A recent dispute surrounding the ownership of a group of oil-rich uninhabited islands in the East China Sea has resulted in a wave of anti-Japanese violence in China. Images of riots, looting, burning of Japanese brand cars, and businesses denouncing Japan surged across the Internet this weekend, making the international community gravely aware of the tension between the two Asian nations. The most upsetting of the slogans presented, aside from an atrocious sign displayed in a barbershop stating "Japanese and dogs not allowed inside," is the jump from believing that not only do the Diaoyo Islands belong to China, but so does the entire island nation of Japan. Relations between Japan and China have always been tense, and this dispute could be a catalyst for something of serious consequence.
Why should we care about an island dispute between two countries on the other side of the world? Well, according to the U.S. Japan Security Treaty, the United States is obligated to aid Japan and its territories. In the definition of Japan's territories in the treaty, the islands currently in question are included. An act of aggression by China against the islands or Japan would force the United States to become involved. On September 17th, the United States and Japan agreed on a missile defense system, allegedly to defend against a potential threat from neighboring nation, North Korea. Yet, the timing is questionable and makes it seem like the defense is against China, not North Korea. North Korea has never successfully launched a missile, whereas China began development this summer of missiles with a global range.
Japanese manufacturers such as Panasonic and Canon are already finding that they are no longer welcome within China. Toyota dealerships have been burned to the ground by angry mobs. Even owning a Japanese car has been interpreted as an act of treason, and mobs have taken to destroying cars in firery protest. It is not an extreme jump to think that if the United States is forced to enter the conflict, United States manufacturers will face similar hostility in China. This is poor timing, as the relationship between China and the United States is already facing challenges as both countries filed separate reports with the World Trade Organization this week.
How the next few weeks and months unfold will be crucial for the world. If China acts aggressively, the United States may be forced to be involved. If China does nothing, there is still a great chance that something violent could happen in the wake of the anti-Japanese protests. What do you think will happen next?
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