Reconciliation between China and Japan: Short Paper
Note: All participants in this workshop were asked to respond briefly to the question: “In your opinion, what are the three most promising things that can be done to advance reconciliation between Japan and China, and why?” They were asked to list their three suggestions and to explain their choice of each.
- Recognize that reconciliation depends ultimately on civil society, not governments. This is not to avoid questions of state authority and capacity, but to specify the optimum conditions under which they may be activated. Governments have only acted to facilitate reconciliation in other cases where civil society actors have so transformed the public sphere as to create a structure of interests whereby state-managers perceive an interest of their own or no alternative. Accordingly, impediments to transnational civil society opinion formation and public influence on the informational miliieu relevant to reconciliation must be addressed. This includes recognition of government coercion and repression. Using methodologies developed for the mapping of global civil society, one preliminary research task is a mapping of transnational civil society networks involving China and Japan, their characteristics and strength over time, and historical contribution to reconciliation – positively or negatively.
- Recognize that the failure of reconciliation and its manipulation by governments is a threat to both national and human security within the region and beyond. Accordingly states and civil society outside the region have a right to demand changes within it. Failure of reconciliation between these two countries is a problem of global consequence. As a starting point researchers should document the costs and dangers to the rest of the world of this ongoing failure and blockage of change – both by economic analysis of benefits foregone and costs incurred, and by standard risk analysis of potential cascades of political, military, economic and cultural negative sequences. Such analyses should become the basis for regional and external civil society and state pressures on the governments of the two countries that their behaviour is a risk to the security of all.
- Recognize that the thwarting of reconciliation has been assisted and aggravated by both civil society actors and by national governments within the region and beyond. Accordingly researchers can contribute to reconciliation by documenting the historical and ongoing activities of the formateurs of a state of non-dialogue. This could include the activities of the Chinese government and its organs, the Japanese government and especially the Ministry of Education, nationalist groups operating through and on the LDP and comparable organisations and movements within China, and the wider framework of American hegemony both through the structuring of domestic political possibilities and active intervention to inhibit dialogue.
- Conversely start by documenting and publicising the positive initiatives and achievements of governments (including sub-national) and civil society in both countries over the past half century. Going further, actively look for and encourage initiatives from both, based where possible on an identification of overlapping interests in the amelioration if not resolution of the issue.
- Recognize that an effective politics of reconciliation cannot take place absent a widening and thickening of civil society relations between the two societies on all matters of social concern. China and Japan are no different from any two other neighbouring advanced countries where the component groups of civil society in fact share a number of sets of interests, especially in regard to global problems the causes of which are largely external to their societies but the results of which are only too evident locally. Accordingly movements for reconciliation will flourish when they exist within a wider context of normalised transnational civil society-based politics. This may appear to be putting the cart before the horse, but in fact it is not. Given the level of active blockage on the reconciliation issue, broadening the avenues of communication and bases for the formation of trust will buttress direct work on reconciliation. This is in large part a matter of social movements reframing their expected arenas of action and influence on a global and regional scale.
- My own very rough suggestion on one such matter is as follows:
- Where power and ethnicity overlap in international relations, sexuality will engage with both. Much has been written on the western version of this regarding “the Orient”. The same set of factors is relevant to relations between China and Japan. The damage this issue can cause can be seen in the explosive Chinese reaction to the Japanese corporate party over a number of days in September 2003 in a Guangdong hotel to which several hundred Chinese sex workers were brought to service visiting Japanese company workers. The fact that this took place on the 72nd anniversary of the Japanese invasion of Manchuria, with the inevitable reminders of wartime sexual slavery, increased the resonance.
- If one had to choose one single policy initiative by which the Japanese government could improve relations with China, it might well be to impose effective Japanese regulation on Japanese involved in the organization of sex tours outside the country, and prosecute such acts even when committed outside Japan. Even better, both in terms of the basic politics and the rapid expansion of Chinese international tourism, would be if both countries were to initiate such legislation controlling the activities of their citizens abroad.
- It would be relatively easy to form a coalition of civil society and state actors in the two countries, in concert with international groups and the United Nations, for example through the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and its Trafficking in Human Beings Initiative. The Japanese government has been involved in positive cooperation with the UN and other bodies on studies of trafficking, but while Japan is a signatory to the Protocol To Prevent, Suppress And Punish Trafficking In Persons, 2000, but has not yet ratified the Protocol. China has neither signed or ratified.
- The Australian legislation on prosecution of sex crimes against children by Australian citizens committed outside the country may well be a useful guide here. The point is to be seen by China to be willingly doing something of substance to the limits of practical possibility.