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As we know, the Chinese President turned 70 last Thursday 15th June. We wondered how he might celebrate – he didn’t let us down. Although not completely novel, Xi expounded on the history of the Ryukyu Islands as reported by the People’s Daily on June 4th.

More importantly, he talked about Japan’s southernmost prefecture, Okinawa.

Now Xi has Chinese historians coming out of the woodwork with further commentary. Xi’s geopolitical posturing shows no age limits. A recent visit to the China National Archives of Publications and Culture seems to have rejuvenated his interest in the Ryukyus.

As a matter of interest, Ryukyu is the Japanese name. China refers to this island chain as the Nansei islands.

When you look at a map of the islands, it is not hard to see part of Xi’s thinking. The chain stretches between the southern tip of the Japanese mainland (CapeSata on the island of Kyushu) and Taiwan. In a way it encloses the East China Sea. With a total land area of 1,193 square miles (3,090 square km), the Ryukyus consist of 55 islands and islets divided into three major groups: the Amami island chain in the north, the central Okinawa islands, and the Sakishima islands in the south.

Okinawa was referred to as the Ryukyu Kingdom. Earlier in Xi’s career he was the top official in the southern Chinese province of Fuzhou. He recently said that he had been aware of the 36 clan families from Fuzhou who in the 14th century (Ming dynasty), went to settle the Ryukyus. At the archives, a curator told Xi about the Chinese influence in the DiaoyuIslands which the Japanese call the Senkaku Islands.

So, Xi claims Chinese connections with Okinawa by way of the original Min-People and also to the Senkakus. These connections therefore are claimed to be 600 years old.

In 2013, Xi first declared that Okinawa (formerly known as Ryukyu) was an historically unresolved issue. Once again Xi has contradictory vies to Mao Zedong who in the 1960’srecognised Okinawa as part of Japan.

We should consider that Okinawans were originally believed to be a mix of Mongolian, Ainu and Malayan people. We should also consider the racial makeup of Okinawans. On average, the Okinawans were found to share 80.8% (±11.2 SD) admixture with Japanese and 19.2% (±11.2 SD) admixture with Chinese suggesting that the Okinawans and the Japanese share substantial common ancestry. This lends weight to the belief that Xi is again inaccurate in his reckoning of Chinese influence.

So once again, we find Xi Jinping muddying the waters when it comes to what is perceived as Chinese territory. Now he trying to add Okinawa, and island of around 1.457 million people in 2020. The US which used to control Okinawa after WWII up until 1972, now has around 26,000 troops remaining – about half of their Japanese compliment.

In the meantime, Okinawa has a Governor, Denny Tamaki, who is in favour of reducing US bases and is known to be considering a trip to China to meet Xi. We await the outcome.

This no doubt means that US has to contend with Xi’s expanded geopolitical interests now that he is clearly looking to keep the US out of East and South ChinaSeas’ waters. The US could conceivably end up with a 2-front confrontation – with Taiwan and Okinawa!


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