)Over the past 48 hours there has been a fervent nationalist surge and anti-Japanese sentiment that resulted in the death of the Japanese ambassador in China, just one week after he took his post.
Long-standing historical and geopolitical tensions between Japan and China are coming to a head over a group of islands in the East China Sea. Japan’s GDP is now declining in real terms, its economy crippled by years of deflation, whose infrastructure is impaired due to anti-nuclear power sentiment, and one which generally can NOT afford an all out diplomatic, political and economic conflict with China.
The popular mood in China is for war. While Japan faces crucial elections, massive protests against Japan erupted in dozens of Chinese cities. In some places, anger was vented against Japanese products and brands. Protesters overturned Japanese-brand cars, set fire to buildings, and smashed Japanese-made electronics.
China has sent six “ocean surveillance” ships to the disputed waters for the purpose of “law enforcement”. The struggle for sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands (called Senkaku Islands in Japan) is heating up at a dangerous time for both countries.
Yu Zhirong, a high-ranking official in the Chinese State Oceanic Administration, upped the ante in a recent interview, saying: “We will have to chase off Japan Coast Guard vessels from Chinese territorial waters. We are not fearful of risking a minor conflict.” While the leadership in both nations might not fear a small symbolic confrontation, the repercussions of such a move would be felt around the world. No one can guarantee that any conflict in the East China Sea would remain “minor”. Japan’s close security ties with the United States would likely drag America into any clash.
Who is prompting the escalating, and why now?