Did China drive Japan’s ships away from Senkaku-Diaoyu?

by Chris Zappone

If this account is true and Chinese ships drove Japanese ships away, it would mark a troubling development. It would be troubling because the ships’ visits would be less symbolic and more tactical. My sense is that this is the heroic Chinese telling of the event. The Japanese for their part have pledged to expel any Chinese who land on the island – and probably any Japanese who do too. The difference between the Chinese and Japanese in this case is that the Japanese have a free hand to enforce the no landing order against their own citizens as a matter of policy. Nationalists in Japan may grumble. But the risk of domestic blow back would be lower for the Japanese. The Chinese authorities are constrained not to do anything around the islands that can be construed as “weak” by its own people. So if Chinese nationalists somehow planted a flag there, the Chinese would reluctant to stop them. I don’t think this will happen. But it shows how combustible the environment is. The Chinese, because of their internal dynamics, are constrained to err on the side of strength in these matters.