Japan claims that since 1885, Japan has surveyed the Senkaku Islands and determined that the islands were indeed uninhabited and clearly not under the influence of China. Therefore, Japan formally incorporated the islands into Japanese territory by erecting a territorial marker on the islands. Since then, the Senkaku Islands remained an integral part of Japanese territory as part of the Nansei Shoto Islands. Japan argues that since the Senkaku Islands were not under Chinese control, they were not “seized” during the Sino Japanese War. This means that they were exempt from the Cairo and Potsdam Declarations that required Japan to return all territories that it has seized from China.
Japan further claims to have maintained sovereign title to the islands ever since and the islands weren’t an integral part of neither the Treaty of Shimonoseki nor the declarations signed during and shortly after the end of World War II (the Wartime declarations). Treaty law is therefore irrelevant to the sovereignty issue, according to the Japanese stance. The stances by the PRC and the ROC are fundamentally the same since they share a common history. The stances deviate only in relation to events that occurred after 1949. The Chinese stance is also based on the mode of occupation, they claim to have discovered and named the islands prior or during the Ming dynasty (1368- 1644) and then treated the islands in accordance with the international law requirements of occupation until the signing of the Treaty of Shimonoseki on April 17, 1895, through which the islands were ceded to Japan. According to the Chinese stance, the islands were lawfully Japanese from 1895 until 1945 when Japan formally surrendered. This document of surrender incorporated two other Wartime declarations, which obliged Japan to return sovereignty of the islands to China, according to the Chinese stance (Berg, 2014).
The Japanese claim is additionally strengthened by the fact that they appear to have the stronger argument in relation to every unclasping legal issue. The first such issue discussed was whether China ever acquired sovereignty. The difficulty of this analysis is that the international law requirements of occupation during the relevant time haven’t been sufficiently established. As (Berg, 2014) have opinion that a conservative approach, wherein mere visual discovery isn’t enough to establish sovereign title, is more reasonable and therefore, China has a weak case under international law. However, should the political realities of East Asia be taken into account in this evaluation, China has a stronger case. The second issue discussed was through which mode Japan acquired sovereignty. Regarding this matter the (Berg, 2014) have opinion that it cannot be deduced from the Treaty of Shimonoseki that the disputed islands where an integral part. Moreover the Japanese process of incorporation, as deceitful as it may have been, can hardly make the incorporation invalid. The third issue discussed was whether the Wartime declarations obliged Japan to return the islands to China and therefore made them lawfully Chinese. Regarding this matter, the author is of the opinion that such a stance cannot be supported since neither of these declarations where meant to deal with sovereignty of the islands.
After years of negotiations, Japan and China reached a “Principled Consensus on the East China Sea Issue,” which included provisions for the joint development of offshore oil and gas. Although this was considered a landmark agreement, GuoRongxingargued that it did not resolve the wider conflict over territorial disputes. Rongxing stated, “international conflict is due to a perpetually self-reinforcing dynamic: one side responds to the other’s last provaction with a new provocation of its own”(Rongxing, 2010).
According to Japan “there is no doubt that the Senkaku Islands are clearly an
inherent part of the territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law. Indeed, the Senkaku Islands are under the valid control of Japan. There exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved concerning the Senkaku Islands” (VISKUPIC, 2013).
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe worked to repair relations under a “mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.” (Hornung, 2014)
Towards the end of the 20th century observers noticed that Japan began seeking a prominent role on the global stage for political and security issues; and particularly in East Asia, fuelled in part by a new crop of Japanese leadership feeling more assured of the need for Japan to have a more strategic influence in international affairs. (Green, 2000) Indeed, some analysts considered the setbacks Japan suffered during the early 1990s as somewhat temporary (Brown, 2007). It should be remembered that eminent scholars considered the economic meltdown experienced by Japan and East Asia at the time threatened the global economy (Thurow, 2000). Against this backdrop are views that China remains on a quest to overlook Asia the way the US dominates the Western Hemisphere, as well as, this has intensified since the early days of the 21st Century (Mearsheimer, 2005). Yet, some writers have sought to downplay such perception of China by arguing that rise of China, in so far as Japan is concerned, is more of an intellectual challenge rather than a strategic threat (Shih, 2011).
Furthermore, Prime Minister Abe Shinzo pushed Japan’s military standeization more than any other Japanese government and Japanese planner expressed that normalization of Japan would permit Japan to give more to the US-Japan alliance, protect US advance bases, and forward- deployed forces in Asia. This policy change heightened China’s fear because under the new constitution, Japan could come to the aid of allied forces under attack even if Japan itself is not a target. Furthermore, on April 27, 2015, after 18 years first time, Japanese government declared a new defense rules with the US. According to this new rules, the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) expanded their role to global and regional security and reinforced their cooperation with the US on nautical crises and disputes. After the unveiling of the new guideline, Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman GengYansheng said that “we are very concerned about the new U.S.-Japan defense cooperation guidelines and high ranking officials’ comments on China” and stressed that the US-Japan alliance “should not go beyond its bilateral scope or undermine third parties’ interests” (Dimond, 2014).
Japanese purchased three islands
In September 2012, the Japanese government purchased three islands of Senkaku/Diaoyu from right wing of Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, private owner, claimed that state ownership would be less provocative to Beijing. This purchase provoked nationalist sentiment over the islands again in China. On August 15, 2012, a group of Hong Kong activists with two national flags of the PRC and one Chinese flag sailed to one of the disputed islands and landed on the island.
Though, the Chinese government did not support this group of activists, it allowed its official media, CCTV, to provide live coverage of the whole landing process. The report incited nationalist sentiment nationwide and caused street protests in 85 cities that called for a boycott against Japanese products during the weekend of September. On December 13 2012, a Chinese aircraft entered the territory overhead the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in the first time since records in 1958. In response to the incident, the Abe administration immediately made a strong protest to the Xi Jinping administration via diplomatic channels and scrambled eight F-15 fighters of the Japanese air force and an airborne troops to give a warning to the Chinese flight. Despite the heightened tension, the Chinese continued to dispatch the SOA’s aircraft near the airspace of the disputed islands. According to Japan’s Ministry of Defense, there were 13 confirmed cases of similar incidents like this one in the space of 3 years from 2012 to 2015; the most recent case was on March, 2014.In April 2013, the Chinese Foreign Ministry announced for the first time that China officially identifies the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands as a “core interest.”
Concept of Dynamic Defense Force
The Japanese security policy community has recently begun discussing a three-pillar policy format for its China strategy: integration, balancing, and deterrence. Japan’s security environment significantly changed after the Cold War. Several North-East Asian countries possess advanced military capabilities, nuclear weapons, and are committed to nuclear developments. In the past years one of Japan’s neighbors’ aims to gain influence in an increasingly active manner on water, in the air, entering Japanese territories, too. As a decisive element of the Japanese national defense policy, the bilateral alliance was powerful enough to deter China until the 2000s. However, 2010 meant a turning point in the Japan-China relationship. As a result of the incident in Senkaku-island the National Defense Program Guidelines enabled the Self-Defense Forces to strengthen the protection of Japan’s south-western territory, and they introduced the concept of Dynamic Defense Force. The protection of the “grey zones” has become crucial. The U.S. also has to face the growing challenge concerning the rise of China from her allied responsibility on the one hand, and due to the importance of the the region on the other hand. These changes clearly showed, that the second assumption of the dissertation, saying that “in the U.S.-Japan security alliance the common interest of the two parties involved, is the containment of China in the Asia-Pacific region” proved right. In connection with this, the second part of this hypothesis also stands on solid basis, which states, that “this is the reason why Japan with the permission of the U.S. is constantly raising her defense budget and modernizing her Defense Forces, as well as the maintaining of functional American military bases in Japan.” Upon planning the defense budget despite the country follows the rule that the expenditure must not exceed the limit of the 1 percent of the GNP, it has proved through comparative analyses, that since the middle of the 1950s the military expenses are constantly rising. These developments were supported with the change of the public opinion about the role of Self-Defence Forces.
Importance in Japanese Politics
Within Japanese domestic politics, the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands is not disputed: all major political parties consider the islands to be Japanese territory (Deans 2000; Hirano 2014).
The official position of the government of Japan is that there is no dispute over the sovereignty of the Senkaku Islands. The government maintains the islands were terranullius(discover first time) when they were claimed by Japan in 1895 and thus were not included in the Treaty of Shimonoseki in which Taiwan was ceded to Japan.
Japanese nationalist and ultraconservative groups and ECS dispute
Within Japan, the major political parties, nationalist and ultraconservative groups, and Okinawans are integral to understanding the dynamics of the ECS dispute. Competition between the political parties contributed to a widespread consensus that the outlying islands should be fortified to counter the PRC presence near the Senkaku Islands. The ECS dispute is more than an international relations issue, and more credence should be given to the dispute’s role in domestic politics and the role of secondary actors in the dispute (Dimond, 2014).
Japanese Domestic Politics and ECS issue
The dominant approaches to the ECS dispute assume it is first and foremost an international relations or legal issue in which the governments of Japan, the PRC, and ROC are the only meaningful actors. Within scholarship on Japanese politics, such as Hughes (2013) and Sneider (2013), conflicts in the ECS are framed as foreign policy crises for the national government, rather than a topic in domestic political discourses. However, the Japanese government’s official position denies the existence of a dispute over the Senkaku Islands and argues the demarcation of Japan’s EEZ is legal. The government thus maintains that conflicts in the area are domestic matters. Indeed, the ECS dispute has become a recurring topic in domestic political discourse, and secondary actors have proven themselves to be key actors on the Japanese side of the dispute (Manicom 2014).
Japan Coast Guard (JCG), China Coast Guard (CCG) and East China Sea
Indeed, the JCG is the primary agency responsible for patrolling and safeguarding Japanese waters: it is at the front line in the ECS. As the capabilities of the CCG are set to grow, and as tensions over the disputed Senkakus linger, Japan must reinforce its own coast guard. In addition, Tokyo needs to ensure optimal coordination between the JCG and JMSDF, which will intervene in the event that a crisis worsens. The challenge is threefold: first, to ensure optimal cooperation between the JCG and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) in terms of information sharing and surveillance of the area; second, to allow a smooth transition of responsibility between the JCG and JMSDF without escalating the situation into a military conflict should a contingency arise; and third, to make sure that this overall defense arrangement constitutes an effective deterrent (Pajon, 2017).
Recourse to nonmilitary tools to advance one’s interest regarding territorial claims or access to natural resources has been used by China to back up its claims in both ECS and SCS. Such tactics have been referred to as “reactive assertiveness” or “salami slicing” (Haddick, 2012). Some experts explain this approach as a form of “hybrid warfare,” by which China uses fishing vessels in combination with paramilitary units such as CCG vessels to gain control of disputed territories (Kraska, 2015).Japan sees this challenge as a core security concern; the expansion of Chinese maritime activities since the mid-2000s has resulted in more frequent patrols along the Japanese coastline and incursions into Japanese waters (Pajon, 2017).
Since the 2000s, the JMSDF has focused on ensuring maritime control and superiority in the ECS in the face of a more assertive China and also on developing an expeditionary capability to take part in international operations, such as the antipiracy activities in the Gulf of Aden since 2009 (Patalano, 2014).
According to the government’s interpretation of Japanese law, maritime security operations should be considered as a noncombat activity. As such, the government argues that an order to engage in maritime security operations should not be considered an act of military escalation. Indeed, through this order, JMSDF can use weapons along the strict conditions provided by JCG Law. As a result, the Japanese government makes a distinction between the “use of weapons” by the JSDF under these specific circumstances and the broader “use of force” to defend against an armed attack (Patalano, 2014).
Japan-U.S. security alliance
The asymmetrical architecture of the U.S.-Japan security alliance after the war met with a minimal Japanese response in the following decades, the majority of the general public accepted the maintenance of the evolved practice and the antimilitaristic norm. Japan, who focused on reviving the economy, enjoyed the protection of her ally, which did not mean a serious regional challenge, as long as it did not clash the sphere of economic growth of China. If Japan would be economically strong, but politically weak, China could cope with her, however, with a proper backing the balance of power had also changed. Ipso facto Japan’s role in the Asian region means a confrontative perception for China, whose physical manifestations testified these statements. In close context with these developments, the changing security environment after the Cold War had a significant impact on the shifting norms of Japan’s security policy. It was more noticeable, when East-Asia got into China’s focus, which encouraged the allies to take actions. Through the examples of China’s written and verbal behaviours, the researchers came to the conclusion, that China created the disputed narrative of the Senkaku islands in order to test Japan, as well as to break its monopoly of sovereignty. The next example of this narrative is the intensification of the Chinese nationalism, which tradition goes back to half a century. Finally, the most consequent explanation seemed to be the testing of the Japan- bilateral alliance. This permanent Chinese testing aims to find the weaknesses of the alliance.
Japan’s Arrest of Chinese Fishing Trawler Captain
One of the most severe and public disputes between Japan and China occurred when a Chinese fishing trawler struck two Japanese ships near the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands on September 7, 2010 (Wan, 2011). The Japanese government, controlled by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), arrested and detained the captain. In retaliation, Beijing cut exchange programs, and spoke publicly against the measures taken by the Japanese. International tourism was halted. After the incident, China halted shipments of rare earth to Japan for seven weeks before the shipments were reinstated (Natzke, 2014). The Chinese response was widely viewed as an overreaction. Compounding the matter, media coverage of the event and its repercussions were extreme due to intense public interest on both sides. The Japanese Embassy in Beijing witnessed heavy demonstrations from the Chinese outside its walls. While the Chinese captain was eventually released, the implications of the incident were far-reaching. This incident caused “relations between Japan and China to hit a new low (Smith P. , 2013). Regarding this incident and others like it, both countries strongly believe that they are in the right. Both feel that the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are their own property. The Japanese feel they were perfectly justified in detaining the fishing captain. The Chinese felt they had to respond to what they considered were mistaken actions of the Japanese. The situation resulted in the postponement of talks between both countries over the exploration of natural gas deposits in the areas near the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands (Natzke, 2014).
The economic potential of the ECS area has been a contributing factor in the dispute. It increases the motivation of both Japan and China to gain ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and its territorial waters. While the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands themselves are infertile and not habitable, the ECS holds marine and oil deposits (Wiegand, 2011).
Both Japan and China are well aware of the economic potential that this area contains. This creates more of an incentive to define territory so their country can benefit from its resources (Natzke, 2014). As shown by this incident, the dispute over claims to the Senkaku/DiaoyuIslands is strongly influenced by the desire to gain economically from the resources on the islands.
It has been suggested that neither government wants to engage in a full military confrontation due to economic reasons.This may be true. But rising nationalism, stoked by state and non-state actors, has not been tempered by economic concerns. Both sides would have profited from joint exploration of the waters near the islands and labor strife could have affected the balance of bilateral trade. But neither side would give way.
Purchase of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands
On September 11, 2012, the Japanese government purchased three of the five main islands in the Senkaku/Diaoyu Island group from a private owner, in essence “nationalizing” the island group(Smith P. , 2013).The Japanese government was forced into this action for reasons beyond its control, mainly due to internal issues and to unrelenting pressure from China (Natzke, 2014). In April 2012, Ishihara proposed to buy the Senkaku/DiaoyuIslands, stating that the “Senkaku Islets will be purchased by Tokyo Metropolitan Government (and) we will do whatever it takes to protect our own land. This compelled the Japanese government to step in and purchase the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. Regardless of the Japanese government’s motives, the Chinese government still reacted strongly to what they saw as a provocation.
In this instance, the Japanese government was forced by internal pressure to take steps it originally had attempted to avoid. Pressure from China contributed to the problem. The response from the Chinese citizens and government was harsh. The situation escalated but the citizens on both sides did not show concern about the negative impact on the economic and trade relationship. Bilateral trade suffered. The majority of scholars state that Japan played a defensive role in the conflict and China the offensive. As shown in this situation, the Japanese government was reluctant to increase tensions with China and had nothing to gain from continuing its conflict with China. This influence makes it more difficult for the Chinese government to compromise on disputes over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.
In July 2016 both countries foreign Minster met in Laos, Foreign Minister Kishida(Japan) stated that the strong concern and sense of crisis that Japan harbors regarding the ECS, mainly the condition on the waters and in the airspace around the Senkaku Islands, must be taken seriously, and that the consultations based on the ”2008 Agreement” regarding the issue of the development of natural resources in the East China Sea should be held soon, and expressed his desire for an early start to the operation of the Japan-China Nautical and Airborne Communication Mechanism between the defense authorities. Foreign Minister Wang Yi expressed his desire to cherish the momentum of improving the Japan-China relationship. In response, Foreign Minister Kishida stated the we would like to work together toward further improving the positive aspects of the bilateral relationship by expanding cooperation in economic areas among others.
The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the US and Japan was drafted sixty years ago under conditions far different than they are today. Still, it seems strange that it was not drafted more carefully. Words are important. The most important omission is the position of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. While it was assumed that the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands would ultimately be turned over to Japan, nowhere in the text are they mentioned. This gives the United States an excuse to evade its responsibilities if it were inclined to do so. Within the Treaty, the phrase “peaceful means” also lends itself to various interpretations.
The US government recently has given Japan oral assurances that the United States would support Japan in any conflict over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. But this is not the same assurance as a solemn written treaty approved by the Senate. If the United States determination to defend the Islands had been spelled out from the beginning in non -ambiguous terms, it is conceivable that the Chinese Government, needing a foreign target, would have directed their pressure on another target, likely India, with whom they also have a contested border.
The United States and Japan share strong concern over recent actions that have raised tensions in the ECS and SCS. Sometime in the future, the US may be involved in resolving this dispute between Japan and China. When attempting to understand the tension between the two countries, the US must remember not only the trade ties, but the importance of cultural ties and the deep history that Japan and China have experienced together. As a third party helps facilitate communication between the parties to a maritime dispute and may make proposals. The US existing to play a role as a arbitrator in the Sino-Japanese maritime disputes in the ECS, but that was rejected by the PRC.
The United States as an Ambivalent Ally of Japan
The US is also a key player in this dispute for the following three reasons: controversial US-Japanese bilateral treaties after WWII, the US’s obligation to defend Japan against armed attack, and the rising military presence of China. In this territorial dispute, treaties between the US and Japan constitute a critical element of Japan’s defense of the islands, while presenting China with the irritating history of what it considers to be “backdoor” deals. First of all, as mentioned in the previous section, the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the Okinawa Reversion Treaty are indispensable for Japan’s claim that the islands were returned to Japan as part of the greater Okinawa region. Moreover, negotiated at the beginning of the Cold War, the Japan-US Security Treaty guarantees the US military protection of Japan, under the condition that Japan permits US military bases in Japan. In November 2012, upon Japan’s purchase of the islands, the US Congress approved an amendment to this military alliance treaty, which explicitly included the protection of “the Senkaku islands” within the US defense obligation. In other words, the US has made explicit that it is obliged to react to an armed attack by any threat to Japan’s territory including the islands in accordance with the Security Council. On the other hand, the US remains reluctant to be directly involved with the territorial dispute between China and Japan. An US Congressional issue summary indicates that the US’s policy has been to remain neutral on the territorial sovereignty, while pressuring against China’s naval ambition. This position is consistent since the beginning of the Sino-Japanese conflict in 1971, just as Secretary of State William Rogers stated “the US has no intention to prejudice either claim” to deny the US interventions into the bilateral territorial conflict. Likewise, in 2010, Clinton, Secretary of State stated that “with respect to the Senkaku Islands, the United States has never taken a position on sovereignty.” Hence, despite its embedded interests in East Asia, the US has refrained from direct intervention in the dispute.
Also, amid growing tension between China and Japan over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands in 2010, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands are part of the 1960 Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan.The statement made by Clinton and the Japanese government’s acknowledgment of the statement signaled the resoluteness of the US-Japan alliance to China. Also, the Noda Yoshihiko administration’s (September 2011-December 2012) emphasis on the restoration of bilateral relations with the US and decision to purchase the disputed islands further aggravated the relations between Beijing and Tokyo.In continuation of this President Obama stated that
The policy of the United States is clear – the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security. And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan’s administration of these islands (Panda, 2014).
In the contemporary world order, it is said that global hegemony, even by the United States is impossible, and that at best a State may eventually only dominate its own backyard (Mearsheimer, 2005). Whether China and Japan are seeking to outdo one another may be open to question (Hagström, 2010). Nevertheless, observers consider that China currently seeks a stable security environment to enable focus on economic advancement, to better integrate with the regional and global economy (Deng, 1988). At the heart of maritime issues between China and Japan are their overlapping nautical claims in the ECS (Vilisaar, 2009) with fledgling results from efforts between both States to resolve the matter (Zhang, 2011).
On 30 July 2013, US Senate approved a resolution “Senate Resolution 167- Reaffirming the Strong Support of the United States for the Peaceful Resolution of Territorial, Sovereignty, and Jurisdictional Disputes in the Asia-Pacific Maritime Domains.
According to the Chinese defense ministry ADIZ around the island is basis on “guard against potential air threats”. Japan reaction to the news about ADIZ ‘very dangerous’ for the region.
President Obama remarks over Senkaku
Speaking to the press with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo in April 2014, President Obama underscored the U.S. commitment in what are believed to be the first public remarks by a U.S. President stating the U.S. position on the Senkakus/Diaoyu dispute. In his prepared remarks, the President said
“We stand together in calling for disputes in the region, including maritime issues, to be resolved peacefully through dialogue. We share a commitment to fundamental principles such as freedom of navigation and respect for international law. And let me reiterate that our treaty commitment to Japan’s security is absolute, and Article 5 covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including the Senkaku Islands”(Dolven, 2015)
President Donald Trump’s statement
In February 2017, during his first joint press appearance as President with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, President Donald Trump stated that “we are committed to the security of Japan and all areas under its administrative control”. A joint statement issued by the two governments during their summit said that the two leaders “affirmed that Article V of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security covers the Senkaku Islands (Townshend, 2017).
China’s Multilateral Engagement and Constructive Role in the G20
The recent G20 Summit in India has once again taken center stage, attracting global attention as it gathered together leaders and delegates from the world’s 20 most powerful economies. This high-profile event was significant in shaping international relations and addressing serious global concerns due to its broad presence and crucial talks. This high-stakes gathering occurs at a pivotal juncture, marked by escalating divisions among major powers on a multitude of pressing global issues, including the Russia-Ukraine conflict, global economic recovery, food security, and climate change.
The recent inclusion of the African Union (AU) as a permanent member within the G20 serves as a positive signal, signifying consensus among major economies. However, lurking concerns persist about the formidable challenges involved in achieving unity and issuing a joint declaration in the midst of these complex global dynamics.
Chinese Premier Li Qiang’s opening remarks at the 18th G20 Summit in New Delhi resonate as he underscores the paramount importance of unity and collaboration among G20 member nations. He emphasizes the critical need for effective coordination of macroeconomic policies to restore hope and generate momentum for long-term economic growth.
Premier Li eloquently highlights the interconnectedness of humanity’s destiny and calls upon nations to demonstrate mutual respect, seek common ground while momentarily setting aside differences, and work tirelessly towards peaceful coexistence. In a world characterized by profound crises and shared hardships, he aptly observes that no nation can thrive in isolation. Therefore, the only plausible pathways for guiding humanity forward are those rooted in cooperation and harmony.
The G20, originally established to navigate global financial crises and forge collective strategies for addressing economic challenges while fostering global economic development, has, regrettably, experienced a decline in consensus and a rise in differences among major powers. This shift has been particularly evident since the onset of the Ukraine crisis and the United States’ strategy of containment against China. Consequently, the G20 is increasingly devolving into a forum marked by discord, rather than the once-productive and constructive multilateral mechanism it was intended to be.
Nevertheless, the G20 retains its significance as a pivotal forum for international collaboration in confronting global challenges. With the increasing contributions of developing nations like China, India, and African countries, the voices within the G20 have diversified, no longer solely dominated by Western perspectives. As a response, the United States seeks to regain control of the multilateral process to further its agenda of great power competition. However, this approach is unlikely to be warmly received by the broader international community.
China remains steadfast in its commitment to deepen reforms and open up further to foster high-quality development and its unique brand of modernization. China views itself as a catalyst for additional momentum in global economic recovery and sustainable development. China stands ready to collaborate with all stakeholders to contribute to the well-being of our shared Earth, our common home, and the future of humanity. Despite Western media’s attempts to sensationalize China’s stance and magnify perceived differences, China continues to play a constructive role within the G20, dedicated to its multilateral mission.
To ensure that the G20 remains a platform focused on global governance rather than being overshadowed by geopolitical conflicts, China remains determined to fulfill its constructive role within the group, regardless of attempts by Western powers to politicize the mechanism. China’s efforts have expanded the G20 to include the African Union, effectively transforming it into the “G21.” China was the first nation to endorse African Union membership in the G20 and advocates for the African Union to assume an even more significant role in international governance.
The growing divisions and disputes within the G20 have eroded its effectiveness as a platform for addressing global challenges. These divisions, primarily driven by American actions and policies, have spawned tensions with far-reaching global implications, from the Ukraine crisis to escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea. These developments underscore the critical role the G20 plays in promoting cooperation and unity.
Amid the current geopolitical landscape characterized by major powers’ divisions, tensions have surged, resonating globally and causing ripple effects. From the Ukraine crisis to tensions in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in the Taiwan Straits and the South China Sea, the significance of the G20’s role in fostering cooperation and unity cannot be overstated.
All G20 member nations must recognize the urgent imperative of cooperation in building a world that is safer, more prosperous, and increasingly peaceful. Given the global challenges that transcend narrow national interests, effective responses can only be crafted through international cooperation. The G20 stands as a pivotal arena for this cooperation, with China’s positive contribution being indispensable in promoting cohesion.
Despite Western media’s efforts to sensationalize China’s position and magnify perceived gaps, China remains a committed multilateral partner within the G20, dedicated to constructive engagement. The G20 continues to serve as a critical platform for addressing global concerns, fostering unity, and promoting international collaboration. As the world grapples with intricate issues, it remains imperative that nations adhere to the principles of multilateralism and collaborate relentlessly to secure a more prosperous, peaceful, and sustainable future for all.
Al-Assad’s Beijing Visit: A Stepping Stone to a Strategic Partnership Between the Two Nations
The Chinese government is adopting a new diplomatic stance, marked by a bold challenge to American directives. This strategy aims to bolster ties with nations that the U.S. has sought to alienate, with Syria being a prime example.
Recently, Beijing welcomed Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. The outcome of this visit was the announcement that their ties had been elevated to a “strategic partnership of resilience.” This status is the pinnacle of China’s diplomatic relationships, and so far, only three countries—Pakistan, Russia, and Belarus—have been granted this distinction. Could Syria be next in line?
For China, their interest in Syria is multifaceted. It’s not just about the country’s economic riches; it’s a geopolitical gamble. In Beijing’s eyes, Damascus stands as an ideological outlier in the Middle East, defined by its unique intellectual and ideological foundations. This, coupled with the nation’s rich cultural diversity and pluralism, makes it all the more appealing.
Syria’s value for China transcends its natural resources. Geographically and civilizationally, its significance and the influential role it plays in Middle Eastern geopolitics make it indispensable.
Despite the ongoing war, China’s relationship with Syria has persisted. However, the depth of their ties hasn’t always mirrored China’s firm stance in the Security Council, where it has wielded its veto power in support of Syria on numerous occasions.
In 2012, China exercised its veto power against a Washington-proposed resolution calling for the withdrawal of all military forces from Syrian cities and towns.
In February 2017, Beijing vetoed a draft resolution that sought to impose sanctions on the Syrian government, accusing it of deploying chemical weapons. Then, in July 2020, Beijing opposed the extension of aid deliveries to Syria via Turkey.
China’s foreign policy towards Syria is shaped by the interplay of interests and ideology. These twin pillars have historically been foundational to China’s external relations and are deeply rooted in Chinese political philosophy.
Syria’s geopolitical and economic significance to China, paired with Beijing’s steadfast stance against meddling in sovereign nations’ internal affairs and its commitment to justice and rights restoration, has allowed China to craft its Syrian foreign policy. This alignment ensures both the safeguarding of national interests and the upholding of principles intrinsic to China’s unique political identity.
China’s stance on the Syrian conflict has always been principle-driven, aligning with its foreign policy ethos which advocates non-interference in the domestic matters of other nations.
Subsequently, Beijing has made concerted efforts to bring an end to the Syrian war, proposing numerous initiatives aimed at resolving the ongoing strife.
Beyond matters of interest and ideology, China’s position on the Syrian conflict is also informed by its aspirations to maintain and bolster its influence within the Middle East’s global power dynamics. As China emerges as a dominant force on the world stage, its evolving foreign policy towards Syria mirrors its ascending stature and influence.
Anyone examining the ties between the two nations will see no clear evidence suggesting their relationship has evolved into what the media frequently labels a “strategic partnership.”
This could be attributed to the deliberate ambiguity and behind-the-scenes diplomacy both countries favored, given their respective circumstances. It’s possible that this approach was more a Chinese preference than a Syrian one.
Particularly since Beijing is careful with its actions, striving not to unnecessarily antagonize the United States while it focuses on its grand strategic endeavor, the Belt and Road Initiative.
While Syria is in dire need of allies during its challenges, it recognizes the interests and circumstances of other nations. It understands that relationships can’t be purely evaluated on a “profit and loss” basis; there’s a strategic depth that heavily influences the decisions of major powers.
China has consistently supported Syria both diplomatically and humanitarianly. It maintained its embassy in Damascus, championed Syria’s interests in the Security Council, and readily provided humanitarian assistance, notably during the Covid-19 pandemic and after the earthquake Syria experienced a few months back.
While the evidence might not strongly suggest that the relationship between the two countries qualifies as a strategic partnership, it’s the unseen dynamics between them that appear to play a significant role in elevating their ties to a “strategic relationship” level.
The deployment of popular diplomacy was evident, with Damascus benefiting from China’s endeavors to amplify its “soft power.” Exchanges of party and economic delegations between the two nations persisted, and there was a notable increase in the number of Syrian students attending Chinese universities, funded by the Chinese government.
Interestingly, direct visits between officials of the two nations were sparse. It appears that the respective embassies served a pivotal role in cultivating and fortifying these ties.
The visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Damascus on the day the results of Syria’s presidential elections were announced on July 17, 2021, wasn’t just serendipitous. He was the first to extend congratulations to President Al-Assad on his electoral triumph.
This visit held immense significance, marking a shift in China’s foreign policy towards challenging Western influence in various global regions. It was the first visit by a high-ranking Chinese official to Syria since 2011, following the onset of the conflict.
Wang’s meeting with President Al-Assad, where he congratulated him on his re-election, was symbolic. Additionally, Chinese President Xi Jinping dispatched a congratulatory message to Al-Assad on his election victory, expressing: “China staunchly supports Syria in safeguarding its national sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity, and will extend as much assistance as possible.”
Following Wang’s visit to Damascus, Beijing advocated for the removal of sanctions on Syria and proposed a four-point initiative to address the crisis. This plan encompassed:
- Upholding Syria’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity, allowing the Syrian people the autonomy to determine their nation’s destiny.
- Fast-tracking the reconstruction process and immediately lifting all sanctions on Syria, a crucial step to ameliorate the country’s humanitarian crisis.
- Combatting terrorist organizations recognized by the UN Security Council.
- Championing a comprehensive and conciliatory political resolution to the Syrian conflict, bridging divides with all Syrian opposition groups through dialogue and consultation.
Wang’s trip followed the Syrian government’s successful reclamation of a majority of its territories. This transition signaled a shift towards reconstruction, a phase where Beijing is poised to assume a significant role due to its ample financial and political resources.
Given the intensifying tensions between China and the United States, China found itself drawn into a subtle yet assertive counteraction against the U.S.
Beijing has strategically ventured into regions historically under American influence, notably the Middle East. This move is significant, especially considering China’s traditional reluctance to entangle itself in the complexities and challenges of that region.
For many years, the United States has depicted the issues in the Middle East as “intractable problems,” rooted in religious disputes that span centuries.
China’s success in bolstering Arab-Chinese collaboration, particularly following the Arab-Chinese summit in Riyadh, served as an impetus for several Arab nations to pursue closer ties with Damascus. This renewed rapport culminated in Syria’s reintegration into the League of Arab States. Although the Arab initiative with Damascus seems to be progressing slowly, and at times hesitantly, it hasn’t hit an insurmountable roadblock.
Furthermore, the fruitful outcomes of Chinese mediation in narrowing the differences between Saudi Arabia and Iran, resulting in the re-establishment of diplomatic ties and ambassadorial exchanges, should positively impact Arab-Syrian relationships.
China now navigates the Syrian situation with a sense of ease, steering clear of rivalry with major international players in Syria, notably Iran and Russia.
Amid intensified actions against Damascus, manifested by the deployment of additional American troops to the area and discussions about severing the connection between Syria and Iraq via a corridor from Al-Tanf to Al-Bukamal, the foundation of American intelligence leverages regional factions with specific local allegiances.
This period also saw heightened protests in southern Syria (Suwayda) and skirmishes between the SDF militia and tribal forces in northern and eastern Syria.
Syria’s challenging economic landscape has played a significant role in exacerbating these conflicts, amplifying concerns about their potential spread throughout the country.
The root of these protests can be largely attributed to differing perspectives. The Syrian government views American sanctions as the primary culprit, while many Syrians believe the escalation in corruption, which has surpassed tolerable levels, is burdening the populace.
China’s involvement in the Syrian crisis at this juncture offers robust political backing for Syria and should be complemented by heightened economic support, which Syria urgently requires.
Hosting the Syrian President in Beijing would signify a pivotal moment in the ties between the two nations, underscoring China’s aspiration for a more equitable global order.
The Syrian conflict may have been the catalyst for this shift, and the Ukrainian war further solidified it, making the strategy of international alignments more evident on the global stage.
President al-Assad’s sole visit to Beijing took place in 2004, centering on economic collaboration between both countries.
While development hinges on political and security stability, this shouldn’t deter efforts to address challenges potentially impeding economic collaboration or reconstruction involvement.
It’s beneficial to foster and stimulate dialogues between Syrian and Chinese entrepreneurs, particularly in devising solutions to reconstruction challenges, such as financing. The goal should be to transition from mere economic cooperation to a tangible economic partnership, incorporating road and rail links and connecting energy lines from Iran, China, Iraq, and Syria. This vision, proposed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in 2002, aimed to transform Syria into a pivotal gas transit hub and a free-trade nexus bridging the East and West by linking the Five Seas. China interpreted this as a rejuvenation of the Silk Road, envisioning a vast economic corridor from Syria to China. This aligns seamlessly with the Belt and Road Initiative introduced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.
Syria needs to modernize its banking system and could benefit from China’s expertise in this domain, exploring payment mechanisms that aren’t reliant on the US dollar. Strengthening ties between the chambers of commerce, industry, and agriculture and creating joint chambers between the two nations can be valuable, among other cooperative ventures.
There are numerous potential collaboration areas between the two countries that could yield significant outcomes for both if they can navigate bureaucratic hurdles and establish direct communication channels.
Such cooperation may not be well-received by Syria’s adversaries, notably the United States, which is reportedly extracting Syrian oil from the wells it controls, all the while claiming its forces are in the region to combat terrorism, specifically ISIS.
The Chinese media has extensively highlighted this act, deeming it a blatant international theft conducted openly.
China appears to be growing in confidence and is more assertive in demonstrating its global influence, especially given the rising tensions with the United States. This dynamic presents Syria with an opportunity to enhance its ties with Beijing.
Anticipation is building around the forthcoming visit of the Syrian President to Beijing. Current predictions suggest it will mark a significant moment in the relationship between the two nations, potentially reshaping the geopolitical equilibrium in the Middle East and possibly on a global scale.
China-Taiwan: The Future Relationship
The discordant relationships between China and Taiwan have engendered multifaceted and persistent tensions. The empirical experience of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict can serves as a compelling impetus for China and Taiwan to seriously reconsider their current relationship. It is imperative to prevent the occurrence of any form of military engagement between China and Taiwan.
The already existent tensions between China and Taiwan experienced a resurgence subsequent to Taiwan Vice President William Lai’s recent visit to the United States.
The aforementioned visit ultimately engendered another intense security situation in the Taiwan Strait. The manifestation of this is evidenced through a sequence of expansive military maneuvers executed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) within the perimeter of the Taiwan Strait region.
The convening of the aforementioned meeting is construed as a provocative measure by the Chinese authorities, rendering it a potential threat to their territorial claims of sovereignty over Taiwan. As a result, China is compelled to take responsive action.
However, from Taiwan’s perspective, this meeting was of pivotal importance in maintaining and asserting the country’s presence within the purview of the global community. It was deemed significant as international political maneuvers in pursuit of immediate recognition as a legitimate sovereign state.
In the view of China, The unification of China remains the single “outstanding” item on China’s agenda, as of present. To China, the sole legitimate governing authority throughout its national territory, which includes Taiwan, is that China. Consequently, China appears to be utilizing all available means to assert its dominance over Taiwan in its entirety.
Since the 1949 “split”, China has continuously augmented its military footprint within the vicinity of Taiwan’s territorial boundaries. China’s action is not merely intended to intimidate Taiwan; it is also designed to convey the message that any act of support towards Taiwan’s quest for sovereignty would be met with swift and forceful retaliation from China’s military force.
Of course, International community are contemplating whether the issue at hand will culminate in a military invasion by China to Taiwan in the foreseeable future.
In order to address this inquiry, it is appropriate to begin by revisiting the contents of the Chinese Constitution (Constitution of the People’s Republic of China). According to the Preamble of the constitution, it is evident that Taiwan is an undisputed part of China’s land.
Undoubtedly, China would construe the aforementioned as a constitutional obligation which is indisputable. China maintains an unwavering stance regarding the ultimate resolution of the Taiwan Issue, emphasizing the necessity of achieving complete reunification of China, inclusive of Taiwan, as the sole viable solution.
In pursuit of its objectives, China has demonstrated a willingness to employ a range of approaches, both non-violent and aggressive, which may include the application of armed force or the undertaking of military invasions.
However, It is improbable that China’s armed forces will engage in military invasion on Taiwan in the immediate future.
In light of the multitude of armed conflicts that have occurred globally, it can be posited that military aggression is consistently accompanied by elevated expenditures
Given the prevailing economic turbulence and the ramifications of the Covid-19 Pandemic on China, the prospect of an impending invasion of Taiwan by China appears to be remote. The implementation of this measure is likely to exacerbate China’s economic state. Simultaneously, this phenomenon has the capability of instigating domestic political predicaments for China.
The situation is expected to deteriorate significantly as numerous countries are eventually “compelled” to become embroiled in the vortex of the China-Taiwan armed conflict via the implementation of economic sanctions and blockades against China. Similar to the actions undertaken by various countries towards Russia throughout the course of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. China may face considerable challenges in managing the potential risk at hand.
It is noteworthy to consider that the Chinese economy operates within an export-oriented framework that relies on global value chains and energy importations. Consequently, it can be argued that the implementation of economic sanctions may have the potential to undermine China’s economic foundation, thus triggering unintended consequences and generating intricate quandaries for China.
In light of the aforementioned economic considerations, it appears that China does not exhibit a sense of urgency to reinstate Taiwan under its control through military means for a minimum of another four to five years.
Notwithstanding, this does not categorically preclude China’s pursuit of reintegration of Taiwan through military measures in the foreseeable future. It is imperative to emphasize that China will persist in its efforts to maintain its claim of sovereignty and territorial integrity over Taiwan.
Concurrently, Taiwan is also likely to maintain a staunch resolve towards independence, defending democracy and rejecting reunification, regardless of China’s territorial claims, political pressure, or militaristic intimidation.
In summary, it can be posited that there are at least two conceivable scenarios that could manifest regarding the future relationship between China and Taiwan.
First, China will let Taiwan maintain the current status quo while continuously increasing its military presence on Taiwan’s territory with the intent of exerting pressure and dominance over Taiwan’s geopolitical interests. Taiwan is potentially susceptible to a state of constant “isolation” from the international community, which could result in internal turbulence and ultimately lead to mounting pressure upon Taiwan, compelling it to enter into disadvantaged negotiations with China, thereby potentially causing it to revert to its prior status as part of China.
Second, on the other hand, China may potentially initiate the complete mobilization of its armed forces towards Taiwan. Given China’s consistent focus on sovereignty and territorial integrity. The aspiration to achieve the comprehensive integration of China (encompassing Taiwan) remains persistently pursued in accordance with the tenets of the “One China Principle” or the One China Policy.
The military maneuvers undertaken by China with the objective of suppressing Taiwan are likely to escalate into a physical and overt assault over the course of time. This military invasion is potential to be undertaken by China to seize direct assumption of control over its governing entity, with the aim of promoting significant political transformation within the region.
However, with Taiwan’s significant prominence in the worldwide economy, particularly in the semiconductor industry, the ramifications and significance of any related actions are substantial. The occurrence of a military invasion is poised to instigate expeditious disturbance across the global economy, with China, in particular, being concurrently affected.
Despite all these possibilities, the avoidance of armed engagement between China and Taiwan is imperative, notwithstanding the various feasible outcomes thereof. Therefore, it is imperative that nations do not interpret the principle of non-intervention in international law in a rigid manner. It is recommended that all countries globally make efforts towards assisting the concerned parties in utilizing dialogue and peaceful compromise as a means of resolving their issues, rather than resorting to a full-fledged conflict. Such an undertaking holds tremendous significance as it not only safeguards the welfare of the involved parties, but also forestalls potential economic and political crises with implications extending to international peace and security stability.
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