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Diaoyu lease plan a good idea in grass-roots diplomacy

(Global Times)

09:20, July 20, 2012

Tong Zeng, a Chinese entrepreneur and president of the Chinese Civilian Association for Safeguarding the Diaoyu Islands, has submitted an application to the State Oceanic Administration to lease the islands for tourism development.

The authorities haven't replied yet. But the public has praised Tong's move as a smart grass-roots counterstrike to Japan's recent and repeated provocative plans to either purchase or nationalize the islands.

When it comes to territorial disputes, some politicians in neighboring countries like Japan and the Philippines seem enthusiastic to enter a competition to see who is tougher.

These hawkish words have been encouraged by their governments as legitimate views common in a democratic society. China's approach appears passive by comparison.

Take the Diaoyu Islands issue. It is not wise to behave recklessly, as this might lead to a serious confrontation. This is where individuals and the private sector can play a bigger role.

Tong is writing a feasibility report for his Diaoyu Islands lease plan. It's not known if his application will be approved. But as Tong revealed, he is trying to provide the government with a new way of thinking and show Japan a clear, resolute attitude from the Chinese public.

Tong's move has already stirred up discussions of other possible actions that the Chinese public could take and better coordination between diplomatic authorities and society in general over the disputed island.

For instance, some suggest that the government should further back maritime exploration by private business, and the profits would in turn support official action to maintain legal rights.

The wisdom of 1.3 billion people should be mobilized, so as to come up with a rational package of solutions and form the necessary flexibility for a multi-tiered diplomacy.

At this stage, China's rising national strength hasn't given the country many more diplomatic alternatives. The reality is quite the opposite.

China actually appears more passive due to external hyping of the "China threat." The diplomatic authorities have to be cautious, but more channels can be created for the expression of grass-roots demands.

Over the past decades, with more resources including economic strength, Chinese grass-roots forces that seek to safeguard the Diaoyu Islands have become more mature and collaborative.

Japan should face up to the Chinese public's increasing confidence in expressing and safeguarding national interests.

These grass-roots moves, in better interaction with government action, are important for fostering greater initiatives for overall Chinese diplomacy.


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