Triple boat collision in East China Sea incites international incident

Three boats. Two nations. One accident. Serious historical implications.On Sept. 7, two Japanese naval vessels tried to intercept a Chinese fishing boat. The Chinese boat was in disputed Japanese territory, right off the Senkaku Islands located in the East China Sea, according to The New York Times. While attempting to seize the fishing captain, the three boats collided.

This resulted in Japan’s detainment of Zhan Qixiong, captain of the Chinese boat. A war of words followed.

“Countries all over the world watched how China reacted,” said Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara to The New York Times, in reference to China’s demand for the immediate release of Qixiong.

The question of the islands’ ownership is complicated.

The Senkaku Islands have been a point of contention for some time. They have been under Japanese, Chinese, Taiwanese, and American control since 1895, changing hands every time power is shifted.

“In the late 70s they found oil in the islands, which created greater turmoil over ownership,” said George Guo, associate professor of political science and East Asian studies.
China and Japan are closely linked when it comes to their economies.

Japan relies heavily upon China’s natural resources to produce their advanced technology. According to The Wall Street Journal, China is one of the richest nations on Earth in terms of agriculture.

China relies upon Japanese investors to fund their farming, which would not be on the same level without Japanese lenders.

“At this point in history, a conflict between the two nations would be detrimental to the Asian economy,” said Natsuo Iwata, a Japanese national and student at Temple University’s Fox School of Business. “It is just a lot of chest puffing, neither can afford to feud with the other.”

The two nations’ economies rank second and third in the world, reports The Wall Street Journal. In Aug. 2010, China surpassed Japan as the second strongest national economy.

This economic success would be impossible without each other’s support.

This symbiotic dynamic played a critical role in the release of Qixiong. Japan gave into Chinese demands for the boat captain’s release just two days after his imprisonment.

“China was quick to threaten Japan’s exports,” Guo said.

Neither country would benefit from a war due to their interdependent economies.

In addition to economics, another dynamic came into play during this incident: force.

China’s population totals over one billion people, while Japan totals just one tenth as much, coming in at just over 100,000,000. Analysts from Brookings seem to feel that China was basically pulling a strong-arm tactic. The Chinese government saw the chance to apply pressure, and Japan was reluctant to back down.

Japan has no interest in going to war with China. The imprisonment of the boat captain was received as a sign of disrespect, and Japan was forced to protect their reputation, given the global microscope the situation has been placed under.

Considering the bloody history that has engulfed these two nations, this conflict had the potential for serious escalation. The implications of the situation are still up in the air, but for now, tensions between China and Japan have been temporarily soothed by the captain’s release.