The Diaoyu/Senkaku Dispute and China’s Domestic Politics

Liu, Zihao

China’s assertiveness in its maritime disputes, especially in the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute with Japan, has prompted many to wonder if China is bidding for regional hegemony. How- ever, China has engaged in far more serious military provocations before. One example is the shelling of the KMT-controlled Jinmen Islands with no apparent geopolitical objectives in 1958. In fact, Mao Zedong used the shelling for domestic purposes—to create a warlike atmosphere to launch his Great Leap Forward movement. For the purpose of comparison, it is useful to examine another conflict that was waged for domestic purposes: The Falklands War of 1982. The Galtieri junta initiated the conflict to divert the Argentine people’s attention away from economic and political strife and towards the recovery of their sacred territory unjustly occupied by British imperialists. The Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute has diversionary effects for China as well. By instilling nationalism, which includes strong anti-Japanese elements, to replace Communism as the uniting ideology after Tiananmen, the government is trying to divert the public’s attention from its legitimacy crisis. By having a closer look at the three cases, this paper intends to seek what the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute has in common with the shelling of Jinmen and the Falklands War, and what one can learn from the comparison.


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The Journal of Politics and Society

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Helvidius Group
Helvidius Group of Columbia University
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April 27, 2016