Joseph Kahn in the April 1st New York Times has an interesting article about China's public diplomatic maneuverings to thwart UN Security Council reform that would promote Japan to a permanent seat.
China has allowed a grass roots effort to collect signatures of 22 million Chinese expressing their opposition to Japan receiving a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Dawn's Early Light has previously discussed the UN reforms that are being discussed here, here and here.
"If China were to prevent Japan's elevation, it would be the most direct confrontation between Asia's leading powers since they re-established diplomatic ties in 1972.
Relations between the countries have sharply deteriorated in recent weeks, strained by competition for energy resources, disputes over the way history textbooks assess Japan's role in World War II, Japan's pledge to aid the United States in defending Taiwan and the recent incursion of a Chinese submarine into Japanese waters.
By allowing millions of people to sign their names to a petition against Japan, Beijing's new leadership seems determined to show that recent Japanese actions have so inflamed popular sentiment that China has no choice but to adopt a tougher diplomatic line."
If I was to quibble with the story, it would be with Mr. Kahn's assertion that centrally controlled China "has no choice but to adopt a tougher diplomatic line." Mr. Kahn does a better job of arguing that the Chinese could well be using this "public" protest as a leveraging tool to receive strategic concessions from Japan or to lay the groundwork for an outright veto of any reform.
While the petition is interesting, it may be a Pandora's box for the Chinese. Allowing this much public organization and demonstration of public opinion could backfire in the future when the topic is domestic instead of international in scope.
"'There has never before been a petition campaign of this magnitude in China,' he said [Mr. Tong, an organizer of the anti-Japan petition]. 'It will be much harder for the government to suppress in the future.'"
Nevertheless, it is an interesting development in Sino-Japanese relations.