Friday, January 24, 2014


"Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe compared current tensions between China and Japan to rivalry between Britain and Germany on the eve of the first world war, but his top spokesman yesterday denied the leader meant war between Asia's two big powers was possible. Sino-Japanese ties, long plagued by what Beijing sees as Japan's failure to atone for its occupation of parts of China in the 1930s and 1940s, have worsened due to a territorial row, Tokyo's mistrust of Beijing's military build-up and Abe's visit last month to a shrine that critics say glorifies Japan's wartime past. Abe, speaking to international journalists at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said on Wednesday that China and Japan were in a "similar situation" to that of Britain and Germany before the first world war. [Abe] stated that … military expansion in Asia must be curbed Although the rivals then had strong trade ties, that did not prevent the outbreak of war in 1914, Abe said, adding that China's steady increase in military spending was a major source of instability in the region. He also repeated Japan's call for a military hotline to avert an accidental conflict.... In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Abe was evading Japan's "history of aggression" by comparing Sino-Japanese relations to those of the UK and Germany prior to the first world war. "There's no need to make an issue of the UK-Germany relationship," Gang said. "Such remarks by Japanese leaders are to evade the history of aggression, to confuse the audience." In his address at the Davos forum, Abe called for military restraint in the region and took a veiled swipe at China's military build-up. "We must … restrain military expansion in Asia, which could otherwise go unchecked," Abe said. "Military budgets should be made completely transparent and there should be public disclosure in a form that can be verified." He added that disputes should be resolved through dialogue and the rule of law, and not through force and coercion. Abe did not single out China by name".
"Japan PM Abe compares China-Japan rivalry to pre-war UK-Germany ties." South China Morning Post. 24 January 2014, in
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
George Santayana. The Life of Reason. Volume I, Chapter 12 (1905).
The mots employed by Japanese premier Shinzo Abe at Davos, Switzerland are, while not correct historically speaking are as per he context of Sino-Japanese relations spot on. As most of the more recent historiography of the origins of the Great War, such as Christopher Clark or Sean McMeekin clearly shows, it was the cockpit of the Balkans and the Austro-Russian rivalry therein, rather than the North Sea and the Anglo-German naval race which was the primary causation of the Great War 1. So for historical accuracy, we can say that the patrician Japanese premier has failed the test. However, as it concerns the current tensions in the Orient between Japan and China, then his remarks are completely on the mark. The fact of the matter is that it is the Peoples Republic revisionist views of the territorial status quo ante bellum, which are the chief, nay the only real source of tension in the area, aside from the existence of North Korea. It is the singular unwillingness of the PRC to forswear the employment of force which is the culprit as per relations between Japan and China. And it is Peking's frequent testing of Japanese forces in the North China Seas, which is the real source of possible military conflict in the Orient. Sans Chinese truculent and militaristic behavior, only North Korea presents a source of danger in the region. As premier Abe correctly states:
"We must ... restrain military expansion in Asia, which could otherwise go unchecked 2."
And it is the regime in Peking which is the chief source of 'military expansion in Asia'. Tensions in the Orient will only decline when the PRC either changes its policies voluntarily or by force majeure.
1. Christopher Clark. The Sleepwalkers: How Europe went to War in 1914. (2103); Sean McMeekin. The Russian Origins of the First World War. (2012); July 1914: Countdown to War. (2013). For a review articles dealing with these books, see: R. J. W. Evans, "‘The Greatest Catastrophe the World Has Seen’". The New York Review of Books. 6 February 2014, in
2. South China Morning Post, op. cit. See also: Gideon Rachman, "Davos leaders: Shinzo Abe on WW1 parallels, economics and women at work." The Financial Times. 22 January 2014, in


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