Source Newsroom: Cornell University
Allen R. Carlson, an expert in East Asia and professor of government at Cornell University, discusses the role that larger economic interests play in the territorial dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands.
“Despite a tinderbox situation in the East China Sea, the prospects for war are still remote because it would conflict with China’s two most fundamental national interests. First, for over two decades Beijing has been deeply attached to promoting peace and stability in Asia to facilitate conditions amenable to China’s economic development. There is little reason to think that China’s commitment to this imperative has slipped.
“Second, if direct military engagement occurred, it would enflame nationalist sentiment within China. Such virulent Chinese nationalism, once unleashed, could easily blow back against China’s leaders if they failed to react aggressively enough to satisfy the public. In other words, those in Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leadership compound in Beijing, would find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
“It is possible that Xi Jinping, China’s new leader, has lost track of these basic issues in the midst of his rise, and in response to more assertive Japanese positioning on the islands. However, they have been so abiding over the course of the last few decades, it would be surprising if, in the end, such interests do not lead China to reign back in from the brink of direct military confrontation with Japan.”