Trilateral North East Asia Summit Signals a Return to Cooperation
Trilateral North East Asia Summit Signals a Return to Cooperation
Report 245 / Asia

凶险水域:中日关系触礁

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世界第二与第三大经济体因东海海域内五岛三礁的主权归属而展开对峙(中国称这些岛礁为钓鱼岛及其附属岛屿,日本称为尖阁列岛)。2012年9月,日本政府为避免其中三个有争议岛屿(钓鱼岛及其附属岛屿南小岛和北小岛)落入民族主义者前东京都知事石原慎太郎之手,宣布从一位日本私人土地所有者手中“购买”这三个岛屿,这一举动使得该地区紧张局势骤然爆发。中国政府采取了一系列反应措施,包括在有争议海域建立与日本重叠的行政管理。中日执法机构和军队目前同在有争议海域和空域执行任务,彼此常常近在咫尺。这些参与机构与外交部不同,它们对控制冲突并无太大的兴趣,而且它们往往可以通过情报垄断来操控国内对冲突事件的认识。中日两国缺乏有效处理危机事件的相互信任和沟通联络机制,更欠缺对各自意图或操作程序的有效磋商。在小型冲突发生时,高涨的民族主义——尤其是在中国——将会制约通过外交途径缓解局势的空间。

中国的行动反映了其之前用于处理南海争端的“反应性强硬”策略,借助这一策略,中国利用其在有争议区域所受到的来自其他国家的挑衅而采取强有力的应对措施,从而改变原有秩序并从中获利。中国将日本政府的“购岛”决定解读为单方面改变东海现状的行为,因而采取了一系列旨在改变既有状况的精心策划的行动。其中最重要的行动就是,中国政府在2012年9月公开声明正式划定钓鱼岛及其附属岛屿的领海基线,并因此增加了执法巡航的次数和持续时间,直接挑战了日本对该区域的实际控制。中国的许多战略专家认为,昔日的日本帝国如今正逐渐没落,而中国则正在崛起,因此中国对日本这一东部近邻采取坚决反击、毫不退让立场的时机已经成熟。

民族主义令东海的主权争端在中国成为一个极具爆炸性的话题,程度甚于南海问题。由于日本曾在20世纪30年代残酷占领过中国,因此于钓鱼岛局势对中国民族心理的影响比对中国现代历史中除台湾问题外的其他任何领土争端都要来得深切。中国政府多年来的爱国主义教育助长了反日情绪,并用民族主义为自己的强硬行为辩护。虽然中国政府过去能通过对官方媒体的控制轻易操控民族主义的激昂程度,但互联网运用的快速发展已经逐渐削弱了政府对媒体的控制,并开始塑造能够影响政策制定的舆论环境。中国政府现在必须满足越来越具有批判精神的、直言不讳的中国民众。

鉴于中国将大力促进经济发展放在首位,而日本也渴望重振停滞不前的经济,中日间互补的经济关系对于双方都至关重要,也为两国尽力避免东海争端升级成为军事冲突这种两败俱伤的情形提供了强有力的动因。但尽管两国政府都表示希望避免战争,争端扩大的可能性却有所上升,而且双方对于和平解决争端的前景都越来越悲观。中国和日本的国内局势也加剧了中日关系中的战略猜疑。由于两国的高层领导人没有给缓解危机定下基调,沿用已久的“暗道”外交已不复存在。尽管中国外交部是对日开放的官方渠道,且常常也是唯一渠道,但其在中国政府机构中相对弱势的地位使得中日双边关系更加复杂,并抑制了有效的危机管理。与此同时,过去一直协助处理中日关系的日本“知华派”也受到排挤。尽管在近期解决东海主权争端的希望极为渺茫,但是中日政府仍亟需努力建设沟通联络机制,共同致力于危机缓解,从而避免发生更大规模的冲突。

北京/布鲁塞尔,2013年4月8日

Executive Summary

The world’s second and third largest economies are engaged in a standoff over the sovereignty of five islets and three rocks in the East China Sea, known as the Diaoyu in Chinese and the Senkaku in Japanese. Tensions erupted in September 2012 when Japan purchased three disputed islands from their private owner to keep them from the nationalist governor of Tokyo. In response, Beijing implemented a series of measures including the establishment of overlapping administration in the disputed waters. Both sides’ law enforcement agencies and militaries currently operate in close proximity in disputed naval and aerial space. Unlike foreign ministries, these actors have less institutional interest in containing crises and enjoy an information monopoly allowing them to shape domestic perceptions. The two countries lack the mutual trust and communication mechanisms to manage incidents, let alone to discuss intentions or operating protocols. In the event of a skirmish, heightened nationalism, especially in China, could constrict the room for diplomatic manoeuvres to de-escalate the situation.

China’s actions reflect a “reactive assertive” tactic used previously in the South China Sea, whereby it exploits perceived provocations in disputed areas by other countries to take strong countermeasures to change the status quo in its favour. Interpreting the Japanese government’s decision to purchase the islands as a unilateral change to the status quo, China implemented a series of pre-planned actions with the goal of changing the facts on the ground. The most important was when Beijing declared territorial baselines around the islands in September, thus increasing the number and length of its law enforcement patrols to directly challenge Japan’s de facto control of the area. Many Chinese strategists perceive Japan to be a former empire continuing on a downward slide while China’s star is rising. For them, the time is right to respond resolutely and stake its ground with its eastern neighbour.

Nationalism makes the sovereignty dispute in the East China Sea a highly explosive issue for China, more so than the South China Sea. Due to the brutal Japanese occupation of China in the 1930s, sentiments over the status of the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands run deeper in the Chinese psyche than any other territorial dispute in modern Chinese history, with the exception of Taiwan. Beijing has for years exploited anti-Japan sentiment through patriotic education campaigns and has used nationalism to justify assertive actions. But while in the past it could more easily dial up or down nationalism through control of state-run media, the rapid rise of Internet use has eroded that control and begun to shape the context of policymaking. The government must now satisfy increasingly outspoken and critical citizens.

Complementary economic ties – essential to both given China’s prioritised commitment to strong economic growth and Japan’s desire to rebuild its stagnated economy – have provided strong incentives to keep this dispute from escalating into armed conflict, a scenario neither side wants. But despite expressions by both governments that they wish to avoid a war, potential for escalation has increased and there is deepening pessimism on both sides over the prospects of a peaceful settlement. The strategic mistrust that characterises relations has been aggravated by their respective domestic situations. Without top leaders setting the tone for crisis mitigation, a tradition of back-channel diplomacy has disappeared. The relative weakness of China’s foreign ministry complicates bilateral relations and prevents effective crisis management, as it is the official – and often the only – channel open to Tokyo. Meanwhile, the “China hands” in Japan who traditionally helped manage the relationship have been sidelined. While there is little hope of a resolution of the sovereignty dispute in the near future, Tokyo and Beijing urgently need to work toward establishing communication mechanisms and strengthening crisis mitigation in order to avoid a larger conflict.

Beijing/Brussels, 8 April 2013

 

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