Despite China’s booming development in recent years, their media has been reluctant to toot their own patriotic horn and limited themselves to phrases like “potential superpower”.

It looks like the kid gloves are off now though, as South China Post kicked off the newest nickname for the PRC, “beginning superpower” last week.  This follows a busy summer of superpower-like imposition and disregard for neighboring countries all along the nation’s coasts.

Much has been written on the Senkaku Island dispute so there’s no need to elaborate on that, but very little attention has been paid to China’s ongoing dispute with Vietnam and the Philippines over a group of islands in the South China Sea.

This past July around the same time a top Chinese general was ranting about how China should go in and take back Okinawa from Japan, the Chinese government was actually busy making plans to move into other contested islands down South.

The Prefecture-level City of Sansha was created on July 24th which consists of parts of the Spratly Islands, Paracel Islands, and Macclesfield Bank, areas also claimed by Vietnam and the Philippines.  To celebrate this new city that doesn’t really exist yet, the Chinese government sent in the People’s Liberation Army for the purposes of “national defense.”

Both countries continue to claim ownership of the islands, but lack the geopolitical weight to challenge China or even bring enough attention to the matter, despite being quite vocal and belligerent on the issue, declaring “it’s fine if we offend China.”

However, within China, anti-Vietnam/Philippines protests have been so minute they hardly registered in the media.

So what’s with the disproportionately intense anti-Japan sentiment? Of course, there’s still lingering bad blood from WWII which can’t be ignored and the fact that, unlike Sansha, Japan actively occupies the Senkaku Islands.

But beyond those things there is also likely an element of pride – of becoming a “superpower” on the world stage. Winning this battle of wills with Japan would do well to cement that such an image in the minds of China, and possibly the rest of the world.

As one unnamed South East Asian diplomat cautioned, “If China succeeds in overwhelming Japan on the Senkaku Islands issue, there would be no one for them to be worried about anymore.  Recently the Chinese government has been showing off its power by imposing itself on others. This trend will continue to expand more and more.”

Source: Record China (Japanese)

China’s military setting up in Sansha