AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 350

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Session 350: Foreign Relations in East Asia

Reaction to Popular Pressure or a Political Tool? Different Interpretations of China’s Policy Regarding Koizumi’s Visits to the Yasukuni Shrine
Karol Zakowski, University of Lodz, Poland

Visits to the Yasukuni Shrine became a symbol of the controversies between Japan and China during the premiership of Koizumi Jun’ichirō (2001-2006). While commentators in China accused Koizumi of glorifying militarism, Japanese politicians started perceiving China’s “exaggerated” reaction as a convenient diplomatic tool used by Beijing to apply pressure on Tokyo in other bilateral disputes. In the paper I will examine different points of view on the Yasukuni issue. Although it were the emotions that dominated the discourse on Yasukuni both in Japan and China, some pragmatic attempts to use this problem could still be seen. Because Koizumi’s visits to the shrine coincided with a generational change in the Communist Party of China, anti-Japanese manifestations could be utilized as an instrument of struggle between Jiang Zemin’s Shanghai group and the camp of younger politicians led by Hu Jintao. It is also true that in some cases popular protests against Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni were in line with China’s interests. The example of the demonstrations against the Japanese bid for permanent seat in the UN Security Council in Spring 2005 showed that Beijing was more willing to tolerate anti-Japanese incidents if they didn’t contradict China’s diplomatic goals. Besides being a side-effect of the nationalisms in both countries, the Yasukuni issue could be thus perceived either as a tool of factional struggle in CPC or as an instrument of Chinese foreign policy.

From Confrontation to Conciliation? Building Trust across the Taiwan Strait
Nien-chung Chang Liao, National Chengchi University, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

This article will employ reassurance theory to explore the question of how to build trust between the enduring rivals across the Taiwan Strait and suggest that major breakthrough in cross-Strait relations such as reaching a peace agreement are not possible without both sides reassuring each other through costly signaling. This article will tentatively assess a series of reassurances that Beijing and Taipei can undertake to foster trust. However, with the credibility problem inherent in the China’s political system, this article will suggest that Beijing should make more concessions than Taipei does and such a move will encourage Taipei to take bolder actions in spite of the domestic constraints under its own political system. This article will proceed as follows. The first section will introduce reassurance theory and explain how it helps states to overcome mistrust under international anarchy. The second section will describe the history of confrontation between Beijing and Taipei that has resulted in the current dilemma of trust across the Strait. The third section will explore a series of reassurances that Beijing and Taipei can enact for mutual confidence. The final section will conclude with some suggestions for the two sides to lay down a new foundation for the future of cross-Strait relations.

Spice Wars Revisited: US, China, Japan and the Competition for Rare Metals
Ming Hwa Ting, University of Adelaide, Australia

The periodic table contains chemical information about the properties of the 118 elements found on Earth today. However, apart from displaying the chemical properties of such elements, this paper argues that the periodic table can also be seen from a geopolitical perspective. This is due to the growing awareness among China, Japan, and the United States of the growing strategic importance of rare earth elements [REE]. Hence, rather than just displaying trends in chemical properties of the elements, the periodic table is now also displaying embryonic trends in inter-state competition for rare metals between them that has thus far remained in cognito. This is because this embryonic contest has remained in the shadow of the competition for more prominent natural resources such as oil, natural gas, and coal. However, states are now starting to recognize the increasingly vital part rare metals play in tomorrow’s high-tech and greening economy. It is therefore important for states to have a predictable supply of such natural commodities since any disruptions would have a direct and adverse impact on them. Hence, China, the United States and Japan are now actively implementing various measures to gain control of these strategic metals, thereby opening up a new front in their existing competition for natural resources.