Sino-Japanese Relations after the Cold War: Two Tigers Sharing a Mountain

By Mirsky, Jonathan | Times Higher Education, January 2, 2014 | Go to article overview

Sino-Japanese Relations after the Cold War: Two Tigers Sharing a Mountain


Mirsky, Jonathan, Times Higher Education


Sino-Japanese Relations After the Cold War: Two Tigers Sharing a Mountain, By Michael Yahuda Routledge, 150pp, Pounds 90.00 and Pounds 24.99 ISBN 9780415843072 and 843089, Published 11 September 2013

As I began reading Michael Yahuda's invaluable new book, Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, declared that his country would shoot down any foreign aircraft, including drones, that entered its airspace and refused to leave. A Chinese spokesman warned that this would be seen as "an act of war and China will take resolute measures to strike back".

Yahuda, the leading academic authority on the foreign relations of East Asia, considers the region's two major powers as they appear to teeter on the edge of war, and what he offers is a model of clear exposition and analytic power. His publisher, however, rather undersells this thoughtful, well-documented explanation of a major regional crisis by referring to it as a textbook.

He takes us even-handedly through the history of the relations between China and Japan. Despite much threatening language from an increasingly nationalistic Beijing, the emphasis in Chinese schools on Japanese atrocities during the Second World War, together with sporadic collisions in disputed waters between both powers, and flare-ups "likely to get worse", Yahuda concludes that "neither (side) seeks open warfare and it seems that longer-term peaceful coexistence between China and Japan is the more likely outcome".

Before Japan's attack on China in the early 1930s, and its many war crimes there, thoughtful Chinese saw Japan as an inspiration for their nation's modernisation. Even after the Second Sino-Japanese War, when Japanese security was guaranteed by the US, Mao Zedong regarded Japan as a "potential major ally against the Soviet Union". After a long period of economic cooperation between a far less advanced China and Japan, the world's second economic power, the balance shifted. Japan is now in decline, while China nears superpower status.

The present crisis, highlighted by threats and counter-threats, centres on the East China Sea, which China seeks to traverse in order to enter the Western Pacific. …

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