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Home > Debates Last Updated: 14:31 03/09/2007
Debate: Comment (May 27, 2002)

Rejoinder to Dolan on Shenyang Incident

Gregory Clark (Honorary President of Tama University)

I would like to respond to Daniel Dolan's comments on my opinion regarding the Shenyang incident.

While I do think media coverage was excessive, and reflected much of Japan's emotional response to the incident, at this point I am making a very different point, namely the Japanese need to call in the foreigners to provide judgements as to what is right and wrong - intellectual gaiatsu. The idea that at that moment the world was watching Japan, horrified by the weak Japanese response to the incident, is bizarre and unworthy of NHK's normal intelligence.

Foreign media coverage of the event only got underway properly when it was realised that the incident was causing bad blood between Japan and China - a point of very great international significance. In this area rightwing US media and other anti-China elements in the US had a very vested interest in supporting Japan.

It was the excessive media coverage that created the initial anti-Beijing hysteria and blatant one-sidedness. The skepticism only came later, following the emergence of crucial data refuting much of the basis for the hysteria and one-sidedness. That skepticism eased some of the damage caused by excessive media coverage, but only some.

Regarding the words, "a certain emotional direction" and "dislike," I would say the following. Compare the relatively toned down approach taken later by the some media and commentators with the initial approach and you will have your definition of the word ‘emotional direction'; Then try to explain the factors why they reacted so emotionally, and why the rightwing now is using the incident to put an end to aid and the so-called China school and you will discover the meaning of the word ‘dislike.'

Dan Dolan wrote: "The videotape of the Shenyang fiasco, particularly when viewed multiple times, offers many more useful insights." My response is as follows. For insights we need a lot more that that tape. Further insights would be provided simply by commonsense: They would have included:

The glaring contradiction between a Japan which refuses to take any political refugees from abroad insisting that it was taking the humanistic approach in demanding fullest care for the five people, and implying strongly that the Chinese lack humanism. If it is the Chinese side that lacks humanism why have they allowed some 200,000 to 300,000 North Koreans to cross into their territory. These people place great strain on Chinese facilities. There are also social problems. But no other nation, Japan especially, has offered to take them.

As a result of Tokyo's artificially manufactured fuss, it is highly likely that China will now clamp down on the movements of these people. Far from helping these people, the net result will be even more tightly closed entrances to diplomatic premises and maybe a more tightly closed China/North Korea frontier. Is that a 'humanistic' result about which Tokyo can feel proud? Why in all the fuss triggered by the video was there no mention of highly relevant points such as:

(a) the Vienna convention which forbids entry to diplomatic premises also obliges the host nation to provide security against intrusions. If armed intruders were seen crossing the wall into the consulate, would the Chinese guards have been obliged by the Vienna convention to do nothing?

(b) the consulate had already had earlier intrusions for which the police had been needed. (When called on to explain the handshake incident the Gaimusho said lamely it was gratitude for past help without mentioning the nature of that help.) These intrusions had made it clear the consulate did not welcome refugees. The obligation on the guards to prevent more intruders was even greater than normal.

(c) by leaving its gate open (every other consulate in Shenyang had entrances thoroughly blocked to prevent refugee access) the Japanese were in effect saying they expected the police to intervene against intruders, even if they did get inside the gate. If the guards had NOT done what they did they would have been in violation of the Vienna convention

(d) the fact the1998 precedent in China's Tokyo embassy totally undercuts Japan's claims of sovereignty violation anyway

We also need to know how and why the Gaimusho could issue such an obviously deficient report on the incident.

One reason why there is little mention of these highly relevant points was total obsession with the video which Dolan sees as so crucial to understanding events.

But there is a deeper problem in all this. I believe that a sensible observer of Japan must agree that there is something unusual about the Japanese personality, the propensity to moods and booms, the former militaristic hysteria, the bubble hysteria and the inability to find correct policies to overcome bubble damage, the lack of crime, the weak intellectuality, the work ethic and attention to detail, etc etc. It is from events like Shenyang that we get extra clues as to how that personality operates.

True, there are many like Dolan who object strongly to such a Nihonjin-ron approach. And they have a right to their opinion, though one would have more respect for their approach if they gave their reasons and did not simply rely on PC to reject any idea that national personalities may differ. But as a result of that particular conviction, these people also end up rejecting efforts objectively (and authoritatively in my case as a former diplomat in Moscow during the Cold War where we took it for granted the guards might have to step into Embassy property at times) to analyze an event with major implications for future Japan-China relations. This does not strike me as proper scholarship.

The ugly ‘our nation right or wrong' snarls from LDP conservatives when Beijing released data refuting the Gaimusho bogus report would also have been highly relevant to genuine scholars, but also seems to have been ignored.

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