Abe’s ‘olive branch’ merely a gesture

Source:Global Times Published: 2013-1-24 0:23:01

Natsuo Yamaguchi, the leader of Japan's New Komeito Party, is paying a visit to China. He has delivered a letter from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Western media reports say that this represents "Japan holding out an olive branch to China." The question now is: Is it really an olive branch? What should the Chinese government do?

It seems that Yamaguchi came to China to bring some kind of secret message. However, behind him, Abe and Shigeru Ishiba, secretary-general of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party, have said in quick succession that the Diaoyu Islands dispute is non-negotiable. This means it's doubtful that the secret whispers brought by Yamaguchi are valuable.

The Abe administration may really wish to ease the relationship between China and Japan. Actually, China also has this wish. The problem is that Japan wants to continue to act recklessly on the Diaoyu Islands dispute while China cannot agree with this.

Many Western people have been surprised by the sharp confrontation between the two powers, China and Japan, over such a tiny uninhabited place. However, we have no choice because our neighbor even refuses to put the dispute aside. We have been pulled into this confrontation.

China would like to play down the conflict and tries to promote positive aspects of bilateral ties, but Tokyo has shown no signs of compromise. Even though Yamaguchi was sent by the Abe administration, the government won't move from its previous stance. It makes people doubt the intentions behind Japan's "olive branch." It isn't meant for China, but it's a gesture for the West. Tokyo might think the ball is now in China's court.

China should master flexible policies toward Japan as well. But fundamentally we have to bear in mind that no matter whether we adopt a friendly or confrontational policy toward our neighbor, national power backs China's stance. This is the only language Japan understands.

Japan must back off from its current stance over Diaoyu, or the conflict will continue. Though the Abe administration has voiced strong rhetoric, Chinese society has a much stronger public will when it comes to this issue than the Japanese. This pressing reality will sooner or later force Japan to move backward.

The conflict has incurred great costs to China. Through this round of conflict, Japan should be taught a lesson grave enough to prevent it from causing provocations for a long time. Sino-Japanese ties will eventually ease because China isn't interested in a lasting tussle with Japan. Tokyo will be at a more disadvantaged position when competing with China, but that result can only be made through tension, because this is the only method Japan will accept.

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