More than half of Chinese respondents to a recent Genron/China Daily poll expect China and Japan to go to war. A smaller but not insignificant number (29 percent) of Japanese respondents said the same. The poll, which was conducted before a UN-backed move to nationalize more contested East China Sea Islands, asked many questions about Sino-Japanese relations, and found that relations between the two historical enemies are at a record low. The FT reports on the results:
Relations between Japan and China have soured since Japan bought three of the tiny islands – which China claims and calls the Diaoyu – in 2012. Japan defended the move as an effort to thwart a plan by the anti-China governor of Tokyo to buy them, but China accused it of breaching an unwritten deal to keep the status quo.According to the poll, 38 per cent of Japanese think war will be avoided, but that marked a nine point drop from 2013. It also found that a record 93 per cent of Japanese have an unfavourable view of their Chinese neighbours, while the number of Chinese who view Japanese unfavourably fell 6 points to 87 per cent.
It has become a standard refrain in the commentary on Japanese maritime territorial aggression that the island chains—the Senkakus, the Spratlys, the Paracels—are just some rocks, although perhaps rocks with oil and gas underneath them. China may want to follow through on its irredentist territorial claims for matters of national pride, or it might want to secure the resources in the East and South China Seas. But with regional opponents allying against Beijing’s provocations and America making at least a nominal “pivot to Asia”, hopefully the leadership’s cooler heads prevail, and China will prove its citizens wrong about an impending war. Emotions are high, but everybody would do well to remember that great power conflict in the Pacific would be a disaster for all.