China has sent a stern message to Japan, warning it not to take “provocative” action around a group of disputed islets in the East China Sea. Raising the pitch, it …Read More
With the Asian continent in the midst of unprecedented economic growth, the need for developing infrastructure facilities has mounted beyond all expectations. As the two biggest Asian economies, China …Read More
Ending 70 years of pacifism, Japan’s parliament approved controversial security bills that will now enable Japan’s military to defend its allies overseas, a controversial move that would take it towards …Read More
Opinion is sharply divided on the nature and outcome of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. While many informed …Read More
As the cherry blossom season starts in East Asia, a perennial debate has been raked up, this time with an added claimant over the birthplace of the popular sakura (cherry) trees. A Chinese industrial group has asserted that it is the Middle Kingdom, not Japan (with which the flower is traditionally associated) or South Korea (which has often claimed that its Jeju Island is the place of origin).
Cherry blossoms have a unique place in the Japanese society, which has guarded its traditions (tea ceremony, flower arrangements, origami) closely in the face of onslaught of Westernization, especially since the US occupation post World War II. The period over which the trees blossom sees a spate of traditional activities and festivities (much like monsoons in India).
Given its revered place in Japan’s cultural system, and acerbic relationship with China on the cultural front, China’s attempt at appropriation of the cherry blossom is often taken as assault on national identity (imagine the backlash from India, if say Pakistan says that yoga has its roots on the other side of the border). Group identities are an integral part of our being in the world, and often intangibles (such as concepts of honor, apology, food), have a potent emotional resonance to rake up political storms. Call it flowering feuds if you like: cherry blossom wars are here to stay.
In what seems to be a promising development, China and Japan, the two leading Asian economies entangled in a festering territorial dispute, have held their first high level security talks in four years. The meeting in Tokyo signals the possibility of a thaw in strained relations between the two countries estranged by historical issues and perception of rivalry.
The meeting focused on improving the bitter relations and setting up a maritime communication hotline between the two countries. The meeting came ahead of a trilateral meeting between the foreign ministers of Japan, China and South Korea on March 21, in Seoul for the first time in nearly three years.
Both China and South Korea have historical issues relating to Japan’s militarist past of wartime aggression. The way ahead lies in finding some mode of grand reconciliation and facing up to the past while looking ahead to the future of possibilities.
The possible thaw in relations between China and Japan also bodes well for India, which is looking to forge multi-pronged relations with the world’s second and third largest economies on separate tracks.
Change seems to be afoot in China’s dealings with the world. At a major conference on foreign affairs in Beijing on November 28-29, President Xi Jinping called on his colleagues to create a “more enabling environment” for China’s development. Xi’s remarks are nuanced and balanced and seek to distance China from its brash and assertive posture which has generated considerable unease in the regions neighbouring China.
At another level, China is signalling that it is a big power and wants to be seen in a more benign light as one, rather than being feared and distrusted , as it is at present.
At a third level, it also reflects a Chinese understanding that despite its impressive capabilities, it is still a relatively passive power as is evident from the Chinese absence in dealing with any of the serious global crises like Ukraine, Syria or Afghanistan.
The first Xi-Abe meeting in Beijing on the sideline of APEC summit is the much needed constructive development in China-Japan relations which is navigating through one of the most difficult …Read More