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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 1-Jan-08
Japanese Prime Minister sucks up to China in a four-day trip

Web Log - January, 2008

Japanese Prime Minister sucks up to China in a four-day trip

However, issues of substance in the East China Sea were left unresolved.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has just ended a four-day trip to China described by everyone as a "feel-good" trip. In particular, Fukuda attempted to defuse the bitterness caused by Japan's actions in World War II (the Nanjing Massacre and use of comfort women) by promising to "learn from history." Also, he promised to take China's side and oppose any moves by Taiwan toward independence.

However, little of substance was accomplished. The most important failure was to find an agreement to settle a bitter border dispute in the East China sea that affects control over vast oil reserves and other natural resources.

It was just three months ago that 71 year old Fukuda came to power, after a year of governmental near-paralysis under 53 year old former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The choice of Fukuda represented a remarkable reversion to an older generation. Abe was Japan's first PM born after World War II, and his scandal-ridden administration is considered by many to be a disaster.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao shaking hands in Beijing. Identical twins, separated at birth? <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: Xinhua)</font>
Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao shaking hands in Beijing. Identical twins, separated at birth? (Source: Xinhua)

The generation that grows up during a crisis war (like America's "Silent Generation" that grew up during WW II or the "Progressive Generation" that grew up during the Civil War) is known in generational theory as having the "Artist" archetype, because they're so sensitive and willing to compromise. They grow up surrounded by death, destruction, and genocidal horror, and suffer a kind of "generational child abuse." Like any child abuse victims, they grow up to be sensitive and indecisive. As adults, people who grow during a crisis war are always avoiding difficult decisions, although once a decision has been made (possibly by other people), they can implement that decision ruthlessly.

Fukuda is in the Artist archetype, and so are the main leaders of China. President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, both born in 1942, grew up during the tail end of WW II, into the extremely violent Chinese "Communist Revolution" civil war that ended in 1949.

One can just imagine the feelings of Fukuda, Hu and Wen as they met with and talked to one another, and each realized he was talking to someone who had tried to massacre his parents' friends. These feelings must have been even more intense when Wen gave Fukuda a surprise gift of 1978 photograph of Fukuda's father, then Prime Minister of Japan, signing a peace agreement with China.

And so it's not surprising that Fukuda, Hu and Wen all got along so well. Fukuda and Wen even played a game of catch with one another at an all-smiles photo op. But it's also not surprising that neither of them could make the hard decisions necessary to forge a compromise on substantive issues.

Map of East China Sea and disputed region <font size=-2>(Source: BBC)</font>
Map of East China Sea and disputed region (Source: BBC)

The dispute over the East China Sea is not a new one. It's one of a number of issues that sparked massive anti-Japanese riots in Chinese cities in 2005, during a time of extremely tense relations between Japan and China.

A page one article in the Wall Street Journal in 2005 actually described the crisis in generational terms, as follows:

"Ten years ago, when Chinese navy ships were spotted in waters between Japan and China, a newly elected lawmaker named Keizo Takemi warned that the Chinese were surveying energy resources also claimed by Japan. He was ignored by senior colleagues, who said they wanted to keep smooth ties with Beijing.

This year, as China prepares to drill for natural gas below that same part of the East China Sea, Japan is reacting very differently. Mr. Takemi, now a leader on foreign affairs in parliament, put together a response that was surprisingly robust by Japanese standards: In March, Tokyo announced it will launch a rival drilling effort, to be protected by Japan's high-tech military if necessary.

"Our nation's sovereign rights are at stake," says Mr. Takemi, 53 years old."

The article describes "the emergence of a new generation of leaders with new notions about Japan's role in the world," and adds:

"These younger lawmakers, most in their 40s and 50s, want their nation to be more assertive. They are also willing to break old taboos about shows of military force, something Japan long avoided for fear of conjuring memories of World War II aggression. That's a big change from their predecessors, who avoided confrontation with China, instead showering it with billions of dollars in development aid out of guilt over Japan's brutal 1930s invasion. Memories are still raw in China of the Japanese attack, which historians say caused fighting and famine that killed millions of Chinese civilians."

Both China and Japan were frightened by the intensity of the anti-Japan riots in China in 2005, and since that time, both countries have made efforts to step back from potential war. Fukuda's visit to China is part of that effort.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, the "feel-good" phase of Japan-China relations won't last long. The generational forces described in the article just quoted are increasing every day, as WW II survivors die off, and are replaced with increasingly nationalistic leaders in both China and Japan.

Right now, there's a strong motivation on both sides to avoid conflict. Japan is frightened of a militaristic China, and experiencing shame over its WW II atrocities. China is preparing for the Beijing Olympic games this year by acting like a teenage girl preparing for a sweet 16 coming out party who doesn't want anything to spoil it for her.

But Generational Dynamics predicts that the generational forces will overcome these motivations, and there will be a new genocidal war between Japan and China, as a component of fast approaching "Clash of Civilizations" world war. (1-Jan-08) Permanent Link
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