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China and Japan's Simmering Rivalry

Tuesday, February 28, 2006 Posted: 06:55 AM JST

"Some liken current Sino-Japanese relations to the Anglo-German rivalry prior to World War I," writes Kent E. Calder, director of the Reischauer Center for East Asian Studies at SAIS, Johns Hopkins University, in Foreign Affairs today. "The stage is now set for a struggle between a mature power and a rising one."

"Both states," says Calder, "are adopting confrontational stances, partly because of rising popular involvement in politics and resurgent nationalism exacerbated by revived memories of World War II; mutually beneficial economic dealings alone are not effectively soothing these tensions. Fluid perceptions of power and fear, Thucydides observed, are the classic causes of war. And they are increasingly present in Northeast Asia today."

Calder is not hopeless, though. He believes that the United States can play an important role in promoting cooperation between Tokyo and Beijing to help them adjust to a new phase in East Asia's history. However, at the very time that Tokyo and Beijing are entering this new phase, the US has entered a new phase itself. It is being badly overstretched in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Middle East and is facing an Iran with growing political influence and an independent mindset. The US has lost a lot of its moral high ground during the past few years, and is now also militarily limited.

Japan and China will mostly have to solve their problems by themselves.

Keywords: opinion_item political_news

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The now legendary Sir Ernest Mason Satow (1843-1929) was a member of the British legation in Tokyo for twenty-one years. This classic book is based on the author's detailed diary, personal encounters, and keen memory. In it, Satow records the history of the critical years of social and political upheaval that accompanied Japan's first encounters with the West around the time of the Meiji Restoration. Fascinating.
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