China: War with Philipinnes or Japan?

Jiaolong Submersible

Japan can be regarded as China’s long-term enemy in quite a few Chinese people’s mindset, though since the 1970s, Sino-Japanese relations have been quite satisfactory until now. Tension between the two countries has intensified in their disputes over the Diaoyu Islands (called Senkaku Islands by Japan).

China suffered a humiliating naval defeat by Japan in 1894 and the defeat on land later forced China to lose Taiwan to Japan and pay heavy war compensation.

A naval war between China and Japan in 2014, the 120th anniversary of China’s naval defeat, for revenge is now quite a hot topic among Chinese people. However, I believe Chinese military strategists always follow Sun Tzu’s teaching, and will not conduct a naval war with Japan. China does not have overwhelming naval superiority over Japan, and China will surely be defeated if the US is involved.

However, naval war in the South China Sea is quite possible.

In my post “Large military hospital for South China Sea actions,” I said, “A large military hospital newly built on Hainan Island indicates that China’s hard-line attitude in South China Sea is not merely bluffing.”

Today’s SCMP news “Sea dive risks stoking tensions” says, “China’s decision to send the Jiaolong manned submarine to explore a basin close to the Philippines may signal a new step in its approach to bolstering regional territorial claims, experts say.”

In addition, according to SCMP, Zhou Huaiyang, a professor with the State Key Laboratory of Marine Geology at Tongji University in Shanghai, “said researchers felt the only role Jiaolong could play was to obtain rock and liquid samples, which could shed light on the geophysical and chemical nature of the basin surface.

“But even that information was far removed from the civilian project’s primary objective, which was to understand how the basin was formed.

“Solving the mystery could help geologists pinpoint mineral belts as well as oil or natural gas reserves.”

Since Jiaolong could not make much contribution to the geological survey, its survey obviously aims at testing Philippine bottom line.

Negotiations between China and the Philippines are still being conducted without conclusion. We do not know whether there will be a repeat of stand-off at Scarborough Shoal. It seems China has made up its mind to risk a naval war in the South China Sea, but I still hope that China, the Philippines, Vietnam, and other countries will strive to find a peaceful solution to their disputes.

Click here for all stories about Senkaku Islands (Diaoyu Islands)

Categories: Politics & Law

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20 replies

  1. Great info. Keep up the incredible work!


  2. Reblogged this on OyiaBrown.


  3. Interesting information about the continued tensions in the South China Sea. However, I am unaware of talk about China attacking Japan in 2014. Can you cite a news article or something similar? I would certainly be interested in an expanded discussion of that topic.


  4. In fact, both South China Sea and Diaoyus disputes are hot topics on Chinese TV. I have noticed that there are special programs on the disputes and the related military situation on all the more than a dozen provincial and municipal satilite TV channels available to me. Memory of the 1984 naval battle and the possible naval battle in 2014 to mark the 120 anniversary of the 1984 battle is also a hot topic there.


    • Thank you for your replies. The tensions over the South China Sea and the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands are well-publicized, but not the 2014 anniversary (I assume you meant of the 1894 war). Unfortunately Chinese stations are a bit inaccessible to me, both through language and distance. Can you recommend any English language online stations or articles that cover this topic? I can understand marking anniversaries, but starting a war to commemorate another war does seem a bit excessive – or are these programs just comparing modern naval power balance, rather than encouraging a new war?


      • As far as the Chinese government is concerned, it needs a peaceful world environment for economic development and no war. A war with Japan, China’s major trade partner and source of technology will certainly do much more harm than good. Therefore, the Chinese people have long been taking action to protect China’s sovereignty over Diaoyu Islands while the government refrains from supporting them or making much publication about it.

        Among Chinese people, there is deep-rooted enmity against Japan due to Japnese invasion of China during World War II. When tension began to intensify due to Japan’s capture of a Chinese fishing boat, both China and Japan acted with restraint. However when Japanese government has changed course, adopted a hard-line attitude and wants to buy the islands, the Chinese government has to do something to please the people as Chinese people’s anger reached a boiling extent.

        So is Taiwan government. It had never openly supported its people’s campaign to protect sovereigty over the islands until recently when it sent ships to accompany conpaigners’ boat to the area of the disputed islands.

        There is hue and cry among Chinese people for a war to mark the 120th anniversary of the 1984 naval battle and much discussion about it, but I do not believe there will be such a battle and there has so far been no sign that China is making preparations for such a battle.

        As for sources for information, China’s official central media are heavily censored. As they represent China’s official attitude, there are restraints even now when China begins to adopt a much strong attitude due to public sentiment.

        Due to Hong Kong Chinese’s intense interest in the disputes, Hong Kong Chinese media have much coverage on the campaigns that are not covered by Chinese media on the Mainland. Hong Kong English media, however, as they mostly cater non-Chinese people in Hong Kong who are not so interested in the disputes, you cannot find much news on common people’s campaigns.. South China Morning Post is a good source, but its coverage of common people’s campaigns over te disputes is also limited.

        China’s local media have much coverage of the disputes now in order to cater the public. The discussion on wars with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam has recently been common but not so previously when Chinese government refrains to adopt a strong attitude. As the media know people outside China have no access to them, they act with much less restraint.

        In order to make people outside China better informed, I believe that I have to do something to provide some information from Hong Kong and Chinese local media to help people outside China understand China.


      • I certainly appreciate your work to help people better understand what is going on in the Chinese local media. Lack of information makes misperceptions too easy. I am familiar with the separation between popular opinion and the actions the CCP undertakes, but as in the case with the Diaoyu/Senkaku situation, there is always a chance that the CCP will be moved to appease popular opinion, which may not be what is best for China and the stability of the region. That is what makes me worry about things like hearing that a war to mark the 1894 war with Japan is being widely discussed. In general, it is wise to be concerned about that which is not understood. To that end, I am glad that you think there will not be a battle in 2014. While as an American I can certainly understand being angry about what the Japanese did in World War II, I am certain that no good would come out of starting a war over it now.

        Thanks for the suggestion to look at the South China Morning Post. I look forward to your continuing and informative posts.


  5. The situation is quite different in China. Some old films about the war of resistance against Japan have been popular among Chinese children from 1960s till now and there are much more films and TV series on the war with description of the cruelty of Japanese troops. You can imagine the public feeling in China.


  6. War is not feasible as far as China is concerned. Beside, China cannot sustain a five-year long war.



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