HUGO GROTIUS (Huig de Groot), a modern természetjogi felfogás és a modern politikai irodalom egyik megteremtője, aki a természet-jogon alapuló nemzetközi jog alapjait fektette le.
On the 7th of September 2010, a Chinese trawler collided with two Japanese patrol boats near the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands on Japan’s territorial waters. The incident, and the subsequent detainment of the fishing vessel’s captain by the Japanese authorities, led to a lengthy and vicious diplomatic tug-of-war between Beijing and Tokyo, which has not only reignited tensions regarding the sensitive issue of the East China Sea dispute, but has also raised questions about Sino–Japanese relations as a whole.
While it was merely one of the numerous and frequent skirmishes on the disputed waters of the East China Sea, the two governments’ respective responses and steps have highlighted a growing strain in Sino–Japanese relations. The detainment of the boat’s skipper resulted in Beijing’s vehement protests, and the situation eventually led to a major disruption in official exchanges between the two countries. Perhaps the most significant event of the ensuing diplomatic conflict was Beijing’s unprecedented—although officially denied—decision to halt all of its rare earth exports to Japan after the 21st of September. As China supplies 97 percent of the global demand for these key minerals, the export ban has not only caused widespread distress in Japanese business circles, but has also demonstrated China’s growing political and economic power, and its willingness to use all the resorts at its disposal to apply pressure on its opponents in international disputes. This again highlighted the growing assertiveness of China’s foreign policy, which, along with the People’s Liberation Army’s increased maritime presence in the region of the East China Sea and the substantial hikes in Beijing’s military spending on the rapid modernization of its armed forces intensified long-standing Japanese concerns regarding the nature and motives of China’s attitude towards Japan.
These concerns had been voiced by Japanese government officials numerous times in recent years, and they have been recognized formally in the revised National Defense Program Guidelines, adopted three months after the trawler-collision, as well. While there are serious financial and constitutional constraints limiting the scope of Japan’s military expansion, Tokyo is advancing towards developing a more dynamic and proactive defense capability, mainly due to its growing unease with China’s increasing military might.
These recent events and developments point towards the deterioration of Sino–Japanese relations and an evolving strategic rivalry between the two countries in spite of the Democratic Party of Japan’s former pledge to foster closer ties with Beijing. This paper aims to analyze Sino–Japanese relations and strategic rivalry in light of the aforementioned events. It examines the increasing assertiveness of China’s foreign policy and Beijing’s rapid military modernization, and assesses Japan’s evolving defense policy and its more pro-active military posture by reviewing primary sources such as defense strategy documents and governmental responses, and by drawing on existing scientific literature on the topic.