The Japanese government is loath to show the conclusive video evidence for the obvious reasons it will create more aversion in Japan and embarrassing the Chinese is not going to have any positive effects.
I think Kan is covering up the video because it will show that the Chinese boat deliberately rammed the Coast Guard cutters. That will make his release of the boat captain look like yet another example of a vassal state grovelling before the Dragon Throne. Which will tank his approval rating even further - he went down 20 points from the high 60's before the captain's release to the high 40's after the release. Once that video is released, he'll be lucky to have an approval rating in the low 30's, meaning that he could end up giving up his position as prime minister.
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Today, in his National Foundation Day speech, Premier Wen actually had to explicitly say that China is not a threat to anyone.
Too late. Nobody believes him. And rightly so. Why would you believe the soothing words of someone who's holding a knife at your throat? Google this essay title ("Conflict Prevention and Confidence Building Measures between Japan and China") for an interesting article, written by a Japanese admiral, about Chinese Communist Party military actions since its Civil War victory in 1949. Here's what he has to say: "It is my conclusion from the above facts; the threshold for Chinese use of force is very low."
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limboinjapan: "If you can access things without censorship try looking up all the treaties and you will notice that China in all the cases you keep mentioning has agreed and signed that they are all settled."
I don't think you understand the Chinese mindset. Treaties that are signed with China in a position of strength - typically granting China control over conquered territory - are valid. Treaties signed with China in a position of weakness - typically ceding Chinese territory to other countries - are "unequal" treaties and therefore invalid. The equivalent would be a future Japanese administration declaring the cession of Formosa and Korea to the control of the Allied Powers to be invalid because they were "unequal" treaties signed from a position of weakness.
China has been East Asia's imperial power for 2000-odd years. It is the largest land empire in Asia and triple the size of India (an empire that was assembled by the British rather than the Indians). It’s also the third largest land empire in the world, behind just Russia and Canada, which is why China’s population density is roughly the same as the EU’s despite having three times the population.
China's name for itself is essentially "The Center of the World". The responses you are getting come from the mindset of an imperial power finally free to speak its mind. Note that in the late 18th century, it was the Qianlong Emperor who bade Britain's King George - as if writing to a minor vassal - to "Tremblingly obey and show no negligence".
So why are the Chinese doing this now? Simply put, they don’t have anything to lose. Chinese rhetoric about future Japanese territorial ambitions notwithstanding, they know that Japan (or, for that matter, any combination of powers) is not about to invade China. If Japan blinks, the Chinese get free land. If Japan builds up its military, the Chinese will go after easier marks. They’re going to go at American security relationships with other East Asian countries with a crowbar, using a combination of military-, trade- and investment-related carrots and sticks. At worse, they look like bullies. At best, they get involved in some limited military clashes and end up with millions of square miles of real estate in what they consider Chinese waters – the South China Sea. As an aggressive and acquisitive power that is way too large to be invaded and more than willing to bide their time, the Chinese hold all the cards. I expect decades of future tension much like the Cold War, with a potential adversary that has far more economic vigor than the Soviet bloc but without a comprehensive East and South Asian alliance system to ensure the kind of cooperation against a common adversary fostered by NATO.
In the modern era, it’s been hemmed in by Japan and the European powers – Russia to the north and the Western European powers on all sides. Post-WWII, the Soviet Union and the US assumed this function. Russia is now a shambles, and the US is gradually pulling back from its Western Pacific security obligations, starting with Obama’s gutting of the Navy’s fleet size. With an economic renaissance filling the coffers of the national treasury, it appears that China’s two thousand-year-old quest for ever more lebensraum is about to begin anew. Note that China had its own mission civilatrice – barbarian pacification wars that coincidentally always expanded China’s territorial extent – back when the Gauls were running around in animal skins.
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What's your sense of the impact of this uproar on the DPJ's popularity? If elections were held today, would the DPJ win a majority?
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