Haruki Murakami calls for calm as tensions rise between Japan and China

Best-selling Japanese author Haruki Murakami has become the latest voice to air his views on the increasing tensions between Japan and China over ownership of the Senkaku islands (known in China as the Diaoyu). Writing for the Asahi Shimbun, Murakami called for both countries to stop the “hysteria” of the dispute by ceasing to employ nationalistic rhetoric and by beginning to make concessions. He likened the nationalism that can be borne of territorial issues to a “cheap alcohol”, and urged China and Japan to move away from it.

Ties between China and Japan have been repeatedly strained by the territorial row over the group of islands. Both countries, as well as Taiwan, have all put forward bold sovereignty claims to the islands. The most recent tensions began some weeks ago when Japan’s central government announced that they had bought the islands from the Japanese family it recognised as the owner. The Japanese chief cabinet secretary, Osamu Fujimura, claimed that the purchases had been made in order “to maintain the Senkakus peacefully and stably”.

Since then the situation has escalated as China sent surveillance ships to the islands and huge anti-Japanese protests took place in Beijing, with many Japanese firms leaving the city. Ultra-nationalists in Japan also demonstrated in Tokyo against the Chinese. The latest bout of hostility has seen tens of thousands of flight bookings from China to Japan cancelled, as well as the pulling of Hong Kong-Chinese director Yim Ho’s latest film from the Tokyo Film Festival. Though denied by the Beijing municipal bureau of press and publication, there have also been reports that Chinese authorities have ordered the removal of literature by Japanese authors from Chinese bookshops.

If the reports are true, this would also include Murakami’s works, most notably his bestselling trilogy 1Q84. Murakami has enjoyed great success in China, but in his recent writing he showed no signs of anger or bitterness towards Chinese authorities. Instead, he called on both sides not to let things get out of control, and urged Japan not to retaliate by banning works by Chinese authors.”Here is what I’d say loud and clear,” he wrote. “Please don’t retaliate against China for taking such steps. If we do, it becomes our problem, and it will come back and hit you.”

As the dispute continues, it remains to be seen whether Japan and China will take heed of calls for calm from Murakami and others.

Sources include: The Guardian, BBC News, History Today

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