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Why Senkaku Suits the World Better

The threat of World War III briefly flared up last week as a few vague rocks called the Senkaku Islands (also known as Diaoyutai Islands) out on the sea somewhere between Taiwan and Okinawa caused some infuriated Chinese ultra-rightist patriots to threaten to nuke Tokyo after the Japanese coast guard and immigration officers deported a bunch of Hong Kong boat people who had landed illegally on them.

The invaders, who shouted abuse in Cantonese, were swiftly removed and handcuffed by the Japanese, who showed the international community once again that the islands are being effectively administered by Japan. They were then put on a business-class flight, compliments of Japanese taxpayers.

The invaders were hailed here and in China as national heroes although they were deported as swiftly as the hundreds of illegal Mexican immigrants by American police on the Texas border every day.

They shouted victory to the world as they successfully “proclaimed China’s sovereignty” over the islands by briefly laying their feet on the soil and planting both China’s and Taiwan’s national flags on the rocks, which were quickly cast into the waves by the Japanese coast guard. If such acts constitute the realization of “national sovereignty,” then the few tens of thousands of boat people detained in Hong Kong camps in the 1990s before being deported back to Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City could also claim that a part of Britain was likewise owned by Vietnam. This is how the logic of the “Protect the Diaoyutai” campaign goes. If adopted into a doctrine, the Senkaku incident would set a strange precedent case only recognized by China. Following that, any Chinese person attempting to cross the immigration checkpoint at Heathrow or Newark without a passport and ordered to board the next flight back home could claim Chinese sovereignty over Britain or America on behalf of Beijing and demand business class return fares paid for by these governments. Japan has set a dangerous example of immigration largesse for all Western countries.

The heroes kept Hong Kong journalists informed via Facebook as their ship reached the shore and got stranded. Electronic communication was only possible because the Senkaku Islands and the nearby sea, being Japanese territories, are effectively covered by NTT—the Japanese telecommunications network.

If the islands were under Chinese rule and guarded by PLA soldiers, there would be no access to Facebook. But thanks to the freedoms granted by Japanese sovereignty, the Hong Kong invaders would have also theoretically been able to surf pornographic and Falun Gong websites if they had even been allowed to stay long enough to get bored with life on the islands.

This is why it is not a bad thing, even for the Chinese, for those rocks to be officially called Senkaku.

Chip Tsao is a best-selling author, columnist and a former producer for the BBC. His columns have also appeared in Apple Daily, Next Magazine and CUP Magazine, among others.