Abstract

This article examines China’s behavior in the dispute with Japan over the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands. Before 2010, China adopted a low-key approach to the dispute. After 2010, however, China chose to escalate the dispute, first in response to Japan’s detention of a Chinese fishing vessel in September 2010 and then in response to the Japanese government’s purchase of three of the islands in September 2012. China escalated because Japan’s actions challenged China’s relatively weak position in the dispute. By escalating, China could counter Japanese actions and strengthen its position in the dispute. Since late 2013, the dispute appears to have stabilized. China’s patrols within twelve nautical miles of the islands have strengthened China’s position in the dispute, while Japan has refrained from developing the islands.

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