Recently, Japan has demonstrated a clearly offensive posture towards China, actively following the United States in meddling in China's South Sea matters and proactively establishing strategic cooperative relationships aimed at containing China with Australia, India and other countries. When the Huangyan Island conflict between China and the Philippines was in full swing, [Japan] donated twelve patrol boats to the Philippines and incessantly provoked [China] on the Diaoyu Islands problem. National defense documents explicitly stress the worry of a so-called "military threat" from China. Moreover, Japan is conducting "recapturing the Ryukyu Islands" military exercises with the United States. The present relationship between China and Japan is completely opposite from the honeymoon period between the two when the Japanese Democratic Party first came into power. The tension now is even greater than it was during the reign of the Liberal Democratic Party.
The current contradictions between China and Japan appear difficult to reconcile. Economic and trade issues such as territory disputes revolving around Diaoyu Islands, natural resources competition revolving around East China Sea demarcation, the gradually escalating arguments over the South China Sea, conflicts regarding China's rare earth exports, Japanese investments in China and so on are causing the contradictions between China and Japan to deepen continuously. Comparatively speaking, during the time of Koizumi, historically recognized conflicts between China and Japan mainly reflected the issue of "face," but now, historical problems have temporarily withdrawn from the stage and Sino-Japanese contradictions have shifted to more core conflict of interest spheres, indicating that the future relationship between China and Japan will be difficult to calm.
Obviously, the ever-flashing American shadow is behind Japan's shift to aggression towards China. As the country that is most influential towards China and Japan, but whose interests and demands are also completely different than those two countries, the United States has always played the role of a foreign balancer, arbitrator and leader. For America, China and Japan each have different values. With the continuous rise of China's real strength and international influence, America has become more and more dependent on China's cooperation in resolving international problems; yet at the same time, this has also intensified America's anxiety about China. Japan's real economic strength and international position are gradually declining, and this has forced Japan to become more dependent on the United States, and led it to curry America's favor and cooperate with America even more proactively. Thus, when it needs to resolve international difficulties, America looks to China; when it needs to put China in check, America looks to Japan. Through adjusting its respective distances between China and Japan, the United States regulates and controls the East Asia security structure.
Japan has its own reasons for being tough on China. In East Asian history, [Japan] emerged unparalleled in the power struggle. So, China's sudden rise has made it difficult for Japan to adapt. Japan also lacks the real strength to directly oppose China, so it can only seek the favor of America by actively serving as America's pawn. In doing so, it can draw support from America to oppose China. On another front, Japan can also use its increased value in the U.S.-Japan alliance to its advantage and strengthen its bargaining ability with America. At the same time, Japanese domestic popular opinion provides strong support for Japan being tough on China. After the boat collision incident, Japan's favorable opinion of China suffered a disastrous decline and has wavered for a long time and reached an all-time low. This also gives the Japanese government the confidence to be tough on China.
But Japan's provocations are limited. In one respect, economic interests are the core of this country's existence. Japan has no way to bear the economic stress that a true loss of favor with China would bring. From another point of view, the contradictions between the United States and Japan will ultimately force Japan to choose a middle road. The trilateral relationship between China, America and Japan maintains a kind of fundamental balance in accordance with everyone's interests. Therefore, [China] needs to treat Japan's provocations dialectically.