of. In contrast to its continued below-average performance in the ‘Corruption Perception Index’, it has been named the second-most generous country in the world after the United States, according to the ‘World Giving Index’ 2013. Myanmar holds the position along with Canada and New Zealand, and is ranked far ahead of its peers in the Asian region. Now it must weasel out the corruption that has found a way to sneak into Myanmar’s charitable culture.
Chit Win is a PhD candidate at the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University.
This article is a part of an EAF special feature series on 2013 in review and the year ahead.
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Growing pains ahead for Myanmar
Author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International
On 23 November, China announced the establishment of its East China Sea Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ). The policy, its announcement, and the prompt and selective nature of its implementation bear many of the quintessential hallmarks of Chinese statecraft.
The policy is intended to deliver a shock to the adversary — that being Japan in this case. Although Beijing avers that the ADIZ was drawn with no target country in mind, the zone only marginally overlaps with Taiwan’s and South Korea’s ADIZs (the Korean ADIZ overlap area has since been enlarged by Seoul). No Chinese military aircraft has yet flown into these overlapping zones. By contrast, Chinese surveillance aircraft have flown across the breadth and (most of the) length of the overlapping portion of Tokyo’s ADIZ.
The policy is intended to be a political rejoinder (in an escalating series) to an immediate provocation — the alteration of the status quo by the Noda government’s private purchase of three Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in September 2012. The purchase was officially frowned upon by even Japan’s chief ally, the United States. That Chinese coast guard vessels have also asserted an operational presence in the Senkaku/Diaoyu territorial sea 72 times since the islands’ purchase suggests that Beijing will persist in fanning the flames of a fire that it did not light.
The Abe government would be well-advised to not pursue the proposed ‘maritime communications mechanism’ arrangement for the time being, given the frigid state of bilateral ties. It isn’t a coincidence that ground was broken towards devising this arrangement during the Fukuda and Hatoyama years — the only two Japanese governments perceived as Beijing-friendly over this past decade. As China’s recent Border Defence Cooperation Agreement with India bears out, a period of political quiet and trust needs to be engendered prior to resumption of high-level discussions on confidence-building measures.
China’s policy is intended to provoke a reaction, and a self-defeating one at that. And Japan, by barring its airline companies from notifying Chinese authorities of flights traversing the new zone’s overlapping portion — even as American, South Korean and Taiwanese commercial air-traffic are complying — has played into China’s hands. Over time, its relative isolation on this point will only become clearer. The Abe government’s instruction is also inconsistent with Japan’s own notification policy. Tokyo’s ADIZ overlaps with the Taipei Flight Information Region (FIR), much like China’s ADIZ overlaps with the Japanese FIR. And like China, Japan too has required since 2009 that all commercial traffic traversing the overlapping section to onward destinations in north-eastern China notify their flight plans to Japanese authorities.
The post-September 2012 Chinese pressure on the Senkaku/Diaoyu has ironically been a blessing in disguise for Japan’s other neighbours, as Tokyo has played nice to deflect the possibility of a hostile united front on jurisdiction-related matters. Seoul has recently accomplished what it had unsuccessfully sought since 1963: Tokyo’s acquiescence to the enlargement and overlap of its ADIZ; and, Taipei, what 16 rounds of talks with Tokyo since 1996 had failed to achieve: a jointly administered fisheries zone in the Senkaku/Diaoyu waters.
China’s policy is intended to fully comport with international practice — albeit with an element of the extra-legal. An ADIZ is set up under a given nation’s domestic laws, not international law, and serves as a defensive perimeter beyond territorial airspace to monitor incursions by suspicious aircraft. It does not connote claim to territory; that claim exists separately — much like Japan’s claims to Dokdo/Takeshima and the Kuril Islands/Northern Territories exist separately.
China’s Survey and Mapping Law of 2002, promulgated in the wake of the 2001 EP-3 incident, identifies the limits of Beijing’s sovereignty in the skies to its 12 nautical mile territorial airspace. As such, the unspecified ‘defensive emergency measures’ in China’s ADIZ notification is for all practical purposes envisaged to intercept and escort suspicious, non-military air targets beyond the national airspace that are deemed to be a threat during peacetime. That said, incorporating the skies over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands within its alert zone is a show of exceedingly poor form on Beijing’s part. No other country in the region extends its ADIZ to cover disputed territory that it fails to effectively control.
The policy treads along a furrowed path long ploughed by adversaries — timed to unsettle the strategic environment. It is inconsistent of Japan to decry China’s notification for its unilateralism and abruptness when its own ADIZ (along with that of South Korea and Taiwan) was notified without prior consultation in the early-1950s. Tokyo’s ADIZ does not limit itself to the median line in the East China Sea either. In 2010, Japan’s modification of the Japan-Taiwan ADIZ separation line over Yonaguni Island was brought into force on roughly two days’ notice — similar to that which Beijing allegedly provided to Seoul (of course, Tokyo was left uniformed).
As to China’s timing, the extension of PLAAF patrols beyond the territorial sea in the Taiwan Straits (following Lee Teng-hui’s presidential election in 1996) and up to the median line in 1999 (following Lee’s ‘two states’ comment) suggests that a political — not military — calculus of deterrence informs China’s ADIZ policy.
Going forward, three things need to happen.
Foremost, it is imperative that all non-commercial, manned Chinese aircraft refrain from entering the territorial airspace over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands. The danger and fallout from a collision is real and present. Equally, the Abe government must vigilantly ensure that the status quo on the islands is not disturbed as it enters an active phase of national security policymaking, which includes solidifying the defence of its outlying territories. Second, China must make every effort to establish protocols with neighbouring militaries on ADIZ enforcement — either tacitly on the lines of its practices with the Taiwanese air force in the Straits or explicitly on the lines established mutually between the South Korean and Japanese militaries. Finally, when China does notify its ADIZs in the Yellow and the South China Seas to protect its (current and future) home-ported aircraft carriers, China must make every effort to consult with adjacent and interested littorals.
Ultimately, it rests on Abe’s shoulders to make a best endeavour effort towards admitting a dispute or, at minimum, admitting the contestable legitimacy of Beijing’s claim to the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands if this latest chapter of Sino-Japanese tensions is to be closed.
Sourabh Gupta is Senior Research Associate at Samuels International Associates Inc., Washington DC.
Resolving the phony battle of the competing ADIZs
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