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Conflict Dynamics in Sino-Japanese Relations: The Case of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands Dispute Open Access

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This thesis analyzes the evolution of the Sino-Japanese conflict over ownership of the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands since the end of the Cold War. It argues that the 2012-2013 confrontation following the nationalization of the islands by Japan is the result of a process of conflict escalation that played out during repeated cycles of tensions over the previous two decades. Tensions reached a first peak in 1996 after Japanese activists built a lighthouse on one of the Senkaku/Diaoyu. Another confrontation would have erupted in 2004 after Chinese activists landed on one of the islands were it not for the intervention of Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi Junichiro. After both events, nothing was done to prevent future confrontations, which allowed the conflict to fester and enter a downward spiral. This process resulted in worsening mutual perceptions and more assertive domestic audiences on both sides, which pushed Chinese and Japanese leaders towards increasingly confrontational attitudes, eventually resulting in two serious incidents in 2010 and 2012 that brought bilateral tensions to a new post-WWII high.

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