Japan Prime Minster Shinzo Abe said the current tension between Japan and China is a “similar situation” as the rivalry Britain and Germany before World War I, Gideon Rachman of The Financial Times reports.
The comparison, he explained, lies in the fact that Britain and Germany — like China and Japan — had a strong trading relationship. But in 1914, this had not prevented strategic tensions leading to the outbreak of conflict.
The comparison of is a startling one, especially since any escalation that led direct military conflict would bring the U.S. to Japan’s defence.
Unfortunately, there are parallels between the situation. Both are regional powers with strong trading relationships.
Abe told Rachman that Chinese military spending, which he says is increasing by 10% a year, is a major source of instability in the region. Last year Japan boosted its military spending by the most in nearly two decades.
Between 1908 and 1913, European powers increased military spending by 50% after Germany began building a navy to rival Britain’s.
And then there are the strategic tensions.
The current Japan and China are centered around territorial disputes in the East China Sea that are exacerbated by sour memories of World War II. Japanese jets regularly scramble to intercept Chinese aircraft as China becomes more assertive in the area.
When Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in June 1914, Germany backed regional allies Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire in the Great War. Britain then led the Allied Powers (which included France, Russia, Italy, Japan, and eventually the U.S.).
Abe noted to FT that any “inadvertent” conflict would be regarded as a disaster, and he again called for military-to-military communications between the two countries.
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