China and Japan in a Headlock Over Heavily Disputed Islands

A tiny group of islands nestled just below Japan and hugging the side of China have caused waves of protests and a full blown cultural battle between the two rival countries this past week. These islands are situated in a major shipping route and are also surrounded by gas deposits. Known in Japan as the Senkaku and in China as Diaoyu, the dispute over the islands has escalated tensions, producing full-blown anti-Japanese protests in China on Sunday.

The protests in cities across China were sparked when Japanese nationalists landed on the islands early in the day to reemphasize their plans to keep the islands under Japanese control. The newest protest, consisting of 10 Japanese men, was not sanctioned by government officials and the activists have been taken in for questioning by the Japanese coast guard after they swam back to their vessels.

Leaders of the protest told Japanese officials, “We need to solidly reaffirm our own territory.” Reportedly, these activists were members of a conservative nationalist group in Japan. Their demonstration was in direct response to a Chinese landing on the islands just days before.

14 Hong Kong residents had stormed the islands by boat on Friday in order to make a stand for the islands, demanding that Japan release them. Chinese activists on the mainland supported the 14 demonstrators by burning flags and shouting slogans. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has argued that Japan has threatened China’s territorial sovereignty. Japanese officials deported the demonstrators straightaway in an effort to smooth tensions between the two countries, the Washington Post notes.

That approach doesn’t seemed to have cooled protests by both Chinese and Japanese citizens. Sunday’s protests in cities such as Hong Kong, Guangshou and Shanghai, were raw and more than likely sanctioned by the Chinese government. One protester in Hong Kong told Reuters, “They should return the islands to us and apologize.” That sentiment was reflected in the thousands of others marching through China’s busiest streets.

The protests took a slightly violent turn when some demonstrators proceeded to attack Japanese businesses and cars, according to some reports. The New York Times notes that some photos suggested that tens of thousands of protesters thronged together in the streets. Banners carried weighty messages, such as “Defend the Diaoyu Islands to the death,” and “Even if China is covered with graves, we must kill all Japanese.”

The islands have come to mean much more than the sum of its resources or locale. Like the Falkland Islands that have been under constant dispute between Argentina and Britain for decades, the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands represent the strained history between Japan and China and have also stoked a sense of nationalistic pride in both populations. Japan claims that it has had control of the islands since the 1890s and that the islands were uninhabited at the time. China maintains that the islands have always been a part of the mainland since ancient times.

Unfortunately, this newest incident only reflects a larger, lurking tension between the two nations. Two years ago, the Japanese Coast Guard detained a Chinese fishing vessel that had come into contact with a coast guard ship. China refused to export raw metals to Japan for two months after that incident.

Some of the national tensions reach back to World War II when Japan occupied parts of China. Critics of the recent uprising for control of the islands have suggested that Beijing’s central government is using the issue to divert criticism away from its harsh rule.

Related Stories:

British Ships Banned from Buenos Aires, Falklands Legacy Continues

Thousands Protest ‘Brainwashing’ in Hong Kong

Mutant Fukushima Butterflies Reveal Effects of Radiation

Photo Credit: David Vasquez


Klaus Peters
Klaus Peters5 years ago

It is always oil and gas that will cause a conflict in recent history, this is no exception. Look at Falkland, and the middle east conflicts.

Michael Kirkby
.5 years ago

Another pissing contest between two bully boys. We've seen Japan's environmental footprint but we haven't seen China's yet. We will though.

Michael Kirkby
.5 years ago

Another pissing contest between two bully boys. We've seen Japan's environmental footprint but we haven't seen China's yet. We will though.

Jessica Larsen
Janne O5 years ago

Hope they stay Japanese for all eternity, if only to give chine a blow! So what if they're further from Japan? Norway has a dependency on the South Pole!

Not a bad idea, Past Member, although hard to do in reality. Interesting name BTW! :P

Robyn Brice
Robyn Vorsa5 years ago

Very worrying since China is clearly using this to divert it's people from more serious domestic problems.
The Chinese government is continusing to crack down on it's people and their attempt to divert them shows how tense things are becoming over there.
This is somewhat similar to what happened over the Falklands but with China going head to head with Japan, the consequences are going to be a lote more serious.

Will Rogers
Will Rogers5 years ago

Geographically these islands are not 'nestled just below Japan' but are hundreds of miles away, but are off the coast of China. Look at the map and tell me that I am wrong.
Say if Japan was claiming Hawaii? Or Canada Long Island? Or Cuba, the US Virgin islands? Be fair...even you China haters.

Michael Crane
Michael Crane5 years ago

I currently live and work for a university in China, and this confrotation is far more complicated then westerners can imagine. To the Chinese these islands are soverign territory, and they will not give them up. This whole thing started when a group of rich Japanese tried to buy these islands. From there it has gotten much much worse due to Japanese persistance. To further complicate the matter, the Japanese are in a similar conflict with South Korea over an island off the coast of Korea, and with Russia over a group of islands off the coast of Russia. None of these countries will give into Japan's demands, so all parties loose. However, Japan's occupation of China and Korea, on more than one occasion, makes this a fight Japan can not, and should not win.

Virginia Peng
Virginia Peng5 years ago

This whole dispute started with the silly people coming from Hong Kong who landed on the island to claimed the islands for China. What these silly people don't understand is that Japan has sole rights over these islands for it is WRITTEN IN BLACK AND WHITE!!! After the war in the Peace Treaty sovereignty of the Senkaku islands was given to JAPAN NOT CHINA. This is a sovereignty that is protected by law. You can't just go onto someone else's land and claim it for your own. Thus, the Japanese people going onto Senkaku islands, while brash is in their rights as Japanese citizens. Thus, the ignorant people who are protesting in China can raise a tantrum all they want but the toy that they want does not belong to them! What is interesting is that the news about China from New Tang Dynasty news, a station not censored by the Chinese government, was saying that the handling of the demonstrations in China was a maneuver by the government to take away the spotlight from the massive domestic problems. China has capitalized on trying to take away valuable islands like with Vietnam early this year or last year just to take away the spotlight from domestic issues. Their ploy is like giving candy to its children so that they will stop crying instead of truly trying to find out what is bothering the children and to fix it. My hope is that the entire international community will not tolerate the spoiled tantrums of China and its ignorant people. Be there to support the intelligent people o

Elaine McAuliffe
Elaine McAuliffe5 years ago

There is nothing like having an adversary to point at to divert attention from your own actions.( I doubt any demonstration in China has not been government sanctioned since Tinenamin Square.)

Jeffrey H.
Jeffrey H.5 years ago

China has nasty feeling about Japan long before WWII, but the WWII experiences are the worst for what the Japanese did to the Chinese.

China has the military might to even the long-standing score now so Japan should tread lightly and not press its luck.