May 15, 2014 | Event Summary

President Obama’s recent tour of Asia has attracted much attention by the media and Asian politics monitors alike. So it is fitting that on a foggy Toronto evening, Dr. James Manicom would introduce his enlightening work on the ongoing saga of the disputed Senkaku-Diaoyu Islands and the political tensions between China and Japan.

Dr. Manicom’s book, Bridging Troubled Waters: China, Japan, and Maritime Order in the East China Seawas the focus of the Canadian International Council- Toronto Branch book launch event at the Aird & Berlis Building on April 30th. The evening was sure to please those interested in the region and the two countries as Dr. Manicom would begin the event with an informative presentation on the background and subject of the book. However, the presentation was much more than a neatly illustrated crash course into the issue. Guests were allowed to pick the brain of the esteemed Research Fellow from the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI).  Furthermore, we were treated to Dr. Manicom’s own personal perspective on the disputed islands.

During his presentation Dr. Manicom revealed his take on what was needed to resolve the issue. Indeed, we were informed that the cycle of brinksmanship, negotiations and status quo is one often repeated by China and Japan in their complicated relationship. The key in making sure the cycle of political conversation between the two nation’s remains just as a conversation, as Dr. Manicom suggests, relies on three key factors.

1. A clear presence of the United States in their commitments with Japanese security. Dr. Manicom explains that the sentiment within the Japanese government is one of skepticism in relation to US aiding Japan and their regional struggles. Some reinforcement of their relationship would bring the Japanese government some much needed certainty.

2. Another key factor is Chinese political stability. As long as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) keeps stability and maturity in its governance, the relationship with Japan will continue its present course. Any destabilization in the political structure and governance of China could ripple into the dispute, thus creating future negotiations and conversation extremely difficult.

3. The last factor is what Dr. Manicom considers the “maturity” and “morale high-road” of the dispute. It is paramount that both China and Japan take a “morale high-road” when conversing with the other party. The emphasis is on a reserved and diplomatic behavior and not to take the easy route- falling into military showmanship in order to please the sentiments of a potentially enraged citizenry.

Dr. Manicom wrapped up the presentation expressing his optimism in the situation. Explaining that since October 1st of 2013, Chinese patrol in volume around the islands has decreased and even more importantly, proactive routes that patrols took in the past have decreased into a more standard approach. Furthermore, the mutual display of brinksmanship between Japan and China has also subsided in political provocation.

As an attendee to the book launch I found Dr. Manicom’s presentation informative and straight forward. Too often on the subject of international relations the subject is cluttered with tangential factors and numerous contextualization efforts. However, the guests and I were introduced to a complicated issue from a not so complicated perspective and summary. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and left more educated on a subject I knew little in detail. The true highlight of the evening came from the opportunity to purchase the book and have it signed by the author himself, a true delight to wrap up the evening’s proceedings.

Hrayr Tumasyan

Guest Blogger, Canadian International Council – Toronto Branch