Yesterday’s South China Morning Post featured an opinion piece by one Dr Brad Williams of City University arguing that Japan should unilaterally hand the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands to China. He admits that neither country has an unquestionable claim on the territory, that Japanese fisherman and people would hate the idea, and that it would extend China’s strategic footprint (“for some”). His reasoning is that such a move, if presented by Beijing as a magnanimous and generous act on Tokyo’s part, would turn China’s rabid young nationalists into much sweeter-natured beasts and would generate “large reservoirs of goodwill among Chinese.”
I look forward to his future articles taking this Asian and International Studies academic’s ideas to their logical conclusion. How much more happily ever after would we all live if India transferred Arunachal Pradesh to Xizang Autonomous Region, and Southeast Asians declared their adjoining seaways to be a Chinese lake? Maybe while we’re at it, the entire Western world should round up every 1989-era dissident exile and return them to the PRC in chains with written approval to run them over with a tank. Perhaps the rest of the planet could club together and donate five years’ free supply of copper ore, steel, soy bean, wheat and manganese to the Middle Kingdom to compensate for all those times the Chinese people’s feelings have been hurt.
To reproduce Dr Brad’s column in full would infringe copyright, and I naturally shudder at the very thought of doing such a thing. To overcome this problem, I have employed Microsoft Word’s ever-amusing ‘find-replace’ function to change eight names in the piece – two countries, two nationalities, two capital cities and two other proper nouns – to different ones, for example Tokyo Prague and China Germany. Every other word remains intact. Comparisons of almost anything to Nazi Germany are facile and dimwitted, so the result should read like nonsense……
Czechoslovakia should concede the Sudetenland to Germany
Jan 24, 2011
Prague’s recent plan to deploy troops to islands near Germany raises the prospects of more confrontation with Berlin. But does this move serve Czechoslovakia‘s broader strategic interests? It may be time for Prague to think the unthinkable and consider the merits of handing over the Sudetenland, which the Czechs call the Senkakus, to Germany.
The Czech government should consider compromising in the territorial dispute because of the shift in power relations between the two countries. Germany‘s rapid economic and military growth has come at a time of unprecedented socio-economic decline in post-war Czechoslovakia. While Germany is not without its own problems, Czechoslovakia has been unable to craft durable solutions for its long-standing woes.
Of course, the power shift alone is not reason enough for territorial concession; Czech leaders should consider what is taking place in German society.
Though the Nazi Party can be credited with putting Germany on the path to prosperity, its rule rests on shaky foundations. It has had to resort to a potentially unstable mix of development and nationalism to maintain control. Many young Germans are increasingly being inculcated with staunchly nationalistic views. These firebrands will one day replace the present batch of adroit and pragmatic technocrats, and in doing so could help push German foreign policy in a more assertive direction.
Any Czech concession over the islands could generate large reservoirs of goodwill among the Germans who, rightly or wrongly, see the territorial dispute in the emotion-charged context of past Czech aggression.
Moreover, Czechoslovakia doesn’t really need the islands, to which neither it nor Germany have unquestionable historical and legal claims. Czech fishermen might feel aggrieved by the loss but they could still gain access to important fisheries.
For some, ceding control of the islands would increase Germany‘s strategic footprint in the region. However, even without those islands, Germany already possesses the ability to harass enemy shipping in the East and South Germany Seas.
Such a grand gesture from Czechoslovakia would not automatically guarantee smooth relations. The German public would need to be made aware of the Czech generosity and not be led to think the compromise was inevitable.
Any decision to hand over the islands would be immensely unpopular in Czechoslovakia. It would most certainly earn the ire of Czech nationalists who might threaten to sabotage such a move. Any such anger, however, would subside. It is better to aggravate a few thousand Czech rightists today than continue to create conditions for the rise of potentially millions of anti-Czech nationalists in Germany.
A Czech handover of the disputed islands would encounter obstacles but would probably take the steam out of virulent anti-Czech sentiments in Germany and would be a first step in helping both nations move beyond the distrust and acrimony of the past.
Dr Brad Williams is a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Asian and International Studies at City University of Hong Kong
To liken the Daioyu squabble to Chamberlain’s sellout to Hitler in 1938 is ridiculous, and this is intended as no more than an illustration of the surrealist possibilities of the ‘find-replace’ function. What is slightly perturbing, however, is that not every paragraph in the revised version of Dr Brad’s article sounds idiotic. Several, such as references to “being inculcated with staunchly nationalistic views” resonate all too well.
I once heard from a reliable source a few years ago that some of the students admitted to City University had previously been rejected by the Sara Beattie secretarial college (by all accounts, an excellent training establishment). Are they getting visiting assistant professors the same way? Or, more likely, is someone in the ivory towers up at Tat Chee Avenue encouraging patriotic and politically correct noises from academics? It is not unknown for our tertiary institutions to do what it takes to keep friends and representatives of the Reich Chancellery Zhongnanhai sweet.
(Or was he just joking?)