What If China & Japan Went To War?


In June 2015, Japan’s Navy conducted a series of drills near a disputed island in the South China Sea. The drills increased longstanding tensions between China and Japan, which are the second and third largest world economies, respectively. As the battle over the South China Sea continues to intensify, we wanted to know: what would happen if China and Japan went to war? The source of their strained relation comes from their mutual, then divided history. Much of Japanese culture originated in China, and for many centuries they were close allies. However, around the 1850s, the US established a trade relationship with Japan, allowing it to modernize along Western ideals. As European forces had repeatedly beaten Chinese military forces during the Opium Wars, Japan began to view its neighbors as weaker and outmoded. In the early 20th century, the Japanese committed a number of war crimes against China for which they have taken limited responsibility. This divide between East and West began a long separation of ideals and allegiances for the two countries. A 2014 BBC poll found that 73% of Japanese people, and 90% of Chinese people have negative views of each other, meaning that they dislike each other more than any OTHER country dislikes either of them.

So, who would win in a war? Well, in purely material terms, China is ranked as the third most powerful military in the world, while Japan is ranked 9th. China has about 4.6 million active and reserve personnel, against Japan’s roughly 300,000. Additionally, as the war would most likely play out in the South China Sea, China’s Navy is about six times as strong as Japan’s. However, Japan would most likely be supported by NATO as a major non-NATO ally. And even if most of NATO refused, Japan has a direct mutual defense treaty with the United States. This would dramatically shift the balance of power to Japan’s side. Finally, Japan’s constitution ensures that their military is exclusively restricted to self-defense. However in recent years Japan has been shying away from a defense-only military policy. Japan’s military is also more technologically advanced than China’s, and would likely be able to hold off an attack. Luckily, despite recent tension, relations between the two countries have seen a general trend upwards.

In a 2010 joint report, China and Japan came to the consensus that Japanese aggression was responsible for the Sino-Japanese war, significantly easing tensions over the matter. Additionally, the two countries are among each other’s largest trade partners. Since both powerful economies rely directly on each other, the chances of ruining that with an ideological war are so slim that they’re nearly nonexistent. The flaring of tensions over island territory are more likely to lead to political maneuvering and diplomacy rather than outright war. Want to know more about the last war between Japan and China? Check out our video here. If you’re not yet a subscriber, please consider clicking the button now. You’ll get to see all our latest videos right in your feed! Thanks for watching..