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Ill historical assertions

Updated: 2014-02-11 08:17
( China Daily)

The close economic bond did not prevent Germany and the United Kingdom from going to war. So, despite being responsible for the current impasse between China and Japan and pressing ahead with his anti-China stunts, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has made an unctuous appeal for the two countries to avoid a similar scenario.

Former US Defense Department official Joseph Bosco has warned that, without a "big red line" drawn for Beijing, policy ambiguity may lead to the same kind of miscalculation that triggered the Korean War in 1950.

The most outlandish analogy, however, has come from Philippine President Benigno Aquino III. In his desperation to seek international support for his government's territorial claims against China, Aquino drew a vicious parallel with the West's failure to back Czechoslovakia against Nazi Germany's demand for Sudetenland in 1938.

All of a sudden, everyone wants to look like a good student of history. But such references offer nothing but a pseudo sense of history. And it is the absence of a complete sense of history that has been misguiding the international discourse on the East Asia conundrum.

The standard Western paradigm of the East Asia deadlock is built around the essentially imaginative picture of an "assertive" China versus "vulnerable" neighbors. The fundamentally biased presentation of the Asia-Pacific status quo is harmful because it thoroughly misinterprets the causes and origins of the troubles.

The nature of territorial disputes in the East China Sea as well as the South China Sea is not the territorial ambitions of an expansionist China against vulnerable neighbors. On the contrary, China is just responding to provocative neighbors that want to profit from international attempts to contain China.

None of the territorial disputes is new. Abe was lying when he said there is no dispute over the Diaoyu Islands. The issue had been shelved by Chinese and Japanese governments to make way for good-neighborliness.

Instead, the truly dangerous tendency is the rampant distortion of history in Abe's Japan. Besides glorifying Japan's wartime sex slave system, denying the Nanjing Massacre and honoring war criminals, Abe and his cohorts are now trying to honor the kamikaze commandos.

The United States, for unknown reasons, has turned a blind eye to Abe's stunts, even though it was he who broke the status quo with his provocative actions.

In the South China Sea, too, China's territorial claims have existed on maps and in textbooks for long, especially since the mid-20th century. Things had not turned nasty until some neighbors began to make provocative moves. But when China moves to protect itself, it is portrayed as a bully.

Vilifying Beijing may serve some of Tokyo's, Manila's and even Washington's short-term purposes. But history will reveal to them the long-term harm.