Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe claimed in an exclusive interview with the Wall Street Journal that a resurgent Japan will "take a more assertive leadership role in Asia to counter China's power" and be placed "at the helm of countries in the region nervous about Beijing's military buildup." The chief executive of Japan made spiteful remarks about China and boldly trumpeted China-Japan confrontation. Although Abe also spoke of a strategic China-Japan relationship of mutual benefit, that could hardly offset the enmity he sowed between the two nations.
Japan recently declared it would shoot down Chinese drones heading for the Diaoyu Islands. The Chinese Ministry of Defense responded Saturday that it would be taken as "an act of war" and encounter "decisive action to strike back."
China so far has been relatively restrained in its choice of words compared with Japan's assertiveness and audaciousness. No Chinese leaders openly instigated China-Japan confrontation as their Japanese counterparts did and the Chinese military never makes any preemptive threats. But now words like "war" and "shoot down" are not taboo. With Japanese public opinion continually calling to besiege China, the possibility that China-Japan frictions will escalate into military clashes is growing.
Should one drone of China be fired upon, hostility between Beijing and Tokyo will be fully activated and the situation of Northeast Asia will topple like dominoes. The outbreak of a regional war is possible. Although the US' support to Japan is obvious, it's uncertain how the US will interfere. There is too much variance concerning where a China-Japan military clash will go.
China has not been involved in war for a long time but a war looms following Japan's radical provocation. China's comprehensive military power, including the navy, air force and the Second Artillery Force of the PLA, is stronger than Japan's. Once a war breaks out, China will also be able to bear the economic blow better than Japan.
The Abe administration perceives China will shirk military clashes with them over Diaoyu due to China cherishing the period of strategic opportunities and its fears of the US. But it's hard to say which side is more afraid of the other between China and the US in the West Pacific. Besides, which country will economically suffer the most is also unpredictable.
China should remain sober with its goals and the bottom line in the Diaoyu dispute. To pursue the goals and safeguard its bottom line could be either realized through strategic maneuver or costly war.
Few powers rose peacefully in history. China's efforts in striving for peaceful rise have been successful but enhanced a misperception that China is fearful of war, fueling countries like Japan to use war to frighten China.
If we don't have the luck to circumvent a war, we should deal with it with rationality a big power should have.