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Dove of trade may be just another hopeful illusion

(Global Times)

08:42, October 31, 2012

As tensions in East Asia grow, driven by conflicts over islands, China's rising power, and the renewed US role in the region, some find the situation disturbingly reminiscent of Europe in the 1910s. Could the region be drawn into a wider war? Or will trade and economic interdependence keep peace in place? The Global Times invited two writers to comment.

The recent squabbling between China and Japan over the Diaoyu Islands constitutes a serious threat to the region's peaceful development. It raises once more the question whether Asia's evolution toward a distinct regional state system will follow the path of peaceful intercourse or slide into interstate rivalry, and possibly, violent conflict.

Optimists argue that China and Japan are economically too interdependent to slip into war. While China is Japan's biggest trading partner, Japan is China's third-largest trading partner after the EU and the US.

Two way-trade between the two economies rose 11.7 percent in 2011 to a record $345 billion. Japan's outbound direct investment in China reached 1 trillion yen ($12.5 million) in 2011, up 60 percent from 2010. Although China's direct investment in Japan fell sharply to 8.9 billion yen in 2011 from 27.6 billion yen the year before, it remained well above the 2005 level of 1.3 billion yen.

Beijing and Tokyo certainly have good reasons to keep their win-win relationship afloat, and the latest squabble about a few clumps of rock will probably die down, just as others have in the past.

All this sounds reasonable, just like it did in Europe in the period before World War I.


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