By Yuan Yue, Sina English
On the morning of September 10th, the Japanese government signed the contract on the "purchase" of the Diaoyu Islands at 2.05 billion yen ($26.15 million) with Kurihara family, whom the Japanese side called "the private owner", in a move of "nationalization".
Shortly afterwards, China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement, voicing strong indignation and urging Japan to reverse its decision. "If Japan insists on going its own way," says at the end of the statement, "it will have to bear all the serious consequences thereafter arising." Meanwhile, a long commentary with the byline of "Guo Jiping" was published in the People's Daily, ,entitled "Diaoyu Islands cannot be bought ", in which the author said Japan should "pause on the brink of a precipice."
This is a very severe response measured by China's diplomatic rhetoric. It is actually indicating that the situation has deteriorated to a point very close to the "bottom line" that Chinese government could endure, and that the situation is at the tipping point.
On the surface, Japan is at pains to avoid irreparable damage of Sino-Japan relations inflicted by the Japanese right wing forces, exemplified by Shintaro Ishihara, Tokyo governor who nudged the government to toughen its China policy.
But in diplomacy, remarks and actions can never be contradicted to each other. Back in 2002, the Japanese agreed with the Kurihara family to pay for the use of Diaoyu Island. The Japanese government said, in so doing, it would devise ways to prohibit islands landing-- and further, to avoid irritating China. The fact is, however, the Japanese government has since been turning a blind eye to the unauthorized constant landing by its right-wing nationalists.
The real turning point fell on September, 2010, when two Japanese Coast Guard's (JCG) patrol boats in the disputed waters collided with a Chinese trawler, and arrested the Chinese captain. Japan blamed China on "taking the first attack". But the fact is that the Japanese side failed to realize the agreement reached in 1972, when the relations between the two was first normalized, with "shelve disputes" as the guideline.
JCG has indeed prevented Chinese activists from landing on Diaoyu Islands since 1972, but never detained Chinese fishermen, until September 2010 the Zhan Qixiong case, in which Zhan, the captain of a Chinese fishing ship, was caught and illegally held for 17 days by Japanese authorities.
In China's strong protest, Japan did not pass indictment on the Chinese captain, but its attitude toward the islands derailed.
In 2011, it succeeded in getting the United States to recognize Japan's “jurisdiction” over the islands—seek the U.S. promise that "the US- Japan security treaty applies to the Diaoyu islands"-- and the same year, Japan has gone so far as to utterly deny any dispute as exist over the islands -- and attempt to forgo the consensus with China to "shelve disputes".
Even at this moment, Japan is playing a double game: expecting the Chinese government to understand its "nationalization" on the one hand, and seeking America's military support, dispatching its Foreign Minister to lobby across the Pacific, on the other.
For the reasons abovemensioned, probably, China now thinks this "double-faced" Japanese government is not negotiable. As we can see, China lodged protest as a response when Japan disclosed its idea of "nationalization", and hardened its rhetoric after Japan's official statement to "purchase" the islands coma in.
Now, Urging Japan to "pause on the brink of a precipice" is just a beginning. China does not pin much of its hope on Japan to reverse its decision. Instead, it aims to use this opportunity to roll out countermeasures: declaring the baselines of Diaoyu Islands.
By doing that, China is proclaiming to the international community its boundaries of law enforcement in the waters off its Diaoyu Islands; and moreover, by defining the range of its maritime surveillance and its fishery, China aims to enhance its lawful presence in its own territory.