Saturday, December 29, 2007

Is This Chinese Gamesmanship over Taiwan or What?

The Chinese will never stop pushing the envelope, even during the best of times. Their gamesmanship was evident as a Chinese submarine “accidentally” wandered into Japanese waters in 2004, when bilateral relations were approaching a nadir, and it surfaced again during the press conference following Prime Minister Fukuda’s talks with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao.

Sankei depicts Mr. Fukuda catching the Chinese interpreter trying a fast one here, as he translated Mr. Wen’s explanation of Mr. Fukuda’s reiteration of the Japanese policy to “not support Taiwan’s independence ” as “oppose Taiwan’s independence”. Mr. Fukuda’s years of service as aide to his Prime Minister father, Diet member in his own right, and Chief Cabinet Secretary surely stood him in good stead as he used the subsequent Q&A to reiterate the official Japanese position.

This is no trivial matter. As the status quo appears set to continue indefinitely, words gain ever more significance. Particularly for pro-China Mr. Fukuda, a misstep here could have incited a rebellion by LDP conservatives.

Anyone who thinks that this was merely a case of something getting lost in translation should recall this incident involving a few lines Mr. Wen skipped on a speech being broadcast live back to China.

I think that South Koreans are more in-your-face and will let you know in no uncertain terms when they want something from you. But I’m ready to be corrected.

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