H-Asia pointed me to this commentary on How Japan Imagines China.

No mention of Taiwan!

Behind Japan’s hawkish attitude lies a concern that Asian affairs are now propelled by China. The rivalry is evident in the race to conclude free trade agreements with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in which there is not a whisper of a Sino-Japanese consensus. Instead, there is a simmering competition between Japanese and Chinese pride. But then, capitalism works in such a way that two discriminatory sets of free trade agreements will tend to reinforce each other and bestow economic benefits not only on Southeast Asia but on Japan and China as well.

“China is a threat, because it is China.” This seems to be the underlying assumption prevailing in Japan’s national security circles. There is concern over the double-digit growth in Chinese military expenditure: Does China intend to seek parity with the United States? Japan lately has been redefining its security posture with a boldness not seen before. But then, amid signs that Japan is awakening to the Chinese threat, the Japanese government has been reducing its military expenditure for 2005, as part of general fiscal tightening.

There is an almost schizophrenic mix of Japanese emotions at play. A Chinese purchase of a Russian submarine is a security threat, a defense official may declare. Yet, the next day the same official may dismiss the import of such a purchase, declaring that it is a Chinese-operated submarine after all and the Chinese navy manages to lose at least one submarine a year at sea. Anyone familiar with the history of modern Japan will readily recognize in such a remark the unstable mix of respect and condescension that is an enduring characteristic of how the Japanese have imagined China.