Anti-Japanese sentiments in China are strong these days. Recent developments were long time coming, the result of the buildup of years and years of resentment, layered over a tempestuous history, spurred on as younger generations grow increasingly frustrated with the complacency of their elders and the political leaders who represent them. Some of the mob actions are borderline barbarous and contemptuous, but only confirm the hostility that still runs rampant since the end of the war.
The latest battle over Diaoyutai/Senkaku certainly looks to be a political maneuver; the location and potential for resources are a great draw for all parties involved. However, the reasons behind China’s actions may be more domestic in nature. Recent “weak” displays in foreign policy leave the Chinese leadership in an uncomfortable situation, desperate to prove to the restless masses that they are not still struggling to find their footing on the international playground. There is a lot of concern that China does not command respect from her peers, that she has not displayed the same sort of presence that her gigantic population, economy, and bed of resources ought to. Internally, the party still struggles with inconsistency, corruption, and the like, truths which cannot be veiled simply by economic success in numbers.
Ultimately, there is still something to prove. Enough dissidence shake people in their Feiyue boots, and a broiling tide of discontent struggles beneath the curtain of censorship and state media. Picking a fight in the East China Sea seems a logical outlet, a way to redirect the flames, especially when the enemy is a well-known and equally well-hated one. This was going to be a domestic success before it even started.
Still, the act cannot shake the appearance of comedy. Like an overgrown schoolyard bully who picks a fight because his new physical prowess grants him the right, China is obligated to flex her muscles, but immature for fulfilling the stereotype. And why is the US playing such a provocative part in all this? Stoking the fire for yet another confrontation only feeds our characterization as a warmonger, and goes nowhere in changing the ugly, ugly Sino-Japanese reality that the US played a large part in building.