Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shanghai Noon -- Showdown Near Senkaku

Japan has done a lot to improve traditional and public diplomacy in Asia, as I've written in the past. From pop culture cache and technological supremacy to cultural exchanges and language education, Japan has attempted to broaden its soft power resources.

But it looks as if Japan's diplomatic efforts could use a Pikachu-powered jolt of energy as diplomatic relations with China have been suspended this week, the latest development in a standoff following a maritime fender bender near the Senkaku islands.

Over at Foreign Policy, Dan Twining argues that the tension "is part of a larger pattern of Chinese assertiveness towards its neighbors over the past few years," an observation in keeping with China's growing military and economic power. With economic and technological strength, an advantageous geographical position, a close relationship with the United States and diplomatic cache, Japan is in many ways well situated to counter China's rising power.

China, of course, is no stranger to the PD game itself--from panda politics to Olympian spectacle to extravagant Expos to the establishment of the nation's first PD research center, China has demonstrated an adept appreciation of soft power politics.

Ultimately, the question of Chinese v. Japanese regional influence may be determined less by soft power and public diplomacy strategies than by hard power politics. But even if that were the case, it can only be disadvantageous to suspend diplomatic relations and open channels of communication as the nations try to resolve their differences in a (presumably) peaceful manner.

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