Diaoyu Islands

Analysts say cross-strait ties benefiting from dispute with Japan

Analysts believe cross-strait relations are a beneficiary of shared dispute with Japan, with both sides pressing China's historic claims

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 September, 2012, 3:34am

While China and Japan become more estranged from each other in a bitter territorial row in the East China Sea, analysts say the escalating tensions have produced unexpected benefits for cross-strait relations.

Analysts across the strait said the shared history and similar stances over the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands, known as the Senkakus in Japan, had brought Beijing and Taipei closer. And though the two have refrained from talking about joint efforts to protect the islands, public appeals have been mounting on both sides for closer cross-strait co-operation on the issue.

Beijing and Taipei both argue they have inherited China's historic claim of sovereignty over the islands, located 400 kilometres from the Okinawan capital of Naha and 200km from Taiwan.

Professor Pang Zhongying , who teaches international relations at Renmin University of China, said cross-strait ties had benefited from the dispute, despite its adverse economic and diplomatic impacts.

He said bold moves from both the mainland and Taiwan over the past few weeks, including mass demonstrations, tough diplomatic posturing and surveillance and fishing ships sailing near the disputed waters, had helped consolidate their claims in the long-standing row.

Ming Chuan University Professor Yang Kai-huang, who heads the Taiwan-based Mainland China Studies Association, also said the actions by Beijing and Taipei, although not co-ordinated, could be viewed as a rather successful "converging attack" in countering Japan's claim.

"Both the mainland and Taiwan have their different interests and considerations on the Diaoyus dispute, but it is good to see that they have, in effect, fought together," he said.

Yang noted that Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has come under huge domestic and international pressure from the US and Japan over the dispute.

"Ma is in a rather awkward position because of his fears about the impact of strained ties with its allies in the event of any future disputes … with the mainland [and] worries about domestic … opposition to warming cross-strait relations," Yang said.

Both Yang and Professor Chang Ling-chen, a political scientist at the National Taiwan University, spoke highly of Ma, who recently paid a visit to a Taiwan-held island near the Diaoyus and this week sent coastguard vessels to protect Taiwanese fishing boats in the area.

But they also criticised Ma for remarks that his government would refuse to co-operate with the mainland to defend the Diaoyus' sovereignty. "It is understood to be an attempt to reassure its western allies, but this [weakens] Taiwan's stance in the escalating row," Chang said.

Both men noted that Beijing was aware of Ma's dilemma.