What strikes me as most the dangerous aspect of the escalating crisis in Sino-Japanese relations over one damn fishing boat captain is the pitting of one supremely confident civilian government in total control of how the situation is being viewed in its country against a supremely inconfident government of a potentially trigger happy nation, trying through escalation of rhetoric and the cessation of normal relations to stay ahead of the emotions of its citizenry, all whilst fighting off seeming freelance patriotic behavior by internal rivals hoping to seize part of the foreign policy agenda.
There are only hints, of course, that foreign policy freelancing is going on the Chinese side, beyond the free expression of outrage of the millions of self-appointed Internet patriots and their minuscule public demonstrations. I can see the movement of drilling equipment to the Chunxiao platform and the canceling of airline and coal talks as having a strong tit-for-tat quality. However, they seem to have absolutely nothing to do with the maintenance of public order and the safety of Japanese persons and property in China -- which is the main interest of the Chinese civilian government. As a consequence, one has to wonder what forces are really behind these actions.
This all seems like a promotional event for the new SIPRI paper's conclusions and yet another of Gordon Chang's "we are all doomed" explanation of Chinese political behavior -- one that, unfortunately, this time, might be absolutely on the money.
* Tsuribaka Nisshi is a long running serial (20 installments) about two fishing mad buddies and their adventures.