Moving the territorial dispute to the quiet end of the political discussion is probably the best choice Deng Xiaoping and Takeo Fukuda did in 1978. Both countries leaders have plenty of issues on their plates already and there are already lots of areas which demands their attention for development. The unconfirmed amount of resources around the region aside, do the islands really change the game in the global sense?
The Diplomat, in this article here, argues that the current state of the dispute is pretty much caused by a sense of distrust of the Western power and China. The argument goes that, as China develops, Japan is seeking to reaffirm its influence through quiet military development, hinting at it is still capable at taking on China at this current stage. The longer it can hold a perceived military edge against China, the longer China cannot ignore its neighbour’s voice. Furthermore, US’s stand will continue to keep China in check. Though “neutral” in its declaration, China feels that US will support its ally, Japan, in any confrontation. While this makes any immediate confrontation unlikely now, it spurs the Chinese to develop its military more aggressively.
At the heart of it, China’s rise is watched closely by the US-led community of nations. And because it is not a democracy, which they may relate to, and because of their own history, China’s rise is more watched with anticipation of violence than the peaceful development which it declares. It is the job of the politicians and the military to be more pessismitic but sometimes when the discussion is led by the hawks, it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The Diplomat titled the article Structural Distrust. I may suggest renaming the situation as a Cultural Distrust, except for the fact that I’m not fully convinced myself what is the meaning of culture.