7 Reasons China and Japan Won't Go To War
Image Credit: Wikicommons

7 Reasons China and Japan Won't Go To War


The sequel seldom improves on the original. Yet Shinzo Abe, Japan’s newly re-elected prime minister, has already displayed more conviction during his second spell at the Kantei than in the entire year of his first, unhappy premiership.

Political energy is a plus only when it’s wisely deployed however, and some fear that Abe is picking a fight he can’t win when it comes to his hardline stance on China.

Rather than attempting to soothe the tensions that built between Beijing and Tokyo in 2012, Abe has struck a combative tone, especially concerning their dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands – a keystone for nationalists in both countries. Each time fighter aircraft are scrambled or ships are sent to survey the likely flashpoint, we hear more warnings about the approach of a war that China and Japan now seem almost eager to wage. The Economist, for example,recently observed that, “China and Japan are sliding towards war,” while Hugh White of the Australian National University warned his readers: “Don't be too surprised if the U.S. and Japan go to war with China [in 2013].” News this week of another reckless act of escalation – Chinese naval vessels twice training their radars on their Japanese counterparts – will only have ratcheted up their concerns.

These doomful predictions came as Abe set out his vision of a more hard-nosed Japan that will no longer be pushed around when it comes to sovereignty issues. In his December op-ed on Project Syndicate Abe accused Beijing of performing “daily exercises in coercion” and advocated a “democratic security diamond” comprising Australia, India, Japan and the U.S. (rehashing a concept from the 2007 Quadrilateral Security Dialogue). He then proposed defense spending increases – Japan’s first in a decade – and strengthened security relations with the Philippines and Vietnam, which both share Tokyo’s misgivings about China’s intentions. An alliance-affirming trip to the U.S.is expected soon, and there is talk of Japan stationing F-15s on Shimojijima, close to the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands.

However, Abe would argue that he is acting to strengthen Japan in order to balance a rising China and prevent a conflict, rather than creating the conditions for one. And he undoubtedly has a more sanguine view of the future of Sino-Japanese relations than those who see war as an ever more likely outcome. Of course, there is a chance that Chinese and Japanese ships or aircraft will clash as the dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands rumbles on; and, if they do, there is a chance that a skirmish could snowball unpredictably into a wider conflict.

But if Shinzo Abe is gambling with the region’s security, he is at least playing the odds. He is calculating that Japan can pursue a more muscular foreign policy without triggering a catastrophic backlash from China, based on the numerous constraints that shape Chinese actions, as well as the interlocking structure of the globalized environment which the two countries co-inhabit. Specifically, there are seven reasons to think that war is a very unlikely prospect, even with a more hawkish prime minister running Japan:

December 6, 2013 at 22:38

Does China’s ruling party want to revive the long dead imperialist Japan? Japan has been pacified for about 70 years now and in peace. For any who live through WW2 or understands the history will be concerned if Japan begins arming again.

So what is China’s ruling party getting out of this tension? It is to fuel the ever growing nationalism and divert its citizen’s attention away from the internal issues? Is it a mask to justify its military build? Is it trying secure resources to sustain its growth and population? Or is it just plain national pride?

December 5, 2013 at 15:24

The author didn’t intend the article as an informed opinion or analysis, but a piece of propaganda overplaying Japan and US military capability. The author might actually believe what he’s writing since he himself grew up under prolonged, saturated indoctrination and propaganda in the US. Fortunately, or unfortunately for the author, he’s been fed all the wrong information upon which he has drawn his conclusions. Japan can’t win a war against China or Russia, regardless of US involvement. The whole point of having Japan as an “ally” has been to make Japan the one to die first (cannon fodder) and weaken obstacles (China and Russia) to US hegemony. The Americans have neither the intention nor the capabilities to fight on behalf of Japan (just ask Vietnam).

October 8, 2013 at 03:23

“Japan has reaped more than one hundred years of unprecedented benefits from its aggressions”

How has Japan benefitted from its past aggressions? One should say it had suffered much more.

Japan benefitted from its initial humility toward the West, willingness to Westernize early, and learn, without presumption of grandeur, then later American remorse.  

It is precisely because China lately has started to be willing to learn, to Westernize, that it will resurge to dominate Japan.  The numbers will prevail.

October 8, 2013 at 03:11

War now? Nuts.           

In another 30-50 years, China will dwarf Japan militarily and commercially. Is China really as stupid as to start a war now? I don't think so.

China is 11 times the size of China and has been growing faster than Japan by wide margins for 30 years.

China and Japan are just two different categories of entities.

By the time China dwarfs Japan, a war will not be necessary.

Japan is being myopic. I will be quite depressed if I were Japanese. The time to better allow the coming generations of Chinese to forgive Japan’s past atrocities is  now.

August 18, 2013 at 13:43

Wrong analysis.  See defeats from iraq, afgahnistan, and vietnam wars.

August 18, 2013 at 05:53

It is clear China will wait till it believes to be strong enough before striking. The (egemon's) will is there. They're just missing the means.

August 17, 2013 at 03:43

No.1 is a great possibility, Czarist rule in Russia ended when it embarked on a disastrous naval war with Japan.

Mr. Barber
July 25, 2013 at 23:18

I strongly feel that the solution to this mess is for China to purchase mining rights from Japan to develop the resources around the island chain. Japan needs the economic boost and China needs the resources for its growth. The deal could even include Japan getting some of the resources as part of the purchase.

July 18, 2013 at 18:39

Abe wants to play tough to show that he is strong.Without the support of the US, he will be impotent.

June 25, 2013 at 00:47

You indian will never accept the truth losing the war between China. Apparently you indian just so stubborn and naive. War has no prepared or prepared,because a strong nation they shall be prepared all the time, you these indian just so extremely lack of understanding military knowledge. And plus indian border army started first fire, Okay???

Uncle Chen
June 25, 2013 at 00:27

No countries recognize you Japan as a normal country, you pay them to recognize it. Don't forget the Potsdam Declaration

June 25, 2013 at 00:18

Potsdam Declaration!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It have no right to claim any other territory but It own main islands. 

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