1 September 2012 China demonstrated its aggressive expansionist stance specifically against Japan over the Senkaku islands. At its core this incident in which both sides have deployed patrol vessels to the island waters, is the confirmation that China does not plan to expand peacefully, but instead will take its economic power and invest in a blue water navy that has the singular purpose of protecting and expanding Chinese national interests. As if the world needed any confirmation of the objective, the Chinese navy commissioned it first aircraft carrier this month and, although this is 'just' an old refurbished Russian carrier, two more domestically built carriers are under construction that we can assume will be comparable to western carriers. To counter this Chinese build-up the US Navy has also started to deploy its key battle units with the sole purpose of containing Chinese naval ambitions, which in turn has fed Chinese paranoia that will be used to justify the ongoing arms race.
In addition, the new phase of Chinese US antagonism, which underlies this incident will make it easier for the Chinese to justify using their economic hold over the US via its debt and currency earlier than they could otherwise for the strategic purpose of destabilising America. Why? Because the tipping point for the use of such a strategy is when the Chinese internally fueled consumer society is able to support Chinese industry, at which point the consumers of America will be superfluous to Chinese needs when compared to geopolitical gain against the US. The consumer gap is continually narrowing, but such strong national polarisation will allow the Chinese leadership to jump earlier than they could have otherwise and apply its strategic weapon well before the gap is closed, as long as the nation sees a collective gain to offset the economic knock to Chinese production.
The levels of angry nationalism in China and Japan during September should not be discounted as isolated spats, but indicators one that mirror previous polarisation processes between nations walking the path towards conflict, and, as such, the island dispute is just one more step on the road of potential conflict between China and the US and its allies. Notably, as part of this process, in the US elections both candidates have made China the bogey man to be feared and countered. And so the lines have been drawn in the next clash of Empires, and it is clearly time for politicians of our day to be reminded of the events of the decade from 1904 to 1914 as Germany's expansion created a series of threats and pressure points against all of the main powers of Europe: France, Russia and then Britain, of which the 1911 crisis of Agadir was but one of a long series.