China Analysis: Shockwaves from the China/Japan island dispute

What does China think about the island dispute?

François Godement
ECFR Alumni · Director, Asia and China Programme
Senior Policy Fellow
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The Chinese – Japanese dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands has the potential to fundamentally transform international politics in Asia. A diplomatic crisis has erupted after a series of incidents over the past few months. The latest issue of China Analysis ('Shockwaves from the China/Japan island dispute'), published by ECFR and Asia Centre, explores the complex Chinese debates surrounding the Senkaku/Diaoyu island dispute:

  • What is China’s strategy towards Japan in the dispute? Chinese experts seem to agree that the diplomatic row has reached a critical stage. They talk about a “Japanese threat” and maintain that a military conflict between China and Japan could be “inevitable”.
  • Will China become a maritime power?  By increasing maritime trade and modernising its navy, China has gradually created real naval strength. However, its maritime rise has been met with opposition by its neighbours and by the United States. A debate emerged whether China needs a new maritime strategy to secure its maritime borders.
  • What role does the US play in the island dispute? The US factor in the conflict is crucial although direct US involvement remains minimal. However, Chinese experts have a lively debate about the nature of the US “pivot” and the role of the US-Japan relationship.
  • How does the dispute affect Taiwan-China relations?  Cooperating on the island issue may have serious repercussions for relations between Taiwan and China.

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