17 Sep 2012

Tensions between China and Japan

China’s incoming leader re-emerged this weekend after an unexplained two-week absence, just in time to see the country he’s about to inherit consumed with rabid anti-Japanese nationalism that his Communist Party unleashed, and which the United States warned on Sunday could lead to a regional war.

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Beijing’s rapidly deteriorating relationship with Tokyo will top the agenda as Xi Jinping takes over as general secretary of the Communist Party from President Hu Jintao, a promotion expected as early as next month. While Mr. Xi will continue to share power with Mr. Hu for months afterward, the stakes could scarcely be higher for his first test.

Six days of sanctioned anti-Japanese protests – which escalated Sunday into a nationwide day of rage that saw Japanese businesses and diplomatic missions attacked – have whipped up hatred and created a situation that leaves the Chinese leadership little room to compromise in a showdown over disputed islands in the East China Sea. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who is on the verge of calling an election that will see him challenged from the nationalist right, similarly has little room to negotiate.

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