As fresh anti-Japanese protests roil China on the anniversary marking the start of the Sino-Japanese conflict in World World 2, the US Defence Secretary has held talks with his Chinese counterpart, urging greater Sino-US military cooperation. Meanwhile, both China and the US have filed international trade complaints against each other, heightening trade tensions amid a weakening world economy and a contentious US presidential election race.
Anti-Japanese protests mark war anniversary
Anti-Japanese protests have been taking place in China since the Japanese government announced its purchase of disputed islands in the East China Sea, called Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China.
The renewed protests follows days of violent protests from the weekend targeting Japanese businesses, causing many of them, including Mitsubishi and Canon, to temporarily halt operations. These new protests seemed better controlled than those over the weekend, which included rioting and vandalism.
At the same time, eleven Chinese patrol ships entered waters around the islands Tuesday, after two Japanese nationals landed on one of the isles.
Implications for leadership transition
SIIA Chairman Simon Tay remarked that even the disagreements in the South China Sea disputes are minor compared to Sino-Japanese spat, the latter of which has implications for the coming Chinese leadership change.
"In Beijing, they discuss the South China Seas firmly but the differences pale compared to the emerging Chinese confrontation with Japan. This is not only a question of government policy but a wider public anger. At a time of leadership transition, this can however rebound unless carefully policed," he said.
US Defence Secretary visits Beijing to promote Sino-US military ties
Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta in a visit to Beijing, assured his Chinese counterpart that the US rebalancing of forces in Asia was not directed at China. He also urged Beijing to boost military contact with the US to stengthen trust and decrease the risk of conflict.
Mr Panetta, in talks with China's Defense Minister Liang Guanglie, also invited China to send a ship to the 2014 Rimpac exercise, a multinational naval drill in the Pacific Ocean.
Mr Liang said the military relationship is part of larger Sino-US relations and both countries should “discard the zero-sum game mentality” of one side’s gain coming at the expense of the other.
Referring to the current Sino-Japanese dispute, Mr Liang warned, in a press conference after the talks, that China reserves the right to take further action over the territorial dispute but hopes to see a peaceful settlement eventually.
Mr Panetta is set to meet Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping later today.
Report: More Protests in China Over Japan and Islands [New York Times, 18 Sep 2012]
Report: Panetta Works to Ease Chinese Concerns Over U.S. Asia Pivot [Bloomberg, 18 Sep 2012]
Report: Isles spat: China does not rule out further action [Straits Times, 19 Sep 2012]
US and China file opposing trade complaints
Meanwhile, the Obama administration filed a new enforcement action Monday with the World Trade Organization, accusing China of illegally subsidising exports of automobiles and auto parts.
Beijing sent its own complaint Monday, protesting against anti-dumping duties that the US had imposed on $7.2 billion in goods from China that the US alleged were sold below cost.
The developments came as Mr Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney are competing on being tough with China. Critics claim that China engages in unfair trade practices that have led to US trade deficits and US job losses.
In response, China said it was a victim of US electoral politics. The Chinese Ministry of Commerce made an official comment Tuesday evening, blaming the US presidential elections for the complaint.
Report: U.S., China file dueling complaints as trade tensions heat up [Los Angeles Times, 18 Sep 2012]
Report: China says U.S. auto trade complaint driven by election race [Reuters, 18 Sep 2012]