Monday, June 16, 2008

Are Okinawans Somewhere between Bretons and Scots When It Comes to Independence?

In a 2007 telephone survey by John C.T. Lim, an associate professor at the University of the Ryukyus—that’s a cool name by the way— 41.6% of the 1201 people who answered the questions responded that they were Ryukyujin (Okinawans), not Nihonjin (Japanese), but only 20.6% supported independence.* If my memory serves me correctly, in the lead-up to the return of Okinawa in 1972, a healthy majority of Okinawans supported reversion to Japan, although a significant minority supported independence. Apparently, things haven’t changed much over the years. Makes you think about the relationship between ethnicity and statehood.

I’m mentioning this here, since the matter came up in a panel discussion last week and some of the other participants may be looking in on this blog.

As the proprietor of the Shisaku blog explained on that same occasion, the Ryukyu kingdom paid tribute to both China and Japan for hundreds of years until Japan took over after the Meiji Restoration. The Guomintang, Taiwan’s ruling party, continues to claim that the Ryukyu Islands are “Chinese” territory”.** That’s the broader background to the belligerent response from the current Taiwanese government with regard to the Japanese apprehension of the Taiwanese fishing vessel that wandered into territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands.

ADD: The Financial Times reminds us that it is the mainland Chinese, who comprise the bulwark of the Kuomintang including President Ma, who “tend to share the anti-Japanese feelings common in China”, as it notes the sympathetic response from the Chinese authorities. China obviously cannot let the Senkaku Islands incident go without comment.

* Unfortunately, the full results of Dr. Lim’s survey are not available anywhere online, including his website.

** I am not aware of any official claims from China regarding Okinawa. That’s understandable, since China would have its own problems if every nation and ethnic group began revisiting their histories to revive ancient territorial claims.

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