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Print Edition> Opinion
UPDATED: May 4, 2014 NO. 19, MAY 8, 2014
The Decline of Washington
By Shi Yongming

Washington and Tokyo issued a joint statement on April 24 during U.S. President Barack Obama's Japan tour, claiming that the Treaty of Security and Safeguard Between Japan and the United States extends to "all the territories under the administration of Japan," including the Diaoyu Islands. And "the United States opposes any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan's administration" of the islands. It appears that Obama intended to intimidate China, yet its underlying meaning to the world is that Washington's decline has begun.

As Obama agreed to include the Diaoyu Islands issue into the joint statement under Tokyo's pressure, the U.S.-Japanese relationship enters a new phase of "slave bullying lord." The facts have proven that their alliance has become too cumbersome to be effective. Before Obama's visit to Japan in April, Tokyo started to play tough: Cabinet officials of Shinzo Abe's administration and over 140 right-wing politicians visited the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 Class-A World War II war criminals are worshiped. Although the overall objective of the U.S. president was to make clear Washington's insistence on balancing the Asia-Pacific policy, the intention of his Japanese stop was to reach agreements for negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP). Obama's Japan tour clearly ended with a loss: He had to satisfy Tokyo by taking an oath to support Japan, while gaining nothing in the TPP negotiations. It was true that Obama called for a solution through dialogue. But Washington has shriveled as Abe refused to talk with Beijing over the Diaoyu Islands Issue.

Washington neither wants to, nor is able to convince Tokyo to start dialogues with Beijing over the the Diaoyu Islands issue. Obama did flaunt his country's status as a superpower by backing Japan. But unfortunately, he also exposed the degradation of Washington's political wisdom. The United States has been the only superpower in the world since the Cold War, and realized the Pax Americana as it claimed. Nonetheless, it is hard to find a case in international relations during the past two decades under U.S. leadership in which a problem was solved through a political solution. A long-term show of strength has degenerated Washington's brainpower. Without its three traditional tricks of intimidation, sanctions and military threats, the United States has apparently lost the capability of playing mediator between China and Japan for political settlement. It has resorted to choosing sides and threatening the other, so as to maintain the situation at a self-interested state that it assumes.

The United States is too spoiled by its egoistic superpower status to be a mediator. There is no question as to the sovereignty of the Diaoyu Islands, which have been owned by China since ancient times until the modern era. The Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation confirmed that the Diaoyu Islands, as the affiliated islands of Taiwan, should be returned to China. And both the documents, which were confirmed by governments of China, the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union and accepted by Japanese Mikado in the Imperial Rescript of Surrender in 1945, are legislative documents that cemented the modern East Asia order.

By signing the illegal Treaty of San Francisco with Japan in 1951, the United States created the Diaoyu Islands issue through its hegemonic behavior. Even in the treaty that Japan claimed as the legislative evidence of its sovereignty over the islands, it only talked about Japan's administrative jurisdiction of the Ryukyu Islands, not that of the Diaoyu Islands. And the Diaoyu Islands, historically and geographically, have never been part of the Ryukyu Islands. By handing over administrative jurisdiction of these Islands to Japan, the United States has successfully copied the British Empire's tradition of hiding a bomb of disputes before pulling out of its colonies. Nowadays, Obama's emphasis on administrative jurisdiction is based on ignorance of history and international law. Washington's encouragement of Abe's ambitions will not only enhance the possibility of conflict between China and Japan, but also risk them falling to right-wing Japanese's power plays.

In an era of giant changes, the United States still deals with important international affairs using the Cold War ideology and hegemonism of the 20th century. It is willing to risk any price, including that potentially incurred by Japan's ambition to reclaim it 19th century empire, in order to protect its hegemony and dominate East Asia in the future through a Washington-Tokyo conspiracy.

People must see that the human society is on the threshold of a brand new historic era—not of hegemony but of cooperation. All responsible people are playing their parts in welcoming or preventing this era's arrival. Obama is lucky enough to occupy the most important position at such a significant moment. But apparently, he has chosen the wrong team.

The author is an associated researcher with Chinese Institute of International Studies

Email us at: yanwei@bjreview.com

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