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Date Posted: 23:30 23/02/2005

Two birds with one stone

China sets its diplomatic sights on the relationship between Taiwan and Japan

THE GREAT thing about the various diplomatic storms to have hit China in recent weeks – including the kerfuffle over the Diaoyu Islands, the imminent decision by the EU to relax its ban on arms sales, and the various aggressive noises coming from the United States about Beijing's growing military strength - is that they have allowed the Chinese authorities to kill several birds with one stone. The biggest birds are the perfidious Japanese and the treacherous so-called 'government' of the so-called 'Chen Shui-bian'.

Taiwan seems to be on its way to becoming the keystone of twenty-first century international geopolitics, and a crucial part the growing rivalry between the US and China that is likely to dominate the global stage for much of the rest of the century. The US opposes arms trading with China because it fears that the balance of power on the Taiwan Strait, which itself underwrites the uneasy status quo that has prevailed up to now, will be tipped irreversibly in favour of Beijing. Japan, naturally, is siding with the US, going as far as issuing a statement with Washington about their 'common strategic objective' regarding peace between China and Taiwan.

China effectively accused Taiwan of betraying the motherland when the Japanese government took over a lighthouse built by right-wing nationalists on the Diaoyu Islands during the Spring Festival. Taiwan approved the decision by Japan because it would 'allow negotiations about control over the Diaoyu Islands to proceed in a rational environment' and remove the right-wing nut-job elements from all future deliberations. However, Beijing ridiculed this position as an effective selling-off of national interests.

Chinese press articles have wasted no time in citing the opinions of noted Japanophile Lee Teng-hui, the former Taiwanese president, who told a Japanese newspaper in 2002 that the Diaoyu Islands belonged to Japan and that Taiwan only possessed 'fishing rights' around the islands.

In truth, the relationship between Japan and Taiwan is far more nuanced than the one with mainland China. Crucially, the Japanese occupation of Taiwan was far less brutal than in the rest of the 'East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere'. By now, their shared anxieties about Beijing's growing strength are obvious and natural.

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