Sept. 30, 2014
Opportunities in Understanding China’s Approach to the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands
In 2010, two Japanese coast guard vessels and a Chinese fishing boat collided in the disputed waters near the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, sparking increasingly confrontational behavior by both China and Japan. The pattern of escalation continued in 2012 when Japan nationalized several of the disputed islands by purchasing them from the private owner. China promptly responded by sending warships to the area in a show of force. Although escalation to the point of war is unlikely, these incidents underscore the destabilizing regional effects of the disputed islands and associated maritime boundaries. China’s territorial claims are rooted in historical context, nationalism, national security, and economic interests.3 By understanding China’s perspectives, motives, and approaches to resolving this dispute, the United States can anticipate the current pattern of escalation, forecast future Chinese behavior, and identify opportunities for conflict management and eventual de-escalation to improve strategic stability in the region.