Stranger things have happened--few people saw the Falkland Islands War between Great Britain and Argentina coming.
From the Economist:
Chinese television these days and you might conclude that the outbreak of war with Japan over what it calls the Senkaku and China the Diaoyu islands is only a matter of time. You might well be right. Since Japan in September announced it would “nationalise” three of the islands that had been privately owned, China, which has long contested Japan’s sovereignty over them, has also started challenging its resolve to keep control of them. So both countries are claiming to own the islands and both are pretending to administer them. China this week announced its intention to map them thoroughly. Something has to give.China has similar border and island disputes with the Philippines, Vietnam, and India. The war could spread.
In response to the deteriorating climate, Kurt Campbell, assistant secretary of state in President Barack Obama’s administration, flew to the region this week, urging “cooler heads to prevail”. Hotter heads are more in fashion. Hopes that recent changes in leadership in China and Japan might bring an easing of tensions have been disappointed. Hitoshi Tanaka of the Institute for International Strategy in Tokyo notes that the emergence last September of Shinzo Abe, a right-wing nationalist, as head of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party was influenced by the feeling that Japan needed to take a tougher line with China. In December Mr Abe became prime minister for a second time, after an election campaign in which he promised just that.
Since then China, too, has become more assertive over the islands. Already, in his speech to the Communist Party’s five-yearly congress in November, Hu Jintao, its outgoing leader, had declared China’s ambition to “build itself into a maritime power”, the first time this had been stated so explicitly. Nor is it clear that his successor, the less wooden Xi Jinping, who will be named president in March, shares his predecessors’ habitual caution in dealings with America. He will surely see no benefit in compromising with Japan, which is despised by many Chinese. And, with little or no military experience, he will want to appear a strong commander-in-chief.
It is against this backdrop that televised military punditry is booming in China. On current-affairs programmes, armchair warriors pontificate about the Diaoyus. Newspapers propagate a uniformly jingoistic analysis of the increasing likelihood of armed conflict.
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