China’s been out of the news lately — the State of the Union only have mentioned it twice — but America’s allies are getting antsy about it. Just this Wednesday, Filipino President Benigno S. Aquino III compared China to Nazi Germany, telling the world to “remember that the Sudetenland was given in an attempt to appease Hitler to prevent World War II” when it thinks about Chinese territorial claims in Asian waters. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently reached back to the other world war, repeatedly warning the Davos summit in January that East Asia, much like Europe pre-World War I, was a violent tinderbox primed to explode after one bad incident.
Of the two, Abe’s comparison is by far more reasonable, and he did dispatch a deputy to say Japan “absolutely” did not believe war was coming, but the damage was done. Asia experts are warning about the risk of a “new Cold War” between Japan and China — and others are terrified by the prospect of a hot one.
This is all dramatically overblown. War between China and Japan is more than unlikely: it would fly in the face of most of what we know about the two countries, and international relations more broadly. It’s not that a replay of 1914 is impossible. It’s just deeply, vanishingly unlikely.