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As thousands of Chinese demonstrators air their anger about Japanese control of the barren Diaoyu Islands, the potential for a bloody cataclysm increases. From Argentina’s seizure of the Falklands to German moves into Alsace-Lorraine, history has seen too many wars that began when societies respond to their internal tensions by making senseless grabs for land. China is changing, too. And if its one-party regime lurches towards either democracy or populist dictatorship, the dangers of militant nationalism will only grow. While Chinese possession of the Diaoyu Islands would do nothing for Chinese prosperity, Japanese control can be portrayed by the bellicose as a crime against China. This is already beginning to happen; one Chinese demonstrator carried a banner declaring, “Even if China is covered with graves, we must kill all Japanese.” Sentiments like these have long encouraged ambitious men, from Alcibiades in ancient Athens to William Randolph Hearst before the Spanish-American War, to over-hype external threats to conjure up a conflict that serves their own interests.
Glaeser, Edward L. "Putting China at Ease." Boston Globe, August 23, 2012.