Monday, October 04, 2010

The Chinese and Japanese Authorities Want to Wind It Down, but Democracy Gets in the Way

In a clear sign that the Chinese leadership wants to move on from the Senkaku Islands incident, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman has been toning down the rhetoric dramatically in recent days. It appears to be sending signals on the domestic front to cease and desist, too, as anecdotes surface of the Chinese bureaucracy resuming work on shipment papers for rare earth exports to Japan and dropping some of the administrative nuisance imposed on Japanese businesses in China exporting to Japan. In fact, the Japanese Coast Guard folks are the good guys, did you know, helping save sick Chinese sailors, according to this reportfrom Xinhua, China’s state wire service.

The feeling is mutual at the leadership level; the Kan administration also wants to get this issue out of the way before the fallout worsens. However, in Japan, public opinion in general, most of the mainstream media, much of the political opposition, and even some DPJ members are driving driving the domestic political cycle in the opposite direction. You have not, will not, see the kind of government action and very little of the private sector bandwagonning that was evident in China, but the issue will remain in the public domain for a while, not when, for instance, the latest Yomiuri opinion poll (October 1-3) is showing overwhelming negatives for China and the Kan administration around the issue and support for the Kan administration fell from the post-Ozawa euphoria of 66% (September 17-18) to a still above-the-waterline 53%. It’ll be a while before the two sides can kiss, discreetly at first, and make up, as they eventually will—until the next flare-up.

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