The tension surrounding the Diaoyu Islands is focused on whether the detained Chinese activists will be released by Japanese authorities today. Public sentiment in China and Japan is in a state of confrontation. China cannot back off from its previous stance, and needs to rescue the detainees as soon as possible. It is a challenge to China's diplomacy and a test of China's overall strength.
China now requests that the Japanese government promptly and unconditionally free the detainees. If China doesn't have enough leverage over Japan, the request will be nothing more than empty words.
Judging from the current situation, the Japanese side is likely to free the Chinese activists to ease the situation. But if China's request is ignored by the Japanese side, the Diaoyu crisis will escalate to a new level.
It has to be noted that years of efforts to protect the Diaoyu Islands between the Chinese government and public have significantly altered Japan's "actual control" over Diaoyu. Japan has had to accept a series of sovereignty-protecting steps by the Chinese side.
China's marine administrative ships have routinely patrolled the surrounding waters, and privately sponsored activist ships are frequently present in the area.
It is already a huge sign of progress. In the future, China can launch more various actions to assert its sovereignty over Diaoyu, forcing Japan to gradually relinquish its control over the Islands. But we also need to be clear that Japan will not give up its "sovereignty claim" over Diaoyu and its actual control.
However, it's no longer the time for major powers to resort to war to settle territorial disputes. It is unrealistic for China and Japan to solve the Diaoyu issue through an all-out war.
Though voices calling for military action can be heard in cyberspace in both countries, mainstream society has no such inclination.
The Diaoyu issue is a problem created by the US. It is a thorny issue between China and Japan. It can be intensified, forcing a showdown between the two sides. It can also be eased, allowing the two countries to engage in other exchanges.
Early in the 1970s, former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping proposed that the two countries "shelve bilateral disputes and seek common development" on the Diaoyu Islands issue, so that the issue would not hinder cooperation between and development of both countries.
But Japanese right wing groups triggered the dispute first, and the Japanese government failed to restrain their behavior, resulting in a chain reaction.
The mainstream idea prevailing in both China and Japan holds that this is not the best time for a showdown over the Diaoyu issue.
But neither country can control the other, and both are acting in a more provocative way.
Hostile sentiment over the Islands is growing. In addition to sovereignty of the Islands, it seems that the two are competing for something more.