During his visit to Japan on April 5, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel made some remarks about China that sounded contrary to the Chinese and American leaders’ proposal of building a new-type of major-country relationship. After saying that, as a “great power” China has “great responsibilities” he made an abrupt turn in rhetoric, declaring that he would raise with his Chinese hosts “respect for their neighbors.” “Coercion and intimidation is a very deadly thing. It leads only to conflict,” he said. Such remarks, a typical attack by innuendo, are obviously meant to support Japan’s attempt to sustain its claim on the Diaoyu Islands.
It seems that Mr. Hagel needs to learn more about China. Although Mr. Hagel in on Chinese soil at the time of writing of this article, it’s not too late. Since the topic arose from the Diaoyu Islands, I’d first like to say something about them.
Thanks to Chinese and Japanese leaders’ tacit agreement to shelve their differences, China and Japan had by and large got along peacefully for 40 years since they resumed normal diplomatic relations in the 1970s. The entire world witnessed how Japanese authorities provoked trouble by “nationalizing” the Diaoyu Islands in August 2012, and how the Shinzo Abe administration audaciously aggravated the dispute afterwards, which doesn’t need a recount here.
Should he have time, Mr. Hagel might as well acquaint himself with his history of international relations. On December 1, 1943, at a critical juncture when World War II was turning into a strategic counter-offensive, leaders of major allies in the world anti-fascist war – China, United States and Britain – convened in Cairo to discuss such significant topics as a war against Japan and arrangements for a post-war Japan, and later issued the Cairo Declaration. The Declaration announced in explicit terms that all the territories Japan had stolen from the Chinese, such as the northeast China provinces, Taiwan, and the Penghu Islands, should be restored to China; and Japan should also be expelled from all other territories that it had taken through violence and greed.
On July 26, 1945, allied countries issued the Potsdam Declaration, or Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender, reiterating that “the terms of the Cairo Declaration shall be carried out and Japanese sovereignty shall be limited to the islands of Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, Shikoku and such minor islands as we determine.” The declaration announced “there must be eliminated for all time the authority and influence of those who have deceived and misled the people of Japan into embarking on world conquest.”
It would be even better if Mr. Hagel could expose himself to some academic literature about the Diaoyu Islands’ historical status as Chinese territory, such as the corresponding book by famous Japanese historian Professor Inoue Kiyo.
Mr. Hagel may also want to see a movie. His American compatriot Chris D. NeBe made a documentary series titled “Mysterious China”, among which was “Diaoyu Island – The Truth”. The movie was produced by Monarex Hollywood Corporation and premiered in Los Angeles not long ago. The producer said during an interview that westerners are prejudiced against China due to a lack of knowledge about China. He said he wished to be able to reveal the truth: the Diaoyu Island is China’s and it has been for centuries. He wanted to convey to America a message: “America can quell the tension by encouraging its Japanese ally to return the Diaoyu Islands to China and apologize to the Chinese people for the war crimes of Imperial Japan.”
It’s perplexing that the current administration of Japan has again distorted Japan’s World War II record, whitewashing the country’s unseemly past. Can’t American military leaders, who are familiar with the painful “Pearl Harbor Attack”, draw a lesson from that devastating experience? There is an evident absence of control over Japanese right-wing forces in the present-day US-Japan relationship. In addition to giving free rein to the right-turning Japan, Americans are selling it advanced military equipment. Some may want to justify this with “conformity with US interests”. But the Chinese have a thought-provoking idiom – “to rear a tiger is to court calamity”.
It is reassuring that both Chinese and American leaders are now committed to formulating a new-type of major-country relationship. Mr. Hagel’s China trip should be an important part of it.
The Sino-US new-type of major-country relationship has been defined as one of no conflict, no confrontation, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation. The premise is mutual understanding.
Perhaps Mr. Hagel doesn’t know much about China. His visit to China is a process of learning about China, and thus a process of eliminating outdated stereotypes and biases. A person who knows China will naturally respect it, and hence win respect from the Chinese people. One can’t beg for respect. It should be two-way.
Mr. Hagel was invited to tour the Liaoning, China’s first and only aircraft carrier, immediately after getting off his plane. He certainly should have felt the Chinese side’s sincerity.
Mr. Hagel may have misunderstood China. China is a big country, and has significant responsibilities on its shoulders. No question about that. China is a responsible big country true to its words. This has the support of fact. That China has coordinated well with the United States in handling the nuclear issues of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Iran, and that China has been working diligently on world peace-keeping missions at the United Nations’ requests are only two examples of its loyalty to the international obligations it assumes.
China has consistently adhered to a policy of good-neighborliness and mutually beneficial cooperation that seeks friendship and partnership with neighboring countries, as well as the principles of equality and mutual trust, inclusiveness and learning from each other, and win-win cooperation. Mr. Hagel will surely feel this through his visit to China and through his increasing knowledge of the country. I wish his current China trip could provide positive energy to the formulation of the new-type major-country relationship between China and the United States.
Yu Sui is a Professor with the China Center for Contemporary World Studies.