Public debate China-Japan war prospects

Por • 8 nov, 2013 • Sección: Política

Yang Jingjie

The recent tensions and incidents between the Chinese and Japanese militaries have led to heated discussions about the possibility and consequences of another Sino-Japanese war among observers from military and academic circles, as well as the public.

Although the outbreak of a full-scale war has been largely ruled out, Chinese observers warn of conflicts ignited by unexpected emergencies, in which China is rated as having the edge over Japan despite potential US interference.

The relationship between Beijing and Tokyo soured after Japan’s so-called nationalization of the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea in September last year.

Against that backdrop, military ties have encountered several tests since early this year. In the latest case, China’s defense ministry lodged a solemn representation to Tokyo over a Japanese warship’s breaking into the live-fire drill zone of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy in the West Pacific. In response, Japan vowed to continue its surveillance activities.

As the PLA Navy concluded its war games on Friday, Japan kicked off a massive 18-day military exercise, including an island capture drill and deployment of missiles on Miyako Island, which is believed to bolster its capability in blocking the Chinese navy’s passage to the West Pacific.

The rhetoric and drills from both sides have led many people to ask if the two countries would fight a war in the near future.

Amid those concerns, an analysis from Russian experts first published in September 2012 resurfaced on China’s Internet forums and news portals.

In the Russian report, Vasiliy Kashin, a senior research fellow at the Moscow-based Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies, predicted a «humiliating failure» for China if a war with Japan over the Diaoyu Islands breaks out, citing Japan’s advanced weaponry and personnel training.

Another Russian expert cited by the report, Konstantin Sivkov, first vice president of the Academy for Geopolitical Issues, however, believed the Japan Self-Defense Force would lose if China’s leadership is determined to reclaim the disputed islands but indicated that the Chinese military would be defeated by Japan’s ally US.

The Russian analysis drew more than 11,000 comments on Chinese news portal, with Net users deliberating the conclusions.

On, a discussion group, Net users struck a more upbeat note on the outcome of military conflicts, and demanded reclaiming the Diaoyu Islands by force.

Liu Jiangyong, a vice dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times that due to its pacifist constitution, Japan is unable to launch a war and its recent rhetoric about shooting down Chinese drones is a psychological war to test China.

Major General Luo Yuan, a vice president of the China Strategic Culture Promotion Association, told the Global Times that the assessment by Russian experts was inaccurate due to their outdated information, but it reminds China to remain cautious.

Luo said neither side has the intention to fight a full-fledged war. «China’s defense capability has seen a great leap. Japan has neither the guts nor the capability to fight such a war,» he said.

A military expert from the PLA Air Force, who asked to remain anonymous, shared similar views, noting that the Chinese foreign ministry’s repeated statements over the Diaoyu Islands have shown Beijing’s will to solve the dispute through peaceful means.

However, he noted the possibility of conflicts ignited by unexpected emergencies exists, if Japan continues down the wrong path. «The conflict will be an isolated incident, which wouldn’t spin out of control,» he told the Global Times.

However, Luo expects such a conflict may evolve to a war of limited scale, during which China stands a better chance of winning.

«China’s air force has more aircraft than Japan, and their quality doesn’t lag behind the Japanese ones. Meanwhile, we have more well-equipped airports within a close distance of the Diaoyu Islands,» he said.

Last week, China’s media carried extensive coverage of the nuclear-powered submarine fleet, which is seen as a deterrent to any attempted provocation.

«Japan may excel in its anti-submarine capability, but it doesn’t have nuclear submarines as well as marines, and lags behind China in its number of naval aircraft models,» Luo said.

The air force expert said potential US involvement is definitely a factor complicating the situation, but insisted China keeps developing its comprehensive strength. «This is not 1895 nor the 1940s when China suffered huge humiliations. It is gradually reversing its inferiority and gaining momentum,» he said.

According to Luo, the incomplete national defense structure of Japan indicates its needs for US support in various fields including logistics and intelligence, however, it  remains in doubt whether the US is willing to confront the world’s second-largest economy for Japan.

Global Times | 2013-11-5

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