International ties

Resolving conflicts between China and Japan-a first step

By Patrick Mattimore (
Updated: 2010-10-15 15:17
Large Medium Small

The recent flap over events surrounding the Diaoyu Islands or Senkaku Islands, as they are referred to in Japan, is an example of a controversy that might be solved if the two countries had a permanent dispute resolution center. China and Japan could establish such a center in order to showcase how peace-seeking Asian countries that have been traditional foes, can solve their problems.

The center might become the "first stop shop" when disputes arise between Japan and China. In any event, regular channels of communication would be established between the two nations and, if the center is successful, trust would certainly build.

The center could be open to any countries wishing to send representatives to try and work out differences between those countries. Japan and China could provide teams of dispute moderators if asked to do so.

Further, any center dedicated to peacefully resolving problems should include an ongoing educational resource where interested individuals would be trained to solve conflicts.

Just as important, the establishment of such a center would send an important message to the West that the leading Asian nations are now prepared to handle their own affairs without American interference. America's "big brother" relationship with both Japan and Taiwan has put a wedge between those two places and China and in the long run does not benefit any of the Asian countries.

Down the line, China and Japan might develop long-term strategies to help broker resolutions of disputes between other nations. Because the two countries are often viewed as coming from opposite sides of the fence with regard to international relations, countries would be more likely to trust advice from bipartisan committees from China and Japan than from any individual nation.

There are, of course, already in place organizations such as the United Nations and the World Court dedicated to helping resolve conflict. A China/Japan center would not be intended to supplant those august organizations but merely to serve as an alternative model.

The largest obstacles to overcome in establishing a dispute resolution center are traditional inertia which often leads to saber-rattling but little progress, and historical mistrust between China and Japan. If those blocks can be surmounted both China and Japan would profit.

China and Japan share a common and often bitter history. If the two nations can put aside immediate slights and establish a bilateral partnership, the two nations' detente would be a beacon to the many nations still embroiled in conflict.

The author is a fellow at the Institute for Analytic Journalism and an adjunct professor at Tsinghua/Temple Law School LLM Program in Beijing.