Tensions over a disputed island chain known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China continue to hurt relations between Asia’s two largest economies. With China displaying its increasing military muscle both on land and at sea, and Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe seeking to loosen the terms of the country’s anti-war constitution, any accidental confrontation could escalate. The FT’s Demetri Sevastopulo reports.
In China, military license plates are even better than diplomatic ones. In addition to bestowing blanket immunity from all manner of traffic violations, they also inspire fear in the hearts of other drivers.
A similar sense of entitlement has long been enjoyed by Chinese military pilots. The People’s Liberation Army air force controls 80 per cent of the country’s not so friendly skies, leaving just 20 per cent of the ether for the fast-growing civil aviation sector. In the US, the airspace split is the other way round: 20 per cent military, 80 per cent civilian.
Much has been made this week of Xi Jinping’s “southern tour”. In retracing the footsteps of Deng Xiaoping, the leader who turned China to markets after Maoism, Xi’s trip to the southern province of Guangdong has been interpreted as the possible beginning of a new push for economic reform.
But Xi’s tour was about more than just the economy. He also spent three days inspecting a military base in Guangzhou, the provincial capital, and made a series of speeches calling for stronger, combat-ready fighting forces.