Chinese and Japanese navies have engaged in yet another case of saber-rattling over the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands. Although it is unlikely that the issue will escalate further in the near future, the ambiguous political climate and lack of resolve to truly resolve the dispute has led to a further straining of relationships between the two nations. In the face of an uncertain economic and political climate, both nations have clung to the dispute as a means of redirecting internal pressures. The Chinese Communist Party is struggling to redefine itself in the wake of a political transition even as economic development — its prime claim to legitimacy — has slowed. In Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party has managed to regain control over the office of the Prime Minister in the wake of a disastrous period in Japanese politics: as the 7th Prime Minister in as many years, Abe will likely welcome any external distraction from his domestic reforms.
The Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute originates from contradicting definitions of national boundaries. Although the Japanese government received stewardship over the islands in the power transition after the United States ended its postwar occupation of Japan, the ambiguity present in the transition opened up Chinese claims of ownership through geography, as the island chain lies within the boundaries defined through the Chinese continental shelf.
Sino-Japanese relations have remained in a state of strained cordiality, even before the advent of the Diaoyu/Senkaku issue. The atrocities committed by the Japanese military during the Second World War remain within living memory, exacerbated by continual Japanese denial of said atrocities.