Today is the 81st anniversary of the September 18 Incident, which started Japan's invasion of China last century. Though the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression ended in 1945, the alarm has been raised again surrounding the recent escalation of the Diaoyu issue. Many are questioning whether another war will break out between China and Japan.
Both were major competitors in the West Pacific for several centuries. The catastrophe that started 81 years ago saw China suffer the worst humiliation by Japan. The huge power advantage has sustained Japan's contempt toward its neighbor. Even Tokyo's surrender didn't break its psychological advantage. For Japanese, China's victory was granted by the US and the Soviet Union.
The brief friendly momentum in the 1970s and 1980s has been interrupted as the two countries are involved in many disputes, such as those over history and territory. These concrete disputes seem to be the core of the current Sino-Japanese relationship.
The factor that affected this bilateral relationship is China's rise. China exceeded Japan swiftly in terms of GDP growth. Its military spending also surpassed that of Japan. Meanwhile, its nuclear power and space technology have supported China's strategic development. In theory, China could destroy Japan.
Japan has become worried about China's threat and the possibility of China's revenge. Its psychological vulnerability has been accumulating.
The controversies Japan raised over the Yasukuni Shrine, textbooks and the Nanjing Massacre have reflected Japan's gradual loss of confidence. Right wing politicians in Japan have advocated a hard stance toward China because they are concerned about China's rapid rise. Many Japanese reckon the current crisis over the Diaoyu Islands is the last chance for Japan to ignite China.
Looking back at the September 18 Incident, the most striking fact is the shifting balance of power of the two in 81 years. After overcoming great difficulties, China can strategically outcompete Japan. China doesn't need to take revenge on Japan. Enlarging the gap in strength is key to consolidating its strategic superiority over Japan. Japan is not scared of Chinese protesters or public opinion, but it would be dreadful for it if China continues to rise.
Demonstrations used to be one way that China dealt with invasion and provocations by other countries when it was a weak country. It is still the means through which Chinese show their patriotism. Perhaps we should gradually leave such means behind us, as China has grown powerful.
September 18 is the date of China's national humiliation. China must be strong and united to avoid any further humiliation. Otherwise, all the commemorative events today have no meaning.