California Plays Nice with China and Japan as the Two Asian Giants Square off

Monday, June 10, 2013

While Governor Jerry Brown was invading China in April, the Japanese were planning an amphibious assault on San Clemente Island. Guess which event the Chinese government is upset about?

Following up on his trip to China, the governor met with Chinese officials this past week in California to talk about economic development opportunities. Chinese President Xi Jinping, in the state for a summit with President Barack Obama, joined Brown in Indian Wells on Saturday. Afterward the governor told the Desert Sun, “The president definitely mentioned the fact that China has huge sums of capital they’re looking to deploy around the world and that California would be one of the spots of focus.”

That sounds friendly.

Japanese troops are coming to California to participate in joint military exercises with an emphasis on amphibious assaults over the next two weeks. The unprecedented maneuvers come amid Chinese and Japanese saber-rattling over control of  islands they both claim in the East China Sea. China Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying called the military exercises “provocative” and said “foreign pressure” would not prevent China from protecting its interests. China asked that they be cancelled.

That does not sound friendly.

Japan and China are engaged in a struggle over uninhabited islands that China calls Diaoyutai. Japan calls them the Senkaku Islands and have controlled them on and off since 1895. They lost them during World War II and got them back from the United States in 1972.

But China says it staked its claim in the 14th Century and has actively disputed Japanese assertions to the contrary since the U.S. returned the islands. Japan nationalized them last September and China sent its ships into Japanese territorial waters there in April. Both sides have increased their presence around the islands since oil reserves were discovered in the area in 1968.

Japan is reportedly sending three warships, 1,000 military personnel and four combat helicopters to California for the military exercise known as Dawn Blitz 2013. New Zealand and Canada also will take part.

Chinese relations with California are far less contentious than those with Japan. Brown opened a trade and investment office in Shanghai during his trip to China. Brown told the Desert Sun his meeting Saturday focused on “mutual goals of new energy technologies, agriculture, tourism and exchange of students and scientists.”

The governor is quoted by the Desert Sun as saying, “California looks to the entire Pacific, but to China in particular, for our economic advantage. We do so remembering that Chinese people have been coming to California since the gold rush back in 1848.”

Presumably, the Chinese are more welcome now. The Library of Congress has a lengthy online entry entitled “The Chinese in California, 1850-1925” that documents the miserable treatment Chinese immigrants suffered in the state. The era was characterized by hate crimes, racist laws, anti-Chinese agitation and anti-immigration policies.

But officials now are projecting that tighter relations with China could bring up to $60 billion in direct investment in California by 2020. That might help engender better behavior by Americans.

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

President Xi Jinping and Gov. Jerry Brown Hold Meeting in Indian Wells (by Erica Felci, The Desert Sun)

Japan Holds Unprecedented Military Exercise in US amid Tensions with China over Islands (by Julie Watson, Associated Press)

China Calls Japan-U.S. Island Drill “Provocative” (by Michael Martina and Terril Yue Jones, Reuters)

Leave a comment