The Daioyu/Senkaku Dispute as an Identity-Based Conflict: Toward Sino-Japan Reconciliation
Security in East Asia is at risk as a result of the territorial dispute over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. While political and economic factors are behind the tensions, at the root of the tensions is history, and the conflict of national identity between China and Japan. As such, rising tension over the islands activates the collective memories of their divided pasts and appeals to their national identities. The resulting mutual distrust helps develop the two societies’ mental templates that define their expectations of future bilateral relations. To avoid a further escalation of the conflict, policymakers and civil society leaders on both sides must first recognize the powerful role that their national identities play in historical conflict. They must then face serious questions in search of a way forward: Should China and Japan let the escalating tension take its due course without treating its root causes, as they have done repeatedly in the past? Or should they decisively tackle these causes this time, to build conditions for Sino-Japan reconciliation? The following steps can be implemented to diffuse tension and promote reconciliation. he Chinese and Japanese national leaders appeal to symbolicgestures of conciliation, including meetings with overseas community representatives of the other side The two sides diversify alternative channels of bi-communal dialogue that actively brings together media professionals, committed critics of conciliatory measures, and other dividers and connectors in China-Japan relations. Respected opinion leaders on both sides establish a High-Level China-Japan Council on the East China Sea, whose mandate is to orchestrate the proposed multi-track exchange and complement the existing government-supported mechanisms of bilateral exchange. China and Japan launch national and bi-national dialogues on the future of history education, with emphasis on an appropriate content of history books.
As tensions between Japan and China continue to bubble over islands in the East China Sea, scholars from the two countries outline not only the origins, but also the policy options to resolve the territorial dispute. Together with George Mason University, the Wilson Center hosted a conference on how the ongoing conflict may be resolved in late January. Clash of National Identities: China, Japan, and the East China Territorial Dispute is a compliation of essays by the conference participants.