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Will there be war over the Tiaoyutais?

Publication Date : 24-07-2012

 

Will there be war over the Tiaoyutais?

Is there going to be a war over the Tiaoyu Islands, which the Japanese call the Senkakus? According to a joint poll conducted by Taiwan's Want Want China Times Public Opinion Survey Center and China's “Global Times,” a little over half of the people on the Chinese mainland believe Beijing would resort to force of arms to protect its sovereignty over what is known as the Diaoyutai group of eight small uninhabited islets, only 120 miles northeast of Keelung, Taiwan's major international seaport in the north. Taiwan, China, and Japan have a sovereignty dispute over the small archipelago.

The results of the survey, published in Taipei by the China Times on last Thursday, show 52.1 per cent of the Chinese respondents believe the sovereign dispute may lead to war between China and Japan. Another 38.3 per cent say there will be no war, while the remaining 9 per cent have no opinion on the matter. In Taiwan, a 40-per cent plurality believe there won't be war, slightly over the 42.7 per cent who are convinced there will be, with the remaining 17.3 per cent answering that they don't know.

Asked whether there is an understanding or a tacit agreement or coordination between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to cope with Japan, a 64.3-per cent majority in mainland China are convinced it exists, while a 36.8-per cent plurality in Taiwan believe there isn't, followed at 27.5 per cent by those who think there is, while “don't know” answers represent 35.7 per cent. On the other side of the Strait, the same replies account for a mere 15.1 per cent, whereas those who say there isn't make up 20.6 per cent.

Should the two sides work together to solve the problem of the small island group? Supporters for cross-strait cooperation account for 85.3 per cent in the mainland and 51.5 pe rcent in Taiwan, against the non-supporters representing 8.8 per cent and 27.5 per cent, respectively.

On the question of “whatever means, including acts of warfare, have to be taken to defend the sovereignty over the Diaoyu or Tiaoyu Islands,” nine out of every 10 people in China, or 90.8 per cent say “yes” whereas a 41.2 per cent plurality of their counterparts in Taiwan agree with them. Those in Taiwan who say “no” are a 31.6-per cent minority, with the remaining 27.2 per cent expressing no opinion. The naysayers in China make up a mere 5.2-per cent minority, while 4 per cent have no opinion.

Which side of the Strait has a stronger stance on the small islets vis-a-vis Japan? A little more than half of the respondents in Taiwan, or 50.5 per cent, believe Beijing has, while 18.3 per cent are convinced that Taipei takes a stronger stance against Japan, 2.6 per cent say both Taipei and Beijing have an equally strong stance, and 1.5 per cent think neither has a strong stance. In the Chinese mainland, the figures are 16.4 per cent, 38.7 per cent, 23.6 per cent, and 7.6 per cent, respectively.

One thing is clear: Mainland Chinese are much more anti-Japanese and look forward much more eagerly than their brethren in Taiwan toward a small war — like the Mukden Incident of Sept. 19, 1931 or the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of July 7, 1927, albeit all of them know full well Japan, with the help of the United States, is most likely to win. The difference is understandable. The Chinese in the mainland suffered much worse at the hands of the Japanese in the two incidents, the latter of which lasted eight years and ended with the victory of the Allies at the end of the World War II, while the ethnic Chinese in colonial Taiwan have long forgotten the cruel Japanese suppression and oppression that followed the cession of the island to the Land of the Rising Sun.


The chances that there may occur armed conflict are rising as Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda declared a nationalisation of the land on three of the Senkaku islands which Governor Shintaro Ishihara of Tokyo is raising over 1.3 billion yen or US$18.6 million to purchase for his metropolis and a Chinese tycoon is applying to Beijing for developing a leisure resort on the disputed islets. Tong Zeng, chairman of the Zhong Xiang Investment Corporation and president of the Chinese People's League for the Protection of the Diaoyu Islands, has filed applications with Beijing's National Oceanic Bureau to lease the same islets for the development of the resort and is ready to send a survey team, probably almost at the same time an Ishihara mission will be visiting the islands next month. As part of his development project, Tong is applying to open a cruise route from Amoy in Fujian or Zhoushan in Zhejiang to the Diaoyutais.

There is one noteworthy finding in the joint poll. The people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait support cooperation in protecting their inherent territory of the Tiaoyutai or Diaoyutai archipelago. It's only natural that Taiwan's support is much less enthusiastic because a majority of the people are Japanophiles and yet one in two eligible voters supports cooperation between Taipei and Beijing in dealing with the Japanese on the Senkaku problem. Well, that may result from the “blood is thicker than water” kinship, but practically everybody is convinced that the Japanese simply have no justifiable claim to the Senkakus.

Of course, Taiwan's leaders, from President Ma Ying-jeou down, have vowed there won't be any cooperation or collaboration across the Strait. But it's possible that when an armed conflict occurs between China and Japan, Taiwan may just get involved to defend its sovereignty over the Tiaoyutais by accident. It won't be a premeditated cooperation or collaboration, though. It is hoped that neither Beijing nor Tokyo should continue to provoke each other into a small war by mistake.

 

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